I manage many projects at work – they have a clear beginning, a middle and an end. An advertising campaign, a video production, a special event… The most important questions I always ask at the beginning of a project are: What is the end-product we need? How much time do I have to do this? And what’s my budget?
Typically we want projects to be completed quickly, cheaply and of the best quality possible. And being the Type A, over-achieving person that I am, I often try to hit all three of these as hard as I can. The triple constraint model above is a project management tool that shows how these three areas need to stay in balance. You manage time lines, budget and scope of a project so you can deliver your goals on time and on budget. More often than not, project needs change, or we are forced to prioritize one of the areas, throwing the balance out of whack. For example, if you need something done faster than you expected, you will need to decrease the scope (the overall project deliverables or the quality of those items) and/or pay more. If you don’t, the project suffers. It’s okay to prioritize cost, or time, or quality… you just have to be willing to sacrifice one of the others.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how I choose my priorities at home and parenting… does the same triple constraint model apply? I think it does! Here are some examples:
I would like to always feed my children nutritious, organic meals that are quick and easy to prepare and don’t cost a lot of money. It’s okay to laugh, I just did! The fact is that the most nutritious, organic meals are the goal – what I know is best for my children and what I would love to feed them. But then there are time and money constraints… I simply cannot afford to buy entirely organic food, it’s too expensive. Have you seen how much organic meat costs? I just can’t do it. So we have organic dairy and some fruits and vegetables, and buy limited process foods but keep the ingredient lists as clean as possible. Here I’m sacrificing quality for money. Some days I am very limited on time and can’t prepare a meal – so we hit a drive thru restaurant. Here I’m prioritizing time over quality.
I would like quality time every day with my children doing educational/cultural activities that doesn’t cost much money. My biggest constraint here is time. As a working mom, I spend my days at the office and we only have about 3 hours per evening together. While I always devote time to routines each evening, such as dinner, reading books and cuddling, there are some evenings when my work comes home with me and my kiddos don’t get my full attention. We focus most of our quality time together on the weekends (well, every-other-weekend really), when the kids can have much more of my undivided attention and we can enjoy activities together. I definitely take a hit here on the money constraint – since we don’t have a lot of time together to do the activities, I’m willing to pay for activities I know we’ll all enjoy.
I would like my house to be clean with little time invested and no cost. If you know me well, you know that what I prioritize here is my time and money over a clean house. I choose not to have a super-clean house because I don’t want to spend my precious free time cleaning. It’s well lived in at all times… not gross, but definitely not pristine! If I cared about it more, I would spend more time cleaning (taking time away from my kids or doing things I love). Or I could spend the money on a housekeeper to do it for me.
Just like projects shift at work in terms of scope, time lines and budget, I make decisions every day about what is important to me in my personal life. I’m sure you do, too. Obviously, we can’t be perfect all the time in every area of our lives. We juggle. And sacrifice. And continually re-assess if we are spending our time and money and energy in the right ways. Remembering that we can choose our priorities and shift the other pieces around can be freeing.
Can you relate? Do you find the triple constraint model holds true in your personal life? How about with exercise? Diet? Parenting?
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