Personal Operational Portfolio Management

The process of task completion can be a complex, confusing art. This article takes a no-nonsense look at how we can maximize our effectiveness at setting and reaching our goals through “Personal Operational Portfolio Management”.

Anyone who regularly visits bookstores knows that there is a massive ocean of material about achievement. Row after row of these books profess the ideal ways to increase performance in our personal lives as well as the workplace. Why is it then, that the ability to execute evades even the most intelligent people? Over the past few years I have inadvertently stumbled upon a basic system that has helped me consistently produce results while maintaining a reasonably normal lifestyle. Let’s not kid ourselves, if we want to drive hard we are going to need to make some concessions. In this brief, no nonsense examination, I would like to share the Personal Operational Portfolio system that I use on a daily basis to tackle various projects and tasks that I have committed myself to completing.

A Personal Operational Portfolio should represent all of the projects that you are currently involved in. This might include planning a wedding, earning a certificate, rolling out a CRM system at work or losing ten pounds. The items placed in your portfolio represent the things that you are looking to complete or achieve. Notice that all of these items have some objective end, and will never run indefinitely. You need to be able to target and eliminate each item by using objective criteria to measure their completion against. Formalizing this series of items is critical in order to guide them to completion, because taking them casually ensures they will never be completed. I would suggest that you have no more than five items in your portfolio at all times, and the lower the number of items, the more effective you can ultimately be, since the most ambitious person can only leverage a finite number of work units in a given time period.

In order to successfully manage your Personal Operational Portfolio you need to critically filter and qualify each portfolio item, shortening the distance to success by objectively defining your goals, honing and adjusting your strategies through introspection, chipping away at each one through sprints, reveling in your achievement and then repeating the process until the project is complete. It is important to remember that an idea is only an idea until you can hold it in your hands.


The first and most important element in honing your operational portfolio is to set your own expectations. Ask yourself, are you really going to do it? Seriously, do you really want to do it? If the work, class or other project that you are looking to do is a “nice to have” and not something that you are serious about, do not place it in your portfolio. It will not get done and will distract you from other initiatives or time that could be spent relaxing. Set yourself up for success, as you essentially get to cheat and select what items are included in your portfolio. If possible, try to focus on items that you are passionate about. It goes without saying that the chances of success for a project directly correlates to our intensity of passion or the necessity for completion of that particular project.


The chance for a successful completion of a project increases by shortening the distance between points A and B. Therefore, try to make the distance between the start and completion of your portfolio goals as short as possible. For those who have done any project management at work, you can think of this as your way of combating personal scope creep. Narrowly defining the project helps to set yourself up for success. Once you reach the completion point of an item in your portfolio you can think about the next project and build on top of your prior work.


Just as you wake up, work, relax, sleep and repeat the cycle each day, you need to hone your portfolio. This is something that I enjoy doing every evening and find it very cathartic. It allows me to drive one hundred percent during the day without worrying if my efforts are properly directed because I have done my adjustment homework upfront. For each one of the elements in your portfolio you need to ask yourself:

  • Is this something that will still provide value to my life or work?
  • Am I happy doing this?
  • What adjustments do I need to make to ensure that this is successful?

If you answered “no” to the first or second questions, make adjustments to the project so that it changes your answer or drop it from your portfolio. A caveat to a “no” answer for question two might be if the project contributes to a foundation for later projects and happiness. A good example of this might be graduate school or a certification for work. The most beneficial things in life never come easy and generally take a lot of time, energy and sacrifice.

Item three in the list is fairly significant. In order to run the most effective operational portfolio you often need to make minor adjustments to the direction of your efforts. It is important to note that the more minor the adjustments are, the more quickly you will be able to close your projects. Remember, it is crucial to make the journey from point A to point B as short as possible, which is why your thoughts about direction and strategy during the introspection process are critical.


The benefit of doing an evening review is that when you are fresh in the morning you can grab hold of a task and sprint. During the sprint you will place effort against tasks for various projects. Due to the shortness of the sprint (a workday or perhaps a portion of a workday), it is okay if your efforts are not fully on target.. Let’s be realistic and acknowledge that some days we have more enthusiasm for particular tasks than others. After all, we are only human. I have found that to maximize my effectiveness it helps to have an inspirational environment; so grab a cup of coffee, throw on some “Eye of the Tiger” and get to work!


Sprinting can be an exhausting effort. Do not forget to revel in what you have accomplished for the day. You have worked hard and achievement feels good. Chipping away at the tasks to complete your projects is no small feat.


I have just laid out the basic foundation for running an excellent Personal Operational Portfolio. It is worth noting two major elements that are crucial for long term success while using a strategy like the one outlined above. Sacrifices and sanity are tremendous factors when it comes to working with a stable portfolio. Driving hard feels fantastic, but it is always healthy to ensure that you do not damage or neglect personal relationships with friends and family throughout the process. The other element to note is that addiction to execution is breathtaking. Once you fall into a groove with this system you will find yourself building upon your small successes, tackling and completing projects that you never thought possible. It is pure adrenaline. Best wishes and good luck in your endeavors. I hope that this strategy allows you to be more effective in helping you fulfill your dreams!

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