Project Manage Your Way to a Happier Holiday

By Eric Stortz – VP of Operations

CTU Project Management Degree - Family VacationHere’s a not-so-hidden secret: nearly everything we do at work and in life is a project. Think about it, don’t most of your work efforts involve these four phases?

1. Initiation – “We should do XXXX…,” followed by

2. Planning – “We need John to get this done by XXXXX and Sally to get this finished by YYYY,” followed by

3. Executing and Controlling – “Ask John to delay the upgrade until tomorrow and get the announcement out today so Sally can change the security settings tonight,” and end with

4. Closing – “Let’s recap what went well or could have been better.”


Even the simplest tasks – like weekend activities with the kids – align with these general steps. Take coordinating family visits at the holidays for example:

1. Initiation – “We should try to visit both my family and my wife’s family over the holidays.”

2. Planning – “We need to see if my mom can host us on Christmas Eve and serve dinner earlier to allow for a gift exchange that evening. Then, we’ll drive to my in-laws’ house so the kids can wake up there on Christmas morning.”

3. Executing and Controlling – “In light of an unexpected snow storm, we need to ask mom to push dinner back an hour and prepare the guest room. We’ll stay the night at my mom’s house, then drive to our in-laws’ the morning of Christmas to open gifts and have brunch.”

4. Closing – “It was so nice to visit our families – especially so the kids could spend quality time with both sets of grandparents at the holidays. The only downside was that all the shuffling made the kids cranky. Next year, let’s host everyone at our house!”

Project Management in the Workplace
Often, we’re so caught up in completing individual tasks at hand that we fail to realize our work efforts can nearly always be approached like a project. Furthermore, this project-in-disguise blind spot can lead us to unknowingly rush through important aspects of an endeavor. This rush results in a less efficient implementation and often a less-than-optimal end result. 

Some organizations have adopted a mentality that, as long as the work gets done, project management is unnecessary. However, initiatives that lack practical, applied project management often unfold into inefficient, clunky, backwards-and-forwards work streams that frustrate all those involved. Think of the times when your organization revised a prior decision, or lost track of why a particular decision was made. Worse yet, think of how frustrating it is when two teams end up working on the same task using totally different approaches. Your lament is not uncommon. As the size of an initiative grows, the pain felt from not having a project management process in place tends to increase exponentially. 

As CTU talks with employers across different industries, we consistently hear that employees who understand and can implement basic project management practices are in high demand – and incredibly scarce. What does this mean for today’s professionals? Those who integrate project management tactics into their everyday work stand out from peers and are highly valuable to employers. 

Project Management as a Profession
Although many people overlook just how much of what we do qualifies as a project, project management is an expanding profession supported by the Project Management Institute (PMI®). PMI® is a professional organization that has established a library of global standards called the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). PMI® and the PMBOK® Guide provide individuals with a wide range of tactics to more effectively manage projects of all sizes and degrees of complexity.

To maintain this level of expertise in project management, the university’s faculty members are accountable for being well versed in applying project management practices in the real world. Instructors draw from practical expertise to help students understand which project management tactics are best suited for a particular organization or initiative.

Now that you see how your everyday life can benefit from formal project management, it may be time to improve your process and organizational skills through education. Your employer and in-laws will thank you.


CTU VP of Operations - Eric StortzEric Stortz brings over a decade of experience in operations and technology to his current role as Vice President of Operations at CTU. While championing the university’s efforts to adopt formal project management, he has inspired many stakeholders to invest time and energy to accomplish organizational change. Eric is an avid runner, self-aware Nike fanatic, and maintains his Klout score. Connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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Image credit: Rotten Tomatoes