Applying Project Management Processes


to Achieve Your Personal Dreams



By Anne Witherspoon

North Texas, USA

Executive Summary

I had always wanted to write a book. In 2021, I decided to quit my job (without another one lined up) and write a book. As a PMP, I knew for this effort to be successful, I needed to apply project management methodology. With my husband as the only real stakeholder at initiation, I nevertheless realized early on that planning, execution and controlling were critical elements to achieve success. There were many unknowns and a high level of risk, but I knew the timing was right and I was ready. I had the initial goal of writing the book in two months, a loosely defined budget, and a release goal by end of year. None of these goals were achieved! So, was the project a failure? Absolutely not. I did ultimately complete the project and the lessons learned will serve me for the rest of my life. As I share my experiences, I share my belief that for any personal goal, applying the structure of project management processes can help ensure success. Project management processes serve us well not only in the professional world, but also in our own personal lives. By taking intentional, well thought out steps in all that we do, we can increase the odds that our dreams can be realized.

The Initiation of the Project of a Lifetime

In September of 2020, I was at a mountain retreat with some of my best friends.  It had been a chaotic year for me.  It wasn’t just the pandemic that caused chaos in my life, it was also the fact that my company had endured a failed merger.  As a result, our organization had three CEOs within a short period of time.  We had been forced to lay off a few hundred people.  Many initiatives had lost traction, people were emotionally drained and had reached burnout.  I was managing a team of about 200 at the time and I felt very responsible for their engagement and well-being—as did my mid-level leaders.  We were trying our best to keep everyone focused, feeling cared for and engaged.  It was really hard.  I had gotten to the point that I dreaded each and every day of work and I was so happy to be able to get away for a few days and catch up with my friends.

On the very last day before we were heading to the airport, I walked outside and sat by a creek by myself.  I wanted to have just a few more moments of peace and calm before I had to return to reality the next day.  I wanted to think about how grateful I was that I had a respite with my friends in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  What happened next, I had never experienced before or since:  I had an overwhelming sense of knowing and feeling that I needed to quit my job and write a book.

When we got on the plane a few hours later, I told my friends I was going to quit my job, but I didn’t elaborate or share that I also planned to write a book.  Then, Monday came and I went back to work.  By the end of the year, we had yet another CEO and I had taken no steps to quit, but I told my husband that I was planning to quit in March (after bonuses were paid out).  He was supportive.

In February, I was back in this beautiful place, skiing with my daughter.  My boss called me and told me the company was making some organizational changes and what the impact was to my team and me.  I knew the time had come and it was time to resign.  I told him that I planned to resign in March based on the news he had shared.  And, after coordinating with him and communicating with my team, I did leave in March.

My last day was on a Wednesday, so I decided to rest and recover a bit and begin writing as my full-time job beginning the next Monday.  My plan was to write a book in two months, find a new job and publish the book by the end of the year. My executive coach had previously written a book and had introduced me to her publishing team. Other than that, I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew this was what I was supposed to do.

Interestingly enough, I had decided on the title:  Unicorn Leadership. Here’s what the PMBOK Guide and The Standard for Project Management, 7th Edition shares about leadership:


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Editor’s note: This paper was originally presented at the 15th UT Dallas PM Symposium in May 2023.  It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers.

How to cite this work: Witherspoon, A. (2023). Applying Project Management Processes to Achieve Your Personal Dreams; presented at the 15th University of Texas at Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, TX, USA in May 2023; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue IX, September.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/pmwj133-Sep2023-Witherspoon-applying-project-management-to-achieve-your-dreams.pdf

About the Author

Anne Witherspoon

North Texas, USA


Anne Witherspoon, PMP is the Chief Operations Officer and Chief Experience Officer at Messick Peacock & Associates. Anne has an MBA in International Business and a BBA in General Business. She has multiple professional certifications including Certified Change Management Professional, Certified Customer Experience Professional, Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Treasury Professional and Accredited ACH Professional. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Texas Business Hall of Fame and is an active volunteer with National Charity League. Her hobbies include reading, running, writing, and traveling with her family.