Project Planning During COVID-19
During this COVID-19 epidemic, I’ve noticed many projects in process in my neighborhood: The city is putting in new gas lines, two families are renovating their homes, and a new neighbor just put up a beautiful swing set for their kids. These are all examples of projects that require project planning at some level. So, what are the simple steps to start a project? How do you keep a project from going on forever? How do you determine a budget—or even stay on budget?
Since we are in the business of planning, we suggest that you ask yourself three simple questions. These apply no matter what the scale of a goal or project:
- Where are you now?
- Where do you want to be?
- How do you get there?
The first two questions are typically easy to answer—it is the third one that can be tricky. However, a high level of clarity in your answer to the second question “Where do you want to be?” will improve the entire process. It is vital for being able to answer the “How” question.
As an example, I recall a situation where Family A wanted a roomier home. In their case, their vision of “where they wanted to be” was very clear. They knew exactly the size, configuration, and even street on which they wanted to live. They painfully knew the answer to “Where are we now?” They were in a house that was too small; filled with too much stuff; and in a neighborhood that they did not want to be in. So, they started making it happen by essentially reverse engineering their way into their new home.
How Do You Get There?
The wife from Family A began by talking with a friend on the street where she wanted to move. She asked her friend to keep her updated on any new homes for sale. Then, she started working on the elements of this project she could immediately control and manage: she started packing, cleaning, and de-cluttering. She prepared her home to put on the market, even though she didn’t know when that would be. She researched mortgage options and lined up the financing in advance. She did everything she could to prepare to move quickly, even though she had no idea when that date would come.
After a few months, the call came in that a house on the exact street they wanted was likely going on the market. With the friend making introductions, they spoke with the owners (Family B) before they even had a chance to engage a real estate agent. They learned that Family B was selling the house because they wanted to downsize.
Amazingly, Family B became curious about the house Family A was selling. They asked if they could see the “too small” house. As fate would have it, Family A’s home was exactly what they were looking for. After a bit of negotiation, both families settled on selling prices and the exact same closing date for both homes. The move went smoothly, and to this day, Family A absolutely loves this home—especially now during the pandemic.
The Power of Planning
I share this story because it is the perfect example of the power of project planning. Strong project planning empowers you to turn possibilities into reality. It is the antithesis of a whimsical, spur of the moment impulse that snowballs into something that you never planned. You know – an outcome that causes you to ask yourself, “What were we thinking?”
Right now, it is a bit difficult to plan during this pandemic, but there is perhaps no better time to start focusing on the future. For a project or goal of any size, here are three additional considerations to help you visualize your desired outcome:
- Time Constraints – How long should it take, and when should you start?
- Cost Constraints (in light of quality considerations) – Do you have a budget? Can you really afford to do this? Can you afford to do this right now? Do you need to build up cash reserves first?
- Scope – How big, how little, how basic or how opulent?
While most plans do not execute with the precision of the example above, it perfectly illustrates the famous quote by Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
So, if possible during this pandemic, use the three-step formula, have a bit of fun and do some project planning.
Kristina Bolhouse CPA/PFS, CFP®
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