Life Goals: a project based approach


Life is a Project

By Neil Robinson

London, UK


In January 2016 an ambitious pro-bono initiative, Life is a Project (LIAP), was launched in Ealing, West London – an exploratory series of five weekly workshops, teaching basic project management concepts and skills to a diverse group of ESL (English as a Second Language) adults. The aim of this initiative was to explore the feasibility and potential value of the concept in the context of personal capability building and life goal achievement.

Workshop approach – visual, practical, and language-graded

Providing skills training to a diverse ESL audience necessitated a visual, rather than textual, approach and set of learning materials. Text was necessarily language-graded as much as possible. In the world of English Language Teaching, skills are imparted, from a state of “ignorance” through to “active use”, via a cyclical teaching process of process of Input – Learning – Use.

Figure 1: LIAP Teaching Approach (Source: Adapted from Scrivener, 2011, p.126)

The LIAP workshops followed the same approach by incrementally eliciting and explaining new concepts, then checking understanding through structured exercises, controlled practice and finally active application to participants’ real life projects.

So, what is a project?

As professional Project Managers, we generally think of a project as a temporary business undertaking with a fixed purpose, underpinned by a positive business case. Our leading professional associations define a project as “a unique, transient endeavour undertaken to achieve planned objectives” (Association for Project Management [APM], 2012) or as “a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result” (Project Management Institute [PMI], 2008, p.5).

However, according to Maylor (2010, p.3) “Life is one big project. The trick is in managing it”. Here we have the concept of Life being viewed as a series of related tasks which can be planned and managed as “one big project”. Is this a valid view? In the sense that Life is temporary, unique and has a purpose, Maylor’s statement is absolutely valid. In theory, the tools, techniques and skills of project management can be applied with equal efficacy to any endeavour that meets the project criteria of temporariness, uniqueness and purpose, including “life projects”.

The first of five LIAP workshops introduced participants to the concept and definition of “projects” with an emphasis on everyday life needs and aspirations. Their comprehension of the concept was checked with an exercise on identifying valid project scenarios. A guided deconstruction of example life projects into logical constituent phases helped to elicit the simple model of a five stage Imagine – Plan – Do – Check – Achieve project lifecycle.


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Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles by Neil Robinson, author of the award winning paper “Life is a Project: Enabling Life Skills in Cross-Cultural Transitions”, first presented at the 6th Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States, University of Latvia, April 2017. The paper was selected by the Project Management Institute (PMI®) for the 2017 James R. Snyder International Student Paper of the Year Award for the EMEA Region. The paper and this article are inspired by the outcomes of the Life is a Project (LIAP) education initiative launched by the author to teach project management life skills to a group of ESL (English as a Second Language) adults in London.

About the Author

Neil C. Robinson

London, United Kingdom



Neil C. Robinson
is an experienced Business and Technology Project Manager, consultant and trainer with global experience delivering complex projects, transformation programmes, and business solutions in diverse geographic locations. His experience as a practitioner includes Senior Programme/Project Management, IT Services, and Operational roles in the private and public sectors. His domain experience includes IT Management and Project Delivery roles in the Aviation, Technology, Oil & Energy, Health, Government, Insurance, and Education sectors. His regional Project Management experience includes on-ground delivery in 20+ countries across the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Australasia, the Americas and Asia.

Neil is PMP and PRINCE2 accredited and is currently undertaking research and academic studies in a Masters (Project Management) programme at Salford Business School. He has a special interest in social project management and initiated the “Life is a Project” concept in London, teaching project management life skills to ‘at-risk’ community groups. His further research interests include the roles of motivation and cultural intelligence in international project success.

Neil can be contacted at [email protected] and welcomes global collaboration from practitioners, academics and students in his field of interest.

To see other works by Neil Robinson, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/neil-c-robinson/