Project Scheduling – 12 Practical Tips to Make Your Life Easier
In this article, we will have a look at some useful tips and tricks for project scheduling – in an effort to make your life easier. Managing a project schedule can become problematic if you are not familiar with the basic practices, tested over time, ensuring a smoother process. No reason to worry if you don’t know good project scheduling practices, because we sum them up in an easy to grasp read, just below.
Practical Project Scheduling Tips
Without further ado, let’s see what you can do to improve your project scheduling.
1. Gather All the Information First
The success of any project lies in the information you have to plan and schedule it. In order to do your best when it comes to project scheduling, do your research, gather the resources you need and then start scheduling. Otherwise, you will find yourself constantly changing, updating, and revising your project schedule.
This tip includes asking your team for input, getting as much information as possible from your client. Looking for examples of similar projects is another trick that not many new project managers know, but can give you great ideas of what to expect from your project.
2. Understand the Deliverables
This is also a necessary step from starting the actual project scheduling. Understanding the stakeholder’s needs and goals will help you form your value proposition and prioritize what really needs to be completed and when. Talking to the stakeholders will help you focus your team’s energy and effort on the important requirements of the client.
After this important evaluation, you are ready to start with your WBS (Work Breakdown Structure).
3. Create and Define a Proper WBS
WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) is crucial for any project management. It helps you see the dependencies between the different tasks and set your priorities. It makes sense to figure out your deadlines after you’ve created your WBS, not the other way around. If you set deadlines to tasks first, in the end, they will make no sense, and they will have no value.
4. Use Milestones to Easily Stay on Track
Milestones help you track the progress of a project. Imagine you have a project that will take 3 months. You don’t want to learn that a task hasn’t been completed when the due date was already in the second month.
Look at milestones as little achievements – you’ve finished a small phase of your project, ok, everything is good, so you continue to plan. But if not, that’s a good signal, you need to revise your planning.
5. Avoid Using Specific Date Constraints
If you use too many date constraints, you will find yourself with hands full of changing dates manually.
Why? In the lifecycle of a project, change often occurs and you need more flexible project scheduling. Instead of using concrete dates, you can set task priorities like “No later Than”, “No earlier than”, “As soon as possible” and so on.
6. Tasks Should have Predecessors
Summary tasks should not have predecessors and successors
This project scheduling tip is not something we invented. In fact, it is advised to do so by the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) itself. Only the first task in a project doesn’t have a predecessor, the rest – well, they have to be related to other tasks.
As for summary tasks – if you create a predecessor/successor task relationship between summary tasks, you will need much more advanced knowledge about project management. If you are new to PM, just stay away from this kind of project schedule for now.
7. Assign Resources with 100% of the Hours During the Task Duration
Often you won’t be sure how much time it will take for a resource to work and to complete a task. Still, it’s better to assign hours to a resource, instead of looking like the resource is doing nothing while the task is active.
8. Use Different Baselines to Compare the Changes
You can set a baseline at the beginning of your project and you can set a new baseline whenever major changes occur. This will give you very useful insights into your projects and get you better at project scheduling in general.
Don’t forget to put meaningful titles of the changes, so that you can later remember why you shifted the schedule.
9. Don’t Drown in Work – Carefully Consider Your Workload.
If you take on too many projects or tasks at the same time and you don’t have the resources, your project quality will suffer. This might end up with having unhappy clients and could be harming your business. Sometimes less is more. It might take some experience to figure out how much you and your team can handle, but always keep in mind that happy clients will come for more.
Of course, you can think of scaling your business and projects, once you feel more comfortable with project scheduling and successfully completing projects. Without compromises!
10. Check Your Availability of Resources
There is nothing worse than creating a beautiful project schedule only to find out you don’t have the resources to execute it as planned. Usually, project teams work on multiple projects simultaneously and you need to have some understanding of how much time and effort project members can put on a given project on a weekly/daily basis.
11. Use Templates for Project Scheduling
Work smart – not hard. That’s a cliche, but it’s true. You don’t have to start project scheduling from zero every time. You can prepare templates for similar projects to help you get going faster. Yes, that is called effective project scheduling tip number 10.
12. Don’t Forget to Monitor and Control
This step is an ongoing one. Like any other project management activity, you need monitoring and control to catch issues on time and to resolve them before they negatively affect your project. Often, it will include reports comparing the progress of a project against the schedule, will assess performance, and will include communicating with the team.
Monitoring and control allow you to take corrective actions if any delays occur. And that can certainly be beneficial to the outcome of the project. So don’t forget to do it. Now that we browsed through these useful tips and tricks, we are sure you have more burning questions.
Let’s have a look at some project scheduling questions below.
How Often Should Project Scheduling Be Done?
Project scheduling can be done on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis, depending on the project’s needs, size, and the project methodology used. Typically, it’s done once a week (the initial project scheduling is revised).
Still, if a team is following the agile methodology with 1-week sprints, the project schedule might be done on a daily basis.
How is Project Scheduling Different from Project Planning?
Think of project planning as the master blueprint, while the project schedule details the specific tasks.
In conclusion, project planning involves picking project methodology, selecting appropriate policies, and following certain procedures. On the other hand, project scheduling converts all plans, scope, and costs into an operational timeline. These two terms are often interchangeable, but as we explained, they have some nuances.
We are sure you have more things to ask, so why don’t you drop us a comment in the comment section below. We’d be glad to build a community and discuss all things project management-related.
Also, if you liked this article, don’t forget to check some of our other project management related articles as well: