Scheduling Conflicts: Types, Causes, How to Avoid Them & More
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Scheduling Conflicts: Types, Causes, How to Avoid Them & More

Toggl Team Toggl Team Last Updated:

Scheduling conflicts disrupt a project’s workflow, strain resources, lead to missed deadlines, and frustrate teams.

The good news is that you can easily avoid scheduling conflicts by learning about them. 

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll discover proven methods and best practices for avoiding and handling scheduling challenges.

Let’s dive in. 

What is a scheduling conflict in project management?

A scheduling conflict in project management is when two or more project activities are planned to occur simultaneously. 

Scheduling conflicts can arise from a lack of visibility over team schedules, miscommunication, or unforeseen events. External factors like project scope changes can sometimes lead to scheduling conflicts. 

These conflicts can disrupt the workflow and efficiency of a project if not managed effectively. 

Scheduling conflicts can also affect team morale. Research shows that poor planning is one of the main reasons why people quit their jobs. 

What are the different types of scheduling conflicts?

Here are the most common types of scheduling conflicts:

Graph outlining the types of scheduling conflicts.

Double booking

Double booking means scheduling two or more tasks or meetings simultaneously for the same team member. 

For example, a team member’s performance review meeting clashes with a client meeting. 

Double booking can cause stress, delays, and missed deadlines, impacting team morale and client relationships. 

Booking unavailable team members

This conflict happens when managers schedule tasks or meetings for team members committed to another task, on vacation, on sick leave, etc. 

For example, scheduling a critical meeting without realizing a key team member is on vacation. This oversight can lead to delays and rescheduling. 

Scheduling tasks or booking meetings for unavailable team members disrupts the project calendar, causes delays, and pressures team members to cover for the absent colleague.

Overlapping events

This occurs when the end of one event overlaps with the start of another. You’ll need to prioritize one, potentially compromising work quality. 

For example, let’s say you have an important project update meeting from 10 to 11 and have scheduled a client presentation from 10:30. 

In this scenario, the last half hour of your project update overlaps with the beginning of the client presentation. You’ll need to either leave the project update early or miss the beginning of the client presentation. 

This overlap forces you to prioritize one event over the other, potentially compromising the quality of both meetings. 

Unbalanced scheduling

This occurs when workloads are not balanced among team members or over time. 

Some team members might be overwhelmed with tasks, while others have too little to do. Or there could be periods of intense activity followed by periods of inactivity. 

This can lead to burnout for some and dissatisfaction for others and affect the morale and productivity of the whole team. 

Resource limitations

This conflict happens when you lack resources like people, tools, or specific skill sets for your project demand. 

For example, you need two graphic designers for a new project but have only one available. 

This type of conflict can overburden available team members and reduce the quality of work.

Time zone mismatch

In global teams, scheduling conflicts often happen due to differences in time zones. A convenient meeting time for one part of the team might be outside working hours for another. 

Time zone mismatches can cause delays and coordination issues. 

What is the impact of scheduling conflicts?

Scheduling conflicts can impact a team’s performance and cause:

  • Increased stress: Scheduling conflicts put a strain on the whole team. Team members are under a lot of pressure to juggle multiple tasks and meet deadlines and expectations. Project managers must determine how to fix these overlaps and avoid future conflicts. 
  • Reduced productivity: When scheduling conflicts arise in a project, it slows things down. Stressed employees with too much on their plate can’t focus well and become overwhelmed, which reduces their productivity. 

In fact, according to research from the insurance company Colonial Life, 41% of employees have reported that stress makes them less productive. 

They are also more likely to make mistakes and not work at their full potential, resulting in poorer quality work.  

  • Missed deadlines: With scheduling conflicts stressing and affecting employee productivity, it’s only a matter of time before project delays happen. These delays can lead to missed deadlines, unhappy customers, and even revenue loss. 
  • Tension within teams: Team members with overwhelming work schedules might feel resentful toward colleagues or managers. This tension can undermine teamwork and impact project development.  

How can you avoid scheduling conflicts?

Here are six proven methods to avoid scheduling conflicts.

1. Have a centralized team schedule

Relying on Google Calendar, old clunky spreadsheets, or office whiteboards for team planning often makes it hard to track changes and updates. 

