I’ve just come back from Jukkasjärvi in Sweden, a place I’ve wanted to visit for ever because it’s where they build the magnificent Ice Hotel every year. It was on the list of things to do before I hit 30, but I didn’t make it.
It struck me as a coincidence that just as I came back from fulfilling one of my long term goals, Soma was writing about the things she wants to achieve before she’s 35.
Apart from losing weight and buying a house the goals that she wants to achieve are career-driven.
In my first project management job I worked with a guy from the Australian army. He wasn’t sure how long he would stay in the UK for and he travelled all over Europe at the weekends, fitting in as much as he could while he was here. He often talked about his ‘deathbed test’ – what would he say about something when he was looking back at it from his deathbed. He was never going to look back and say “I wish I’d worked more hours.”
After one deathbed conversation (morbid, I know), I wrote my own list of life goals, now lost to some notebook somewhere in the loft. From what I remember, writing a book, decorating a room, growing potatoes, going to the Ice Hotel and seeing polar bears were all on the list. The polar bears I haven’t yet seen, but the others are done.
So I need a new list, and Soma’s got me thinking. If I had to pick just five things to do before I’m 35, I doubt any of them would be project management related. Sure, I’ll probably do a whole lot of project management things in the next couple of years. I don’t intend to put my career on hold while I scout around looking for polar bears. But when I hit the ripe old age of 35 and look back at what I’ve done between now and then, I doubt that I’ll be counting up the hours at my desk or the number of business trips, or whether my project sponsor thought I did a great job in all my meetings. Life is more than just work, as I’m sure you don’t need to be told, and the fact that we do work and do a great job is almost a given, not a goal.
My new list? It’s difficult to narrow it down to five things to be achieved in a short timescale, but here we go.
- See polar bears in the natural habitat
- Knit myself a jumper that I’ll actually wear
- Read Herodotus’ The Histories (which has sat unopened on the shelf since 1998)
- Organise my photos
- Write another book (which may or may not be about project management)
The thing with this kind of list is that next month I might read about some fantastic place that I want to visit, or start reading Herodotus and realise it is the dullest thing ever. And that will change the list. It’s not a project plan, it’s not even a project. It’s life, and that’s far more interesting than any fixed list of tasks.