Sunday 9 March 2014

Project Management for Mums

I've not had a regular office-based job since January 2011.  I don't miss it (at all) but sometimes I do wonder whether my inner project manager is trying to reassert herself over domestic affairs.

A good indicator of Project Manager mode is, for me, the number of notebooks lying around the house.  At the moment I have at least three project notebooks on the go.  Three!

  I have my ultimate project (Operation Boy).  My small business / social enterprising aspirations.  And then some voluntary work with various mental health charities.  My new PANDAS support group alone is crying out for a Gant chart!  And Operation Boy is reaching a critical analytical stage, as we need some sort of spreadsheet to record all the different potential education options and choices for him.  It is likely going to take me several weeks of research.

I'm not sure where this energy is coming from.  If it's a hypo manic period, then I will embrace it and make the most of it.  It could all come tumbling down into a depressive episode at any time.  So before the mania wears off, here are my top tips for SAHMs to embrace their inner project manager and start getting those project lists ticked off:

- Time management. Cut out the time wasting.  In my case - go cold turkey on pointless app games.  I'm not even talking about Angry Birds or Candy Crush here. No, my gaming hours - that precious time between the boy's bedtime and our's - were spent on Solitaire and Sudoku.  It used to seriously wind up the husband, but it occupied me and I was genuinely addicted.  I've not played a game for over eight weeks now, and the extra time it's given me is coming in handy! (Well, I just use it for blogging and twitter purposes now...)

- Focus. Set achievable goals.  Prioritise.  Nobody can "do it all", be perfect, but often SAHMs think they should be.  Technically I could spend several hours a day cleaning, but I'd much rather spend that time playing with the boy, or taking him to playgroups.  So I'm happy to live in a not-so tidy house with a pile of laundry needing ironed and kitchen floorboards that are varnished with snot and tears.  I've prioritised the boy over pretty much everything else, but I've also picked just one or two activities which are important to me, such as the PANDAS work.

- Regular appraisals. Meaningful feedback can be hard to come by in this job.  There are no bonuses or pay reviews. Heck not even a salary - unless you count occasional usage of the family credit card on items that are strictly-speaking not essential.  I try and ask the husband (the closest thing to a line manager I'll ever have now, although it's unclear who is managing who) how he thinks I am doing with the boy.  His response is usually disappointingly noncommittal. He has nobody to compare me too as a parent.  He is pleased with the end result (the boy is pretty Awesome) but he has no idea of the relative inputs from Nature versus Nurture.  It's a quandary.  My advice, after a little thought, is to try and be objective with yourself.  Instigate a self appraisal regime - fashionable in most large companies these days.  Take a few minutes at the end of a busy day to think about what you achieved (or avoided - hey, the baby is still alive!!) and be proud of yourself.

- Consolidation/reorganisation. If something isn't working for you, acknowledge this and fix or change it.  This can free up even more useful time and energy.  I am terrible at following this advice.  For example, I persist in taking the boy swimming on a Tuesday afternoon, even though he clearly doesn't enjoy it anymore, because that is what we do on a Tuesday afternoon.  I'm going to pluck up the courage and cancel it after this term.  Most companies wouldn't persist with a loss-making enterprise, so why should mums?

Anyway, I hope this advice helps somebody out there!  Embrace your inner Project Manager, but never be bullied by her! 

A big thanks to "Mum Turned Mom" blog for The Prompt.

<div align="center"><a href="" title="mumturnedmom"><img src="" alt="mumturnedmom" style="border:none;" /></a></div>


  1. Absolutely love this! I was a Project Manager in my previous life and I often find myself slipping into management mode :) This post had me chuckling and nodding my head at the same time. Thank you so much for linking to #ThePrompt x

    1. Thanks Sara! Yes it's hard not to use our PM habits out of the office... :)

      See you next week I hope!

  2. I have to agree my son is my top priority and I adore planning things to do with him (he's only 6 months old). You can take the girl out of the managers role....

  3. I love this post - I always have a few notebooks on the go, lots of lists and I even tried to use a whiteboard in the kitchen to help me get more organised with housework, but honestly, like you, I prefer spending time with Monkey! Then there's blogging, reading, crochet. I go through stages with app games too, solitaire is a biggy and I was a bit addicted to hangman for a while and had a score running into millions. If i pick up the phone and head towards an app these days my inner project manager holds an intervention in my head and reminds me there are many more productive things I could do! :) fab most! xx #theprompt

  4. LOL I had to wean myself off Sudoku about a year ago as was rather addicted to it! I try to be organised but with kids find there's always some spanner thrown in the works - such as this week had everything mapped out then my son was home with one of those 2 day bugs and I had no sleep!

  5. Brilliant. I love applying the rules of other jobs to parenting - myself and my husband are in policing and believe me there is plenty of policing that goes on at home too!! My self-appraisal for today: prevented Boy 1 from seriously damaging Boy 2; got at least one of their five a day into them (baked beans count right?); allowed 'kids to be kids' by letting Boy 2 have a chocolate ice cream whilst wearing a pale blue vest - slightly traumatised by this one but he loved it!! #ThePrompt

  6. Might have a few notebooks around the place. (Twiddles thumbs) Lots of lists in them. I guess the inner project manager is in all of us. #ThePrompt

  7. Thanks everyone! So glad it's not just me with these tendencies... :) xxx

  8. Great advice! I really need to give up my Candy Crush habit :-)

  9. Cool stuff you have and you keep overhaul every one of us
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