These manual methods can increase the risk of scheduling conflicts if updates aren’t visible to the team. 

Centralized team schedules are the better option here. They streamline project planning and avoid conflicts like double booking by offering real-time updates and visibility to all team members. 

In employee scheduling software like Toggl Plan, you can use the Team Timeline to create centralized team schedules for each team working on a project. 

The Team Timeline provides a visual overview of each team member’s workload so you can see at a glance what everyone is working on.  

This visibility helps you schedule tasks based on your team’s real-time availability to ensure nobody works too much or too little. 

Screenshot of Team Timeline in Toggl Plan.

On the Team Timeline, you can easily add and reschedule tasks, color-coded milestones, and set start and end dates with drag-and-drop functionality. 

The team can access this timeline for transparency and view the centralized team schedule in visually appealing Gantt charts. 

2. Track resource availability and capacity

Scheduling conflicts like booking unavailable team members or double booking can be easily avoided by tracking team availability. 

Toggl Plan has the Availability Overview panel, which offers a clear view of each team member’s schedule. 

This feature lets you see who is available and when so you can allocate tasks without overburdening anyone. 

By clearly visualizing each team member’s availability and workload, you can also identify potential scheduling conflicts before they arise. 

Screenshot of the Availability Overview panel in Toggl Plan.

The Availability Overview feature is a drawable panel on a Team timeline view that calculates the availability for working days. 

It doesn’t account for time offs like public holidays and vacation days, giving you the right insight into your team’s capacity. 

To maximize Toggl Plan’s effectiveness, it’s good to proactively keep the availability sheet up to date for a longer period ahead.

3. Communicate proactively with other team members

This involves regularly updating team members about schedule changes, upcoming deadlines, and new assignments. 

Check-ins and team meetings can help discuss project progress and individual availability. Make sure to plan these to avoid possible scheduling conflicts. 

Team communication also puts team members in the loop about each other’s workload and commitments.

This awareness helps to avoid overbooking or assigning tasks to unavailable employees.

Top Tip: Proactive and clear communication with team members is important for avoiding and managing scheduling conflicts and any type of conflict in the workplace. 

4. Add buffer time

Sometimes, things still go wrong no matter how well you plan your schedule. Team members might get sick or have personal emergencies that unexpectedly take them away from work. 

How can you handle such situations to avoid delays and missed deadlines?

Adding buffer time to your schedule can reduce the impact of unforeseen events. When buffer planning, you allocate extra time between tasks or events to account for unforeseen delays or issues. 

For example, if you estimate a project will take three weeks, you quote the client one month to allow a week’s buffer. 

Although there’s no rule for how to set a buffer, experts recommend a minimum of 25% project buffer.

Adding buffer time between meetings is also a good idea, allowing team members to handle unexpected delays and avoid conflicts. 

Here are some examples of how to add small buffers (little extra time) and large buffers (more extra time) to projects in specific situations.

Graph showing different ways of adding buffer time to a project.

5. Have backup resources

To avoid conflicts like resource limitations, ensure backup resources are in place. 

The advantages of backup resources are:

  • Flexibility: Backup resource scheduling helps you adapt quickly to unexpected changes and ensure schedules remain on track. 
  • Reduced stress: Knowing you have a backup plan can lower anxiety over potential conflicts or last-minute no-shows.

You might think allocating twice the number of people for a project is not cost-effective. But it can also save lots of money if unexpected things do happen.

6. Avoid task and time off overlap

Scheduling conflicts can also happen when a task and time off overlap. 

Toggl Plan has a Time Off feature that solves this. 

It provides an overview of team members’ days off, like annual leave, public holidays, or sick leave, so you know who’s available and who’s off. That way, you can schedule tasks realistically and avoid assigning tasks to unavailable team members. 

Screenshot of the Time Off feature in Toggl Plan.

Whenever a task and time off overlap, Toggl Plan sends a conflict warning notification to signal a scheduling conflict. This will help you avoid conflicts when assigning tasks and planning projects. 

How do you handle scheduling conflicts once they occur?

Sometimes, no matter how well-prepared you are