After months of taking a break from dating, I’ve re-entered the scene full force — as in 12 dates in two weeks — which is a lot in and of itself. However, throw in the mix that 11 of those were first dates and you’ve got one exhausted chica.
When I share with friends, and, sometimes complete strangers (they asked, I swear!), my ambitious stats, I primarily receive the same two questions:
- How do you keep them all straight?
- Where do you find the time to go on all the dates?
For which my answer is the same — project management, baby. (Who knew my PM classes would have such valuable real-life applications?)
Seriously though, without even being completely aware, when I committed to giving the online dating thing another try, one of my first actions after crafting my ridiculously witty and thought-provoking profile (kidding, it’s probably pretty lame) was to create a spreadsheet to track my potential suitors. I included necessary columns such as name, age, location, and also other fields to further assist in categorizing and whittling down the list.
As I continued with the process — moving from the app to text + phone conversations, scheduling dates, first meetings — I became acutely aware of just how many of my project management skills and tools were not only completely relevant to dating but, in some cases, imperative. From the project charter (i.e., convincing myself to take the plunge) to project closeout (maybe someday I’ll get there), the authors of the PMBOK basically nailed online dating.
First, conception + initiation:
- The first step is the charter, which formally authorizes a project, and includes such aspects as developing a business case — or, in which you convince yourself into getting back out there — and creating a high-level explanation of the products and services through the statement of work.
- Next is identifying the stakeholders, in which you determine who else may want to provide input, and determining how you will manage their expectations. I am lucky in that I have many friends, but they all have differing opinions on the men I date. I fully realize we are all on the same page when it comes to the end result, but sometimes it can be difficult to manage their expectations along the path.
Next up is definition + planning:
- Development of the project project plan, requirements gathering and defining the scope kick off this phase and are all very important aspects of dating. How can you determine whether or not you should initiative conversation or reply to a message if you haven’t spent time determining what it is you require (or, at the very least would like to have) in a potential mate and what your ideal relationship looks like?
- After the first steps is the definition + planning phase are complete, next up is the request for proposal (RFP), which is basically the development of your dating profile. It’s crucial to craft an appropriate message that outlines your requirements — the more specific the better — to eliminate (or, at least, reduce) the number of inquiries you receive that are out of scope.
- Creating the work breakdown schedule (WBS), the schedule and determining your budget are next. The WBS is basically the identification and assignment of granular project tasks. In addition to yourself, those identified stakeholders can also have crucial assignments, e.g., providing opinions on important matters such as whether a grown man owning a ferret is acceptable or dating someone in his mid-20s is appropriate.
- Quality and communication planning also fall into this phase, as does identifying risks. All three of these components play important roles in both project management and dating. Quality planning ensures you don’t start wandering away from your determined scope and responding to communication from that guys who’s super hot but doesn’t meet any of your other desired traits. Identifying risks also plays into this. And, as someone who believes communication to be one of the most paramount elements in a relationship, I would be remiss if I did not stress the importance of a communications plan. Because online dating originates from the digital space and anyone can basically be anyone there, I have rules on how soon after initiating conversation we will talk on the phone and meet. This is imperative for staying on schedule and within scope.
Once you’re ready to take the plunge into launching your project, you’ve entered the launch + execution phase:
- The most important area in this phase, related to dating, is quality assurance. This goes back to the smooth-talking hot guys who don’t meet any of your requirements. Stick to your guns and consult your stakeholders.
- Which brings up the next area of managing stakeholders’ expectations — including your own.
Next up is the monitor + control phase, which includes a lot of reporting and analyzing. As the PM, you may need to adjust schedules or do what is necessary to keep the project on track.
- Change control and verifying and controlling scope + schedule + costs play a role in reducing scope creep, as does performing quality control. This is also where the spreadsheet comes in handy in tracking quality and reporting performance. If you do find yourself identifying a need to make scope alterations, recording this in the change control process provides a record of the change and thus provides someone to blame (yourself) when your project schedule extends far beyond the original plan.
- The spreadsheet is also helpful in monitoring and controlling risk, as is creating an official risks, issues and dependencies log. This is something I do for all of my projects at work, in addition to a defect-tracking log. And, while I haven’t actually created the logs for dating, I think it’s going to be the next step after publishing this blog.
Finally, project closure:
- While I’ve made it to this phase before, I’m obviously not there currently. Luckily though, I took time after previous failed relationships to record lessons learned and have found these to be valuable assets each time I decide to return to the dating scene.
Other aspects to consider:
- Product demos are crucial and making decisions based solely on a RFP response is silly. Remember, anyone can be anyone online. My rule is to meet within a few days of initiating conversation, both to ensure the dude is who he says he is, but also to determine whether chemistry is present.
- While it may seem difficult at the time, the sooner you can cut it off after determining it’s not a good fit, the better. Otherwise, you run the risk of schedule and cost overrun. Plus, despite the fact that I’m obviously a very analytical person and this entire blog post is about running my dating life like a project, I do realize there are actual humans involved who have feelings and I don’t want to be insensitive to that. Also, I would hope if the tables were turned that the dude would be forthright with me.
- Scope creep. Scope creep. Scope creep. I can’t stress it enough. Stick to your requirements. If you feel yourself straying, take some time to revisit and determine if changes need to be made (change control) and make those updates if necessary. But don’t just give up the hard work you’ve put into the project because a super hot guy comes along.
- However, despite all of the planning and spreadsheet creating and everything else you do to prepare, nothing is a better indicator than your instinct. If you’re not feeling it, listen to yourself. Go with your gut.
- And, finally, as in life, you can’t be prepared for everything in dating and being prepared doesn’t mean you control others. You may play all of your cards right and you still get your heart broken. It happens. On the contrary, you may meet someone who might not hit all of your requirements but there’s a strong connection. Re-evaluate and maybe take a risk once in a while. I realize this is a bit contradictory following 1,200 words on running your dating life like a project, but while planning has its part, life is to be lived.