Managing the Project of Your Life


By Paul C. Dinsmore

DinsmoreCompass Consulting

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Since the 1990s, a recurrent theme has surfaced in studies and at forums on human resource behavior. The theme is known by sundry names. Here are some: Project You, The Brand Called You, Employability, You Incorporated, Looking out for Number 1: are these terms still a sign of the times? Does it confirm the shift in focus for professionals: a trip into egomania where the big “I” is the center of the Universe? Does it mean that organizations will be full of renegades who think more about themselves than the company goals? What does all the rhetoric about You Incorporated really mean?

Now well into the Twenty-First Century, the name “millennial”, also sometimes called the Y generation, has moved to the forefront. Millennials are generally people born between 1982 and 2002, making them a highly digital generation. Due to the aging work force, company personnel have morphed into a mixture of waning baby boomers and the growing number of millennials.

The trend of individuals being choosier about the kind of work they perform is indeed a direct outcome of the times. Mergers, sell-offs, downsizing, outsourcing and reengineering have left the “forever faithful to the company cause” with a bad taste. Hoards of these dedicated professionals found themselves out on streets, with no visible marketable skills. And those who are left within the company ranks know that their time may come.

Even the millennials who haven´t tasted the reality of company life, may have an awareness for what might be in store for them. Working at a job that isn´t what they dreamed of, and knowing that they don’t control their future career has surely left many millennials with a cautious posture

For companies and professionals to survive and prosper jointly in these twirling times of jostling priorities, a major initiative is required to align company goals with individuals’ goals. Such alignment, say for a company that works with gypsy-like “project junkies”, calls for a major shift in behavior on the part of both professionals and organizations. Once these goals are aligned and mutually understood, the probability for achieving mutual objectives is highly enhanced.

Companies are obliged to understand that they need to cater to the changing needs of the professional marketplace. If people can’t count on keeping their jobs, then undying loyalty with no regard for personal survival in a shrinking job market, is not a reasonable thing to ask. Thus organizations need to encourage their employees to develop their “lifetime projects” and share that with the company, just as the company must share its goals and objectives with the organization’s members. That alignment of individual objectives, ensures that, while the person and the company are jointly collaborating, mutual productivity is boosted.

Individuals, thus, need to have a clear vision of where they are going, and in what way personal goals and interests are complementary to those of the company. To fully understand this, a “life project” is called for, using project management tools based on the premise that life is a project. The development of such plans on the part of employees of all levels generates the basis upon which the alignment of objectives can take place.

Such a “life project” also generates a healthy fringe benefit. By using project management techniques, including a project breakdown structure, and life cycle planning techniques, employees are exposed to the basics of managing projects and will tend to apply them in the daily work place.

Here are the topics for individuals to develop a life plan using project management techniques.

  1. Life as a Project
  2. Life Models and Strategies
  3. Scoping Out Your Life
  4. Manage Your Time–Manage Your Life
  5. Money and Such
  6. The Quality of Life
  7. People from the inside Out
  8. Farming Stuff Out
  9. Communicating Every Which Way
  10. Life is a Risky Business
  11. Putting All the Pieces Together


  1. Life as a Project–a Sign of the Times

Free agents–self-employed, independent contractors and temps–made up 16% of the US workforce, numbering roughly 25 million in 1997. The number grows geometrically as more people are outplaced from companies and others decide to go it alone. By 2020, more than 40% of the US workforce will be so-called contingent workers, according to a study conducted by software company Intuit in 2010. That’s more than 60 million people. June Walker of New Mexico is a tax consultant whose says, “Free agency forces you to think about who you are and what you want to do with your life.”


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright. This paper was originally presented at the PMI’98 Annual Seminars/Symposium in Long Beach, California, USA. It is republished here with the author’s permission.


About the Author

Paul C. Dinsmore

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Paul C. Dinsmore
is an international speaker, executive coach and consultant on project management and organizational issues. He has authored or co-authored 20 management books, and has written more than one hundred professional papers and articles. Mr. Dinsmore is Board President of DinsmoreCompass, a training and consulting group focused on consulting, outsourcing, training, coaching and IT support. Prior to establishing his consulting practice in 1985, he worked for twenty years as a project manager and executive in the construction and engineering industry.

Mr. Dinsmore has performed consulting and training services for major companies including IBM, ENI-Italy, Petrobrás, General Electric, Mercedes Benz, Shell, Morrison Knudsen, the World Trade Institute, Westinghouse, Ford, Caterpillar, and Alcoa. His speaking and consulting practice has taken him to Europe, South America, South Africa, Japan, China, and Australia. The range of projects where Mr. Dinsmore has provided consulting services include company reorganization, project start-up, and training programs, as well as advisory and coaching functions for the presidents of major organizations.

He participates actively in the Project Management Institute, which awarded him its Distinguished Contributions Award as well as the prestigious title of Fellow of the Institute. As Executive Coach, he has extensively coached Company Owners and C-level executives in the fields of Oil & Gas, Construction, Engineereing, Organizational Consulting as well as Health Care and Services.

Mr. Dinsmore graduated from Texas Tech University and completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School. He can be reached at [email protected], or [email protected].

To view other works by Paul Dinsmore, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/paul-dinsmore/