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How to plan for personal projects?

Do planning strategies, that you use for your professional projects, work well for your personal projects? Should you plan in a different way?


Cocktail Todo List abandoned on the paveway

A Todo List won't help you develop a new habit, or when you are on a personal project!

Picture by David Ballew through Unsplash

Why should your planning be different for a personal project?

Maybe you started the year by making a resolution and a plan to execute on. A list of books to read, like Lex Fridman, a weight target, a healthy lifestyle, a side project, a career change or a change in behaviour.

But we are already at the end of January and you didn't take action. You haven't started yet, and you are already feeling that you will not achieve your resolution.
This article is for you.

I'll tell you how to plan your personal goals differently, and be more effective. I know how to plan. I have been certified as a Project Management Professional, have successfully managed engineering projects lasting more than a year and have been responsible for a few million budgets, in an industrial environment. And I can say that Personal Goal Planning should be different from Project Management.

Here are some reasons why you should plan differently:

  1. By pursuing and achieving business and work goals, in the process, you have developed some routines and habits that have evolved over the years. You've probably also taken courses that have helped improve your skills. The experience you've gained over the years also helps make it easier to tackle the task. When you take on a new professional project, you roughly know what awaits you, and you already have the skills.
    If, on the other hand, we consider your new resolutions, it is likely that they are about some of your weaknesses, something you are not good at. You haven't yet acquired the new habits and need to learn the skills from scratch.
  2. On the job, if you run into problems, you can ask for help: more money, more time, more staff.
    On the other hand, when it comes to a personal development project you have limited time and resources, and you have to pay out of pocket for someone to help you.
  3. On the job, you are accountable to someone else and your self-esteem is at risk. You are in a social environment where your results are scrutinized.
    In a personal development project you are responsible only to yourself and in case of failure you have no social pressure to deal with. You need strong self motivation.

Try this, instead!

Here's what you can do to increase the odds to succeed on a personal project: instead of a Plan, write a Story!

The Destination

First and foremost, clarify what the destination is, the end point of your Hero's Journey: you will throw a party because you lost x weight, you will enter your new office because you have found a better job, you will hire because your business is successful ... Now, pay attention and probe how you feel: are you excited, looking forward, do you crave it? If not, then try to figure out why, and write the destination again, until you feel a strong emotion. The destination should be something real, tangible, something that makes it clear that you have succeeded, something measurable, observable.

The starting point

For your journey to begin, you have to start somewhere. The second step is to be honest about your starting point, describe what your situation is. What are your skills, what are your strengths, what are your flaws and what are your weaknesses. How do you feel about it? If you feel uncomfortable, have regrets or feel anxious? Accept that this is your starting point, and that you will make progress because it's what humans do, and that you will figure out how to fix it very soon.

Storyboard for Star Wars movie

To carry out a personal project, it is a good idea have an exciting plan!

Picture by Matt Popovich through Unsplash

The Journey

Now think about the journey, from where you are to your destination. You will find obstacles, enemies, allies, mentors, win battles and lose battles. Make a list of any obstacles you may encounter on your journey, both internal and external. For each obstacle, write what you can do to: avoid it altogether, get around it, overcome it. Something practical. Do the same with enemies. Now that you've assessed your obstacles, list all the allies who can help you, lending you their abilities and strength when needed. Some of the allies can teach you the skills you lack, and they can also be books, websites and people. At this point choose a mentor, only one: a real person or a fictional character who can help you not get lost along the journey.

The Story

It's now time to write your own story, your Hero's Journey, from the starting point to the destination. Write a story that tells how you will succeed. As you face obstacles, defeat enemies, and emerge transformed by the experience. Write exactly how you are going to make it. Once the story is written, it's time to read it again. Does it feel like a movie? An adventure book? The Lord of the Rings? Are you excited, scared, feeling charged? If not, go through your story again and find where it feels fake, where you can't see yourself, where it seems too unbelievable, where expectations aren't realistic, and correct them. Until you realize it works. You must come up with a compelling story, a Hero Journey that you can relate to.


Very good! Here you are with a Plan that excites you! Read it often, in order to stay focused and engaged throughout your journey. Also be ready to change it when the story, and your journey diverge. Double-check the destination, starting point, obstacles, enemies, allies and mentor. Adapt the story! Try this approach to achieve your life goals if standard planning doesn't work for you!

Unlike other time management methods, oneatatime cares for the human, it's energy, drive, and cognitive status for reaching the best condition for getting satisfaction, and be productive. If you like this approach, and you are curious, do not hesitate to contact me because I will be very pleased.