Sunday, September 27, 2015

Chop Wood, Carry Water

Sometimes I get sick of being so practical.

Last night I spent time talking philosophy and culture with some very smart folks at a party. Tonight I'm going to do some major witchcraft under the supermoon lunar eclipse (I keep reading on fluffy Wicca sites that it's unwise or dangerous to do magic during an eclipse... well, I certainly don't need any more excuse than that). It's a glowing September day, the blahs of the equinox are behind me (this is part of my next energy post, but my personal cycle has me feeling low during the equinoxes) and I'm looking forward to Hallows, the dark of winter, and the lights of the holiday season. I have several magical projects lined up (one for the partial solar eclipse). Not to mention the energy as we head into the predicted upheavals of next week.



It feels magical and wyrde and wonderful and terrible. It's almost painful to have to think of the practical and day-to-day, of logistics and project management and organization (not to mention work and laundry and groceries).

But this is why you have to have your house in order and your shit together. Why you have to have your goals stated and your plans made. All of that is groundwork so that when the stars align, the universal weather is right, and the energy of the land is at your fingertips... you are ready.

I realize my PMPM posts have been more PM (project management) than PM (practical magic) up until now. There's a reason for that. Any moderately skilled witch, sorcerer, or magician can raise some power and direct it. And if you aren't there yet, there are 1000 books that can get you there. But how do you manifest that into the world? And if that's not the goal, how do you keep your real life running while you do your great work?

These aren't academic questions. The world is a particularly unforgiving place right now. It takes real effort to make sure that you have a safe and secure place for yourself and your family (by the broadest definition of family, natch). If you have magical tools at your disposal, why wouldn't you use them?

At the same time, if you have larger goals for your magic, you equally need to be organized and directed and goal oriented. In a time and place where all things are permitted, magical living has never been more difficult. Persecution implies belief. But in the modern world, we aren't burned but commercialized, commoditized, humorized. If you want to do serious magic, you have to take your magic seriously.

Seneca the Younger (I love me some Stoics)
Our woolly-mutton-chopped friend above said: "Luck is where preparation meets opportunity." You can say the same about magic. Magic happens where your preparation and planning meets the opportunity (the right alignment, the right day, the right event, the right synchronicity). All the pieces some together, all the sigils activated, all the offerings to spirits paying off.

When things are at their weirdest, that's when your practical planning is the most needed.

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I'd like to take a moment to thank those who've written with feedback, suggestions, and insights into how they are using the material. People are telling me that they find the content valuable and are using it to make major changes in their lives. That's humbling. So the first six months of this PMPM project (what? of course it is, what did you think?) seems to be just about where I'd planned. Let's see what the next six months bring. In the mean time I'll be the one dancing under the blood dark eclipse moon.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

PMPM Execution -- Energy Part One: Diagnosing the Problem

So, you have a project, but despite knowing what you need to do, you're just not getting it done. One of the most common excuses for not doing things we should be doing is that we don't have enough time. I've used this excuse myself a number of times. But it's almost always bullshit.

Everyone has the exact same amount of time in their day, week, and month. Exactly the same number of seconds. No one gets any more time than anyone else. Sure, some of us end up with more days and weeks and months before we kick off to whatever's next. But for each day we're alive, we all get the same impressive 1440 minutes (or an astonishing 86400 seconds).

I really want a clock like this

So it's not that you don't have enough time, it's either that:
  • You have too much to do
  • You're prioritizing what you're doing wrong
  • You don't have enough energy
In rare cases, you find people who really do just have too much to do. I remember a period right after the kid was born. I was back at work full time, doing the edits on my book, working on a rush tech writing project for my previous employer (they made me an offer I couldn't refuse), dealing with a proposal inquiry for another writing project, and -- oh yeah -- dealing with a newborn who NEVER SLEPT. While I didn't necessarily have to do all those things, they were all priorities in my life (making a living, writing, and taking care of the little sleepless one).

My point is just that sometimes people have too much really important stuff on their plates for anything else. If this is you, you need to see how to extricate yourself from some things before taking on new projects. Because that kind of "too much" isn't sustainable.

