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The Project Called Life

(November 24, 2008) We would like to introduce you to Michelle LaBrosse, PMP, the founder of Cheetah Learning (, and author of Cheetah Negotiations and Cheetah Project Management. The Project Management Institute (, recently selected Michelle as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in Project Management in the World, and only one of two women selected from the training and education industry. She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School's Owner President Managers (OPM) program and also holds engineering degrees from Syracuse University and the University of Dayton.

Michelle has agreed to write 5 articles on Project Management. The first will run today and one a week for the next 4 weeks. So, here we go:

Life is a Series of Projects
When I talk to people about Project Management, I often hear: "How does it apply to me and my job?" People have the idea that Project Management is for IT people or government contractors who are managing large, complex projects. While Project Management is definitely critical to those kinds of projects, where I've seen the most impact from Project Management is as a life tool. I consider it a cornerstone of my success because I've used it to manage the biggest project of all: life. And, from what I've experienced, life is a series of projects.

The Project Called Life
Here are the five key areas where I've used Project Management in my life and where you can use it too.

1.  Home
Think of all the aspects of the comforting word "Home." First, there's buying one. Buying a home is a very important project that can take a few weeks or several months. It requires research, planning, documentation and you definitely need a system in place to capture everything you learn, so you're ready for your next purchase. Then, there's building one. I've built several houses and my project management skills have been invaluable. One key reason is that it's easy to miss major milestones in construction, and managing the timeline, deadlines, and contractors is critical. You also need to be crystal clear on roles and responsibilities, so you know who is doing what and when. Even renting an apartment or house, requires project management. You need to discern your budget, focus on the geographic area that meets your needs, and then begin looking at apartments that meet your criteria. When people don't think through the process, they often end up with an apartment that doesn't fulfill their criteria, and then they're bummed. If they had created a project plan and established clear criteria for success, they would be sitting in the apartment closest to their ideal vision. And the most fun part of the home is what gives Home Depot and Lowe's the reason to exist: home improvement. Whether you're doing a major renovation or you have several smaller home improvement projects, project management can help you map out your plan and make sure you get there on time and on budget.

2.  Family
When you ask people what's causing them stress, if it's not work, many times it's all the family obligations that they are juggling. From the financial management of a family and a household to holidays, birthdays, celebrations, and soccer practice, all of the elements of being a family require management. There's a reason that Mom's are often multi-taskers: because they have to be. Some of my best employees have been Mothers because without even realizing it, they have created systems to manage their families. Think about the accountability charts that are often on refrigerators. They outline the project, roles and responsibilities and deadlines. Then, there are communication systems for the family. Today, that's often cell phones, texting and Instant Messaging, but the refrigerator memo still works wonders, too! And, when there's miscommunication, nothing sets it straight like a milestone meeting 'round the kitchen table.

3.  Career Development
Managing your career is a job in and of itself. You need to continually assess the environment that your work in for opportunities and possible threats. You also need to know what your appropriate risk level is before you make changes. And, then once you decide what your goal is, then you need the project plan to get you there. Maybe you want to start your own business or gain a professional credential. (I'm obviously biased toward the PMP® -- the project management professional certification.) Or maybe you want to go back to school or change departments within a large company. No matter what your goal is, you need to manage it like an individual project. If it's a big goal, break it down into all the projects required to get you there. If you're a fan of the BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal) like I am, then it's even more important to break that goal down into bite-sized projects. It's a powerful exercise because it makes the impossible, doable.

4.  Community
I think working in your community or volunteering at non-profits is a great way to develop your skills. And, from my experience as a volunteer, most organizations need people with project management skills. If you're already active in your community, you know that those activities also need to be managed. You have to decide what your time commitment will be, know what their expectations are of you, how to match your skills to their needs, and what deadlines or specific dates that you'll be needed.

5.  Recreation
There was a reason that the "hockey mom" message struck a chord in this last election. It's because parents everywhere can relate to managing their kids sports schedules. If there is more than one child in a household, coordinating clubs, sports and extracurricular activities can seem like a full-time job. Project management turns the chaos into calm. This is a good one to get your kids involved in. Get out a large family calendar and map out all of your commitments. You can also create an electronic family calendar on the web that everyone in the house has access to. If you treat your family's fun activities and even vacations as projects, you not only help yourself, you are also teaching valuable life management skills to your children.

As you can see, we're just scratching the surface here. Stay tuned for four more articles. Next up, we'll look at how you manage your projects in life translates into your work success. Then, we'll take a look at the basics of project management and how to incorporate them into your life. And finally, we'll give you more tips and tools for taking project management on the road in the virtual world and how to run like a Cheetah. That's the fast, fun and easy way to master your world with project management.

By Michelle LaBrosse, PMP®, Founder & Chief Cheetah, Cheetah Learning

About Cheetah Learning
Cheetah Learning is a virtual company and has 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. Cheetah Learning was just named "Professional Development Provider of the Year" by the Project Management Institute. She broadcasts the "Your World, Your Way" radio show from

Her articles have appeared in over 100 publications from around the world. Her monthly column, the Know How Network, is carried by 400 publications, and her monthly newsletter subscription list includes more than 50,000 people. To date, more than 30,000 people have become "Cheetahs" using Cheetah Learning's innovative Project Management and accelerated learning techniques.

Michelle has been running her company virtually for the past 20 years. She has grown the company 100 fold in the past 20 years, and she credits her success to using the Cheetah Project Management method to better manage both people and technology. Michelle's mission is to help people achieve great results, FAST, by making it fast, easy and fun to learn and do Project Management.

She lives in Nevada with her family and likes to rejuvenate in Alaska where you'll often find her kayaking, golfing or hiking.

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