Whether you realize it or not, you’re a project manager in some way. From school work, to a job in an office or even working freelance, you’re responsible for managing your own project scheduling.
It’s not always easy, but with a few tips and a little experience, you’ll be project scheduling like a pro in no time. To make this process a little easier, I’ve comprised a list of a few tips for project scheduling down below:
Do not procrastinate
I’m a firm believer in learning from experience, so let’s kick things off with a story. There was a time, not so long ago, where I had multiple writing projects pile up at once. For some reason (we’ll blame ignorance) I decided to delay all my projects until the last three days of the work week. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing, and I’m fairly confident in my ability to do so, but I made a bad decision when it came to scheduling. I procrastinated, got distracted, and the quality of my words suffered.
There’s a massive difference between the way I scheduled back then, and the way I schedule now. Back then I didn’t do any scheduling. Now, my main goal when scheduling is to space out all my projects evenly. If I get done with a project early, and I’m satisfied with my work, then I’ll go back and edit some of my previous projects. It’s a very simple system, but it means I’m never pinched for time.
The moral of this story is that procrastination is a project killer. Unfortunately, we can all be guilty of it sometimes. The reason for procrastination is different depending on the person, but many psychologists agree that it’s caused by one of three reasons: fear of failure, fear of being overwhelmed, and being too much of a perfectionist.
When you push off work for too long, the quality of the end product suffers dramatically. Speaking from personal experience, procrastinating has only ever brought stress and poor performance. Get your work out of the way first, there will be plenty of time for fun later.
Gather all the information you need
Information is vital for the success of your project. In order to be ready, you have to do your research, gather all the resources you need, and then schedule the project according the the information you’ve gathered. If you don’t gather everything first, you can get deep into a project only to realize that you’ve forgotten something crucial, thus costing time and potentially going over the budget.
Since I’m a freelance writer, we’ll use writing an article as an example. When writing an article that will be published online, there are keywords you have to mention, a word count you have to meet, and a specific direction you need to carry the topic in. Before my projects in writing even begin, I spend much of my time doing research online, and gathering information. I read as much as I can, that way when the time comes to begin the writing process, I’m prepared and words just flow. It’s the perfect example of how gathering all the necessary information makes your project scheduling and overall workflow run smoothly.
Here are a few ways that you could go about gathering all the necessary info:
- Send an email to your client with questions regarding the project. Use a template to save time and ensure you don’t forget anything.
- Ask your team for input. They might have ideas about what you need for the upcoming project.
- Search for examples of similar projects that have already been completed. This is a great way to see what clients and their customers like and don’t like.
Plan as far ahead as possible
Planning ahead doesn’t always feel like a high priority task, but it is. The further ahead you plan, the more efficient and productive you’ll be and the fewer problems you’ll encounter.
Planning ahead matters for multiple reasons. In fact, there are 5 major reasons you should take any opportunity to plan ahead:
- It helps you assess risks and opportunities
- It helps you be proactive, not reactive
- It helps you create better-quality work
- It gives you enough time to develop a strategy
- It gives you time to revise and update your plans
In a way, this one tip is actually 5 tips. By planning ahead, you’re planning to succeed, and success leads to reward.
Don’t overcrowd your schedule
More projects usually means more money. That’s great and all, but is it worth it? There will be times where you just have to say no. You should be able to schedule your projects in such a way that you’re able to spend a productive amount of time on each one.
Each project, no matter what it is, deserves your full attention. Your clients came to you because they trust you with their ideas. They believe that you’re the best choice to take on this project. Anything less than perfect in the eyes of the client simply doesn’t work. With that said, space your projects out. It might take some experience to figure out how long certain tasks take you to complete, but it’s definitely worth saying no to a few projects in order to perfectly nail your time estimates.
Keep a close eye on deadlines
Deadlines can be sneaky if you’re not careful. As a freelancer, it’s important for me to keep a very accurate schedule so that I can get a visual representation of my deadlines. When my schedule gets full, it’s so easy for me to lose track of time, that’s why I use Toggl Plan.
For me, Teamweek makes it easy to take a quick look at my schedule and understand what I’m doing for that day. In the long term, Teamweek makes it very clear when deadlines are coming up. It’s been a lifesaver on numerous occasions. Teamweek makes it so easy to stay organized and on track, even when I get distracted.
Deadlines are important to keep track of no matter what your job title is. Deadlines aren’t suggestions, they’re set in stone. Deadlines are the day that all your work will come to fruition, so it’s very important that you’re 100% ready when that day comes.
Deadlines come in all shapes and sizes. A deadline doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the project. For example, you can set an internal deadline so that you and your team have some time after the project is done to fine tune the final product. You could also set a holiday as a deadline so that everyone doesn’t get so caught up in work that they forget about the upcoming days off.
Add milestones to your project scheduling
If you’ve ever run a marathon, then you know how important milestones are. Any project I take on, big or small, can be broken down into sections using milestones. These sections become much more manageable. As a freelancer, milestones help me tremendously, but they’re also extremely useful for any sized team.
It can be tricky to choose milestones. All milestones aren’t necessarily set equal distances apart. Find a point in the project where you have a decent amount of work done. Pick a point where you can look back and effectively assess what you’ve done so far. For example, if you’re building a new app for a client, it doesn’t make much sense to create a milestone halfway through the development of a specific feature. You’ll want something you can show off, so set the milestone for the day the feature will be ready to ship.
Again, Toggl Plan is a great tool to illustrate this feature. On the timeline, whenever I have to mark an important date in a project, I simply click the date and set it as a milestone. It will then show up on my timeline, and anyone else’s timeline who has access. On top of that, Teamweek automatically marks big holidays so that I can plan for my upcoming days off accordingly.
There are many ways to create a successful project schedule. What works for me might not work the same way for others. The best project schedule is the one that makes sense to you, and the one that helps you get your projects done on time without any stress.
Like many other people, Zach McDaniel gained his knowledge of management and project management through research and necessity. He believes that the most interesting thing about project management, management, and productivity is that there are so many different strategies, so there’s always something new to learn and share.