Sometimes, people say they don't have enough time but are actually spending huge chunks of time on things that neither help nor nourishing them. Stuff that isn't relaxing, but also isn't getting them anywhere. This isn't a time issue, but a priority issue. We'll come back to that one later, I suspect.

Finally, you have the case of people who don't think they have enough time but who are actually suffering from not having enough energy.

By the way, I'm not talking about some woo-woo magical force here. We will not be getting into auras or discussing vibrations. Not because those things aren't interesting, but because they aren't practical enough for our purposes. Energy here is literal mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual stockpiles that you can use to accomplish your goals.

In talking about energy, I'm going to be relying on two metaphors. Neither is completely accurate, but together they form a useful way of thinking about the subject.
  • First, energy is like a muscle. You have to apply energy in order to strengthen your ability to manage and harness it. This increases your energy capacity. But if you do too much too fast, you can injure your energy muscles making you less able to work with the energy you have. The most recent place this idea has surfaced is in recent research on willpower. It takes energy to exert willpower, to avoid temptation and do what you need to, but eventually you run out. Your willpower muscles get weak and you find yourself eating a pint of ice cream for dinner (don't judge me!).
  • Second, energy is like a lithium-ion battery. You have a certain amount you can discharge before you need to recharge it again. And it's important to charge all the way, or you can reduce your capacity. And it's not necessarily the big intermittent things that really get you, it's the multiple small trickle charges that drain you even when you aren't doing anything.
Now, you can easily google "how to have more energy" and come up with hundreds of lists of things to try. Some of the suggestions are going to be obvious and universal while others will vary and even contradict one another (have a coffee in the afternoon versus never have coffee in the afternoon). Some advice only seems to apply under certain circumstances ("get more sleep" is great if you aren't getting enough sleep, but not so good if you are depressed and have been sleeping 14 hours a day).

I think the way to deal with this confusion is to have a two pronged method for diagnosing your energy problem so that you can customize a fix.

Get it? Get it?
First, identify the type of energy you lack. What you do to improve your energy is going to depend on whether you are primarily suffering from a lack of physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual energy. So your first task is to figure out which one is the problem.
Surprised at how well this fits the metaphor...

Low physical energy:
  • Normal (for you) physical exertion has you out of breath, dizzy, weak. 
  • You are generally sore, achy, headachy, or chilly. 
  • Your immune system is depressed and you catch every minor cold or illness that comes along. 
  • You are "bone" tired, regardless of how much you sleep. 
  • Crap food cravings (for me it's sugar).
Low emotional energy:
  • You are feeling depressed.
  • You sleep too much but it doesn't make you feel better.
  • You are weepy and over-sensitive.
  • You have a hard time feeling anything much at all.
  • Crap food cravings (for me it's fat). 
Low mental energy:
  • You are increasingly forgetful and you find yourself seeking out mind-numbing distractions.
  • You can't cope with your task list (calls, scheduling, logistics).
  • You can't control your thoughts; your brain is spinning like a hamster on a wheel
  • You are exhausted but you can't sleep or aren't sleeping restfully.
  • Give me some coffee already!
Low spiritual energy:
  • Your normal connections to the otherworld (divine, spirits, ancestors, etc.) feel clogged, blocked, or weak.
  • You can't sense patterns or register symbols around you; lack of synchronicity and omens.
  • Your dreams are disturbing or nightmarish.
  • Divination gives you weak or confused information.
  • You have a hard time regulating non-material sensory input (depending on your particular talents) -- signals come in either weak/not at all or constantly and at uncontrolled volume.
  • Excess appetite of all kinds.
Now clearly your energy systems are tied together. Degradation in one area leads to problems with the other area. This is why much of the same advice appears over and over. However the goal is to figure out the source of the problem. The benefit here is that if you treat the primary source of the problem, this connectivity can help with all the other areas as well.

For example, I've been dealing with energy issues for the past half year or so. I already wrote about being crossed. Clearly I was suffering from low spiritual energy. As the summer wore on I also began feeling physically run down. However, in thinking about cause and effect, I realized that the physical lack of energy was simply because I'd done a lot of travel in a close space of time and more time (and a week at a beach house) would naturally replenish me. And the spiritual lack of energy was actually a secondary effect from my primary issue: low emotional energy. I was emotionally depleted from an extremely emotionally trying period in our family and as that began to end, the effects began crashing down on me. In June, I was OK but by August I was at 1% and ready to just shut down.

Maybe this will become clear to you after some reflection as well. But it can get pretty intertwined and difficult when you are feeling like stale end of a loaf of old bread, to sort this stuff out. This is where the second mode of diagnosis comes in.

In the simplest terms, a lack of energy is due either to do much draw or too little charge -- or both. If you can identify primary draws on your energy and places where you aren't doing a good job of recharging, you can diagnose the key areas to focus on.
It's amusing how applicable generic business clip art is to the PMPM stuff
Now, we all expend energy all the time. In the normal course of things our regular outgo would be easily replenished by regular recharging. Like plugging your smartphone in every night with about 20% charge on it. In a perfect world you'd have a pretty regular run rate on both a micro (weekends balancing work weeks) and macro (vacations balancing rush times) level.

I don't know where that perfect world is, but if you find it let me know, OK? Because in real life there are times when you are asked to expend huge amounts of energy, far beyond what typical recharging can deal with. Like using your smartphone's navigation while having a phone conversation and downloading a update... your phone's not making it to bedtime. At the same time, the daily grind can make regular recharging (also known as 'self care') really challenging. You're in a rush, so you don't eat right, don't get enough sleep, can't have a break. Like an older airport with no outlets, you can't get a charge. And in times of crisis? It gets even harder to replenish.

So answer these questions?
  1. What things in your life are drawing on your energy: physically? mentally? emotionally? spiritually?
  2. What things are you doing to recharge on each of those levels? Is it enough? Is it working?
As you ponder this, I want to warn you not to forget about the insidious trickle charge. For example, I knew my summer would be really busy and stressful. I could see the meetings on the calendar. But I also knew it was coming and knew it was going to be over at some point. But the emotional drain wasn't like that. It was this slow trickle, like a background process on your phone that you can't find without digging into the settings. This is the stuff that can really drag you down, because you don't even know about it. And even if you do know about it, it can seem like too much effort or upheaval to do anything about it. Like a relationship that drains you and just wears you out.

In terms of recharging, it's not enough to ask what you're doing, you also have to honestly evaluate whether it's doing you any good. We all know people who get more stressed out about their hobbies than any benefit they might gain from them. And we know people who think that a day of facebook and reality TV in their jammies will cure what ails 'em... but it don't.

Well, this is plenty long. I'll come back with a part two on energy with ideas for solutions. Until then, even thinking about the things that wear you out can often suggest changes you might make.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

PMPM - Project Execution... Get Shit Done

In any project, whether magical or mundane, the bulk of the effort goes into actually doing the work. That is, executing the tasks in the project. This is the Project Execution phase (shouting "off with your head!" while striking stuff off your todo list is optional though).

The good news is that unlike mundane project management, the act of planning can actually begin to manifest the results you want. The bad news is that you don't have a whole team of people to execute your plan for you. It's all on you (and maybe your servitors and spirits). That means we're going to segue away from a lot of formal project management (the kind that's meant for guiding and managing teams of others).



Because if you aren't getting the stuff done you want to get done, it's your fault. Physician heal thyself. And lets be honest, even if you know what you want and the steps you need to take to get there, it can be really hard to actually do it. Now if you are marching along with your plan, doing the things you need to do... well, that is awesome. But that's a rarity. If it were that easy, we'd all be richer, happier, and 10 pounds lighter. Actually getting shit done is hard. And the world we live in makes it even harder. That's my focus here... getting shit done when it's hard.

But before we start, I want to point you here for a quick refresh. Because the kind of stuff we're going to be getting into requires that you have the correct mindset.

I also want to point out that this applies to everyone, myself included. We all have times when we just aren't getting our shit done. I don't get a pass on this, in fact I should get less of a pass because of my l33t PMP credentials (cue eye rolling). I suck as much as anyone with certain kinds of workings.

So you have a goal, something you want to accomplish... but you aren't accomplishing it. The key question is why? There could be a number of reasons, some of which we've already addressed:
  • Inappropriate goal -- we've talked about goal setting and the importance of checking back in with your goals over time
  • Lack of planning -- after three posts, your working should be well planned, even over planned
  • Not knowing what you need to do -- agile management is the way to solve this problem
There are lots of other possible reasons that we haven't touched on... yet. You might not be getting your stuff done because of:
In the coming weeks I'm going to be touching on these (and any others I think of). This whole next series of posts are going to be on why you don't get the things done you want to get done... and what do to about it -- both practically and magically. If you got all excited about your project charter, but then things just petered out? If you kicked off your project, but then stopped making traction? If you've promised yourself that you will accomplish x so many times but it hasn't happened yet? This is for you... for all of us.


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Monday, September 14, 2015

Deeper Content Email Re-check

I had an unfortunate email incident and lost some important content. If you previously signed up for the deeper content emails for the PMPM series, please re-email me at ivy@circlethrice.com. Sorry for any inconvenience and if you don't know what I'm talking about, go here.

It's not too late for new signups. If you sign up now, I'll be happy to send the previous emails as well.

Friday, September 11, 2015

When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping

It's t-minus 1935 right now. Eighty years isn't a bad run, but it's small consolation. And everybody knows it, even if they don't believe it. If you said it 18 months or even a year ago, they'd roll their eyes and privately sort you with the tinfoil hat crowd. Now they laugh nervously, worriedly.

So in light of an explosive refuge crises, rising tensions in the East and the West, tides of expansionism/militarism/nationalism/terrorism, the kind of weather that makes you think of bible stories, and the first skirmishes of an all out race war here in the US... I decided to upgrade my wardrobe.





Yeah, I know how shallow and pointless that sounds, but there's a method to my madness. I'm trying to level up at work. I've been given new responsibilities and an opportunity to turn that into a career step up. My current position is has a rare level of stability for my industry, and this new opportunity will both cement my value at my current company while strengthening my resume... particularly in the area of global business experience. If you don't see how that could be useful in a time of increasing domestic and international unrest... Let me just say that I consider it as useful as some of my other interests, such as food preservation, supporting local food production, and knowing how to shoot a firearm.


I'm not much of a shopper. I don't practice it as a hobby. The last time I did a major clothes shop was probably 3 years ago. I'm not interested in fashion or brands or what's hot right now. I don't like logos on my clothing. However I'm well aware that clothing is important in terms of social and professional interaction. Plus it's nice to have, you know, stuff to wear that looks good and makes you feel good. My job is the type that moves from being in a casual office to full suit business meetings, social engagements, and international travel. As my role changes, I needed more clothes for these latter categories, but at the same time I've gained some winter weight so some things can't be worn right now.

Because I don't shop all the time, I needed to really shift gears in order to get this done, and done well. I approached the project in the way I approach all projects: methodically. Here is what my process looked like:

  • Researched online sites for what they call capsule wardrobes (hyper-practical and minimalist wardrobes of clothes that give maximum flexibility for dressing)
  • Searched for retailers with decent human rights reputations (which was really hard and not altogether a success), clothing for humans with long arms and legs, a good price to quality ratio, and flexible shipping and returns policies
  • Went through my current clothes and put together a pile to donate (some of which got donated straight to the kid's closet) and a pile to save until I lose 10 lbs (which I only recently gained, so I have high hopes... I put these in a box that I now call my hope chest) -- plus threw away items too worn to donate
  • Identified my color palette
  • Made a list of existing items that I wanted to work with my new purchases (and when I say list, I mean Excel spreadsheet)
  • Identified the kinds of uniform looks I was going for in various categories
  • Found a new tailor (there was an issue with my previous with accusations of domestic abuse, which I don't want to support)
  • All the while I saved my discretionary income (my allowance, if you will) as well as birthday cash and a work award
  • I executed my plan, buying items online from my chosen retailers, including signing up for mailing lists to get 'first time' coupons, looking for online discounts, and comparing prices
  • Once received, I logged everything (including prices) into my spreadsheet and took the first of several batches of items in to test the new tailor (success, she is wonderful)
  • And, lest you think this was entirely mundane, there was some search incantation to help me find the right resources, magic to ensure timely shipping, and sigil-work on various pieces to help project the things I want to project when I'm wearing them

At this point I have everything I need except a new suit (Italian flannel, very excited to get this) and some shirts that I had to return (the only real failure of my purchases so far). I need a few accessories (belt, bag, scarf) but have to wait to save up more money.

It was a good example of a smaller project that's taking about three months to execute and has magical as well as mundane elements. You can see how the planning and execution flowed together so I was researching while I was deciding on what to buy and then making purchases while finding the tailor. All the while saving up the money needed.

There's always a cadre of people who seem offended at the idea that how you present yourself matters. Their argument is that it's what's inside that counts, that externals are just illusion and part of the world of Maya. If people aren't willing to accept you for who you are, then they aren't worth knowing. Judging people on externals is wrong. You can't judge a book and namaste and kumbaya and all that. Folks who are counter cultural, including Pagans, seem particularly prone to this kind of thinking.

But this attitude it itself illusion.

First because they are judging based on appearances just as much as anyone... they're just doing it in reverse. They'll judge me for my business suit or shoes, label me as a certain kind of person without really knowing me. I've been judged for caring about my career and enjoying my corporate work. I've been judged for having a stable income, as if I was the cause of their poverty. I've been judged as less spiritual and less magical for having my shit together.

But people who assume that because I look normal I'm normal, aren't looking deep enough. In fact, I think that it's better to look normal and actually be interesting than to look interesting but be normal underneath. Plus I'm aware that I don't really read as normal to normal people. Not because I do anything outre, but because... well, I don't know, I just am the way I am. I have the stamp of wyrde on me or something. And this can be off-putting, even fear inducing. I've seen it with the kid too. Some of her friend's parents are just freaked out by her. The spouse has this problem worse than either of us. Better for me not to compound the problem at work by being all goth-pentagram-witchcraft all over the place.

Second, because we live in the world we do live in and not a different one. Each of us who strives to live an aware life has to consciously decide to participate or object to parts of it as we choose. I eat organic, cruelty-free, fair trade... I choose it consciously. I also have a corporate job... and I choose that consciously as well. In part because I enjoy my work and in part because it gives me a lot in return (not just dollars either, trips to other countries and personal fulfillment are pretty amazing returns). If someone would rather be an artist, that's cool too. It's just a different choice.

We are here for a reason, and while that reason is pretty opaque, it seems likely that trying stuff and figuring shit out is part of that (another part has to do with love and another with compassion and suffering). I've got to get busy learning the lessons I've got to learn this time around the track, and I'll just let you get on with doing the same.

Third, authenticity can be a goal, and it comes in many flavors, but it's also a lie. Everyone has masks that they wear and images of themselves that they project. This isn't because they are inauthentic, but because these things are necessary to have a functioning society. One of the best examples of this are people who hate small talk. I always find this interesting. What would you rather talk about at a client lunch or before an interview or with your friends' parents?

"Hi nice weather we've been having."
"Yeah, too bad the police are all fascist pigs and I have PMS and organized religion is a scam."
or alternately
"Yeah, I had the greatest orgasm last night, just OMG and it was all due to this new technique I just found out about... let me tell you."

Small talk has a purpose and if done well is a wonderful way to smooth interactions and build the kind of base that then allows people space to decide whether to become closer and share more. It's a mask and a game, but it's a useful one. A lot of society is like that. There are probably people at work who don't really like me. Or who at least wouldn't want to be friends with me. That's fine. There are people I feel that way about too. But because we are professionals, we can don our professional masks and find a way to get along to get the job done.

Finally, the way you express yourself in the world is a reflection, however distorted, of how you see yourself inside. So if you look like shit and smell like shit, maybe it's because you are a free spirit who's not bound by convention or maybe it's because you actually feel like shit. People will assume the latter and won't get close enough to experience your warm personality and sparkling wit. And the reverse is true as well... if you look like shit outside, it can make you feel bad inside too. So it's a loop.

