Home renovation projects can be stressful, especially when the outcome rests on your shoulders. Whether you’re hiring contractors to renovate your home or just doing some weekend DIY projects, learning how to think like a project manager and get the best out of your team is a skill you can improve to help ensure your project goes as smoothly as possible.
Listen to this week’s episode of the rich & REGULAR podcast about frugal house flipping and continue reading below for ways to think like a project manager and help get your renovation off on the right foot.
What is a project manager?
Project management is a job description found across multiple industries and is usually customized based on that specific industry. One thing all project managers have in common is great organization skills, people management skills and an ability to see both the big picture and small details simultaneously in order to achieve the best results. This usually includes hiring and organizing contractors, keeping track of budgets and costs, efficiently and effectively guiding the project through all phases while hitting essential milestones on time (and hopefully on budget).
That might sound daunting, but it’s really just breaking down a significant, long-term goal into small, manageable chunks and then repeating that process until the goal is reached. Chances are good you do this in your everyday life on a smaller scale, such as following a recipe or working toward your next personal finance milestone.
Use the tips below to help you start to think like a project manager.
Articulate your goals.
If you can’t say (or don’t know) what a successful project looks like, it’s hard for even professionals to help you bring your vision to life. Knowing what you want to accomplish and articulating it to your team seems obvious, but it is challenging to do.
Make sure you communicate effectively upfront so mistakes or confusion are found on paper and not when your contractor is halfway through rebuilding a wall in the wrong location.
Begin at the end.
Spend time thinking about what the successful end of your project looks like. Use your mind’s eye to walk through the completed interior, and work backwards to develop a list of tasks and a project timeline.
Use this information to help you communicate with your team of contractors and check on work in progress.
While no project goes perfectly according to plan, knowing where you ultimately want to end up can help you fill in the messy middle gaps and keep everyone on track and making progress.
Put everything on paper.
A picture really is worth a thousand words. Especially with a construction project, make sure you study and understand any drawings, contracts or quotes provided to you.
It can be hard to envision the finished project just from drawings, but do your best to keep the end result in mind. Don’t be shy about asking clarifying questions or for samples and mock-ups of materials so you can understand what something actually looks like.
It’s usually much easier to fix things on paper than in the field, so really take your time with the design and drawing process.
Staying organized is a key component of being a project manager. With so many details and moving pieces involved, it can be hard to keep everything straight. Yet keeping all of the details organized and at hand will make everyone’s life easier, including yours.
You can buy project management software, create a spreadsheet or download a free fillable template that will help you keep track of the project details. If you have a large project with multiple contractors and deadlines, consider using a Gantt chart, which is a way to visualize your entire project in one document, and helps you keep track of important deadlines and milestones.
Be a generalist.
The best project managers may not know the exact technique to lay that herringbone tile pattern, but they do have broad knowledge of what each milestone of the project requires. Although you hire experts for a reason, it’s also vital that you have at least a general working knowledge of each trade or subject you’ll encounter. Educating yourself on the basics will help you catch issues before they develop into huge problems and help save time and money.
Remember to include accounting and administration among your general knowledge. Learn how to read vendor quotes and invoices and pay close attention to the details, including delivery dates, scheduling requirements and payment terms.
Apply to other areas of your life.
As you learn to think like a project manager, you may find that you enjoy applying these techniques to other problems. Consider what did and did not work for you this time so as you think about your next project, you learn from the mistakes you’ve already made. Remember that every project hits rough patches, and having a good plan in place helps you pivot to keep everything on track.