“Lost” and the Art of Project Management

Just a short post to prove that I’m still alive…

When I think of all the projects I’m now juggling at work, I’m reminded of the ABC television show Lost. Lost had over a dozen major characters, but the writers focused each episode on a single character. I’d watch, thinking things like, “Wow, this John Locke story is great. But where’s Sayid? Or Kate?” It just wasn’t practical to give significant screen time to every character in every episode. This was sometimes frustrating on a week-to-week basis–“Where’s Ben Linus? We haven’t seen him in four episodes!” But over the course of a season, every major character would get the spotlight at least once and his or her storyline would be advanced.

I’ve found it helpful to take a similar approach to my work. I can’t devote a significant amount of time to every project on my plate every day. I can, however, take one or two projects each day and move them forward. And over the course of a week or a month, I make good progress on all my projects. If I look at what I accomplish in a single day, it can be frustrating–“I didn’t even think about TA Orientation today! And I’ve had that teaching guide sitting in my inbox to review for a week now!” So I think about my work like I think about Lost: It’s only over longer periods of time do I see progress happening everywhere. Doing so helps me get through the day.

Image: “DHARMA Brand Sodas,” Jenny Leigh, Flickr (CC)

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