We're going to be talking a lot more about what it takes to get stuff done. Because from a PMPM standpoint, all the planning in the world won't get your ass off the couch (hypocrisy check, I'm on the couch right now!). But one thing you can do, if you are feeling nasty or low or generally unmotivated or even sick, is to have a nice shower, put on some clean nice things, have a nourishing healthy meal, and create a little order in your life (wash the dishes, neaten your desk, etc.). Maybe get out and have a stroll, check out some trees and stuff. Look good. Feel good. Feel good. Look good.

This past week I wore some of my new clothes for a series of meetings. I didn't get to wear my new suit, alas, but I did wear some other pieces (women have this a lot easier than men believe it or not, there are a lot more things considered completely conservative, professional business clothes than just a shirt and tie). I'm pretty sure I looked OK (my goal here is nice, not drop dead stunning) but moreover I felt great.

I feel behind on everything not work related at this point, but I think there may be a tiny lull in the storm over the next couple of weeks, which would be excellent and give me a chance to get the new suit tailored. Namaste and kumbaya fashionistas.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

PMPM -- Planning Part Three

Part One
Part Two

Finally, we're coming to the end of planning. There seems to be a lot of planning, doesn't there? Well yeah, but there are reasons for that:
  • Full disclosure -- when you're a project manager for a living, you can't really underestimate planning. It's like a tax accountant telling you that professional preparation isn't really important or a realtor reminding you that you can save thousands by selling your house yourself.
  • When you are looking at a very big or complex project, it's only fair that the planning portion will also be big, it should scale in relation to the size and scope of the project itself.
  • It works. Seriously, if you want specific results from your life, you need to get specific on how to accomplish those results. If you want to end up right over there (rather than just wherever life takes you) you need to figure out what road goes to that place and how to travel on it.
Still, and I really can't emphasize this enough, you also have to start doing stuff while you are planning. So if you've gotten this far and have a PMPM goal in mind... but you haven't actually done anything yet, well stop reading and get doing. Make a commitment to yourself and your stakeholders and do, oh, five small things to get you closer to your goal.





OK, gotten started? Fine, then this is the final segment of PMPM planning.

Quality
You may have noticed a trend in planning where the process is really just about expanding the items in your project charter.

Requirements and Objectives --> Scope
Summary Budget --> Project Budget
Milestones --> Schedule

The last item in our charter is the Success Criteria. And that gets expanded as your Quality planning.



When you identify success criteria, you are defining how you will consider whether you've met your goal. If you don't include success criteria, you may technically finish the working, but not really be successful.

The Quality plan is about identifying and documenting how you will ensure that you are being successful in your working. There are tons of quality methodologies, from six sigma to total quality management, but the tools that work for IT or manufacturing aren't necessarily going to work here.

Instead, you are going to need to identify the metric you will use at each phase of your project. Here are some tips:

Base your quality measures on logical points in your project. Look over your schedule and milestones and figure out where you want to have a check-in. Find pause points where certain phases are wrapping up and others have not yet launched. This gives you maximum flexibility in terms of changing course if things aren't going well.

Pick the correct granularity. If you're trying to change your weight in any way (either by eating better to slim down or bulking up through exercise) you know it's a mistake to weight yourself every day. It's too granular. It encourages you to obsess over the natural day-to-day weight fluctuations that everyone experiences and makes it difficult to see the larger trends. On the other hand, if you are trying to kick off a business, the faster and more frequent the feedback, the more agile you can be. If a new advertising method isn't working, you ditch it as soon as you can.

Avoid the sunk cost fallacy. This is the misguided view that you should continue doing something that's not working because of all the investment you've already made in it. I'm not talking here about investment in something that has a small chance of paying off big but a low downside (like giving your cousin $500 that you don't need right now to launch an addictive new app). I'm talking about things that continue to require ongoing investment even though they don't seem to be paying off. Things where even the most optimistic payoff isn't exponentially more than the investment. It's human nature to try to stick with things that aren't working because you've already invested so much time into them (so many marriages are like this, aren't they?). But resist the urge and ax the stuff that's not working. Cut your losses and move on.

Try to make everything as measurable as possible. One of the quirks of magic is that the results are frequently not that measurable or quantifiable. Was the job spell I did responsible for the offer, or was it the connections and years of experience? Hard to know. However if your project has any kind of mundane outcome (from improved health or happiness to a successful book launch or improved career prospects) you need to be able to measure the real-world results.

Figure out how you will document your results. Don't trust yourself to remember and don't trust yourself to keep good records without prompting. In science class, when you first start learning the scientific method and doing experiments, one of the things they do is give you a chart to fill out. It keeps you honest with your recording methods so you can access better data and trends. You don't have a kindly science teacher, so make a chart for yourself.

For starting a business, you can easily measure profit and loss -- good record keeping will help you adjust course and make things easier at tax time. For moving to a new house, your success will depend on looking at a lot of places and ranking them by various criteria. Coming up with a rubric that allows you to track and remember what you saw. For being happier, you can record your results from a couple of well-chosen psychological inventory tools.

Maybe this seems like the boring stuff, but it's really important. You need to validate your ongoing results and check that what you're getting out of your project is what you want. Over the course of a long working, this is hard to track without some kind of record keeping.

It's possible that the quality tracking will actually make you rethink your goals. This is a good thing! The truth is that people often have a goal but don't really know whether meeting the goal is right right thing for them. Look at our super squishy goal to be happier. People know next to nothing about what will make them happier, it's almost a cliche. Maybe you want a new career but once you get close to it, you realize that your quality metrics aren't panning out. Turns out that archaeology is nothing like Indiana Jones and if your goal is international travel and adventure, you'd be better off becoming a ESL teacher.

Finally, don't let perfect be the enemy of the good. You have to roll with the situation and adjust your plan as you go.  This means that sometimes you don't get exactly what you want, but something close or similar. And sometimes you get what you want but not at all in the way you expect. All this planning isn't to make your working rigid. It's to make it well thought out. Plans are fungible.

In fact, in magical workings,  the planning itself can start things in motion behind the scenes, so that you see results as soon as you start to move forward. But as with all magic, things don't always happen exactly the way you expect.

So you're starting to see houses and apartments, plan in hand, and suddenly your cousin needs a house sitter for a year for her amazing place that you could never afford. And it's free if you just keep keep an eye on it.  You don't turn that down because it's not in your plan! You jump on it and know that far from being wasted,  your plan is what helped at the wheels in motion. Instead, you wrap up your house hunting project and kick off a new one: to get financially set over the coming year so your next house hunt won't be so hard.

Risk
The last item we're going to cover in our plan (and yes, there are more in the big PMBOK that we don't need to worry about for our working) is risk. I've already written a whole series of posts on risk and mitigation that can easily apply within a PMPM working:

A Stitch in Time -- Risk Management Part 1
Saving Nine -- Risk Management Part 2
So You Think You've Got Issues -- Root Cause Analysis
Solve for X

Tracking risk in a project is similar to general risk analysis. You create a list of items that are possible risks and identify possible mitigations. For those that can be implemented now, add them to your plan.



For example, there's a risk that your new apartment, while beautiful and affordable, might be in a high crime area. This is a risk that you want to avoid. To avoid the risk, you need to find a way to check the crime rate in the neighborhoods where you will be searching. So you add that to your plan (research how to check, then check for each of your target neighborhoods).

For those that can't really be avoided, you can ready your mitigation strategy. For example, you know that your new business will be harmed by competition in the space. So you mitigate the risk by having differentiation points ready to show how much better than your competition you are. Again, add that work to the plan (research competition, identify things that make you different, figure out how to market those things).

For any risks that you can actually benefit from, you want to be ready. So there's a risk that a sudden downturn in the economy could impact your business. But if your business is resume writing, you can benefit from the risk by finding alternate approaches in a poor economy. For example, your local unemployment office may be willing to sponsor, subsidize, or at least advertise a resume writing class for the newly unemployed. They will actually be more likely to do this is a rough economy, when they realize the immediate cost can save them long term payouts into the future. So maybe you make some calls and see how this could be accomplished should it be necessary. All part of your plan.

Phew. I'm glad we're finally to the end of planning. The deeper content should go out shortly to those who signed up. Up next in PMPM, we'll be talking about the absolute most important part of any working: getting shit done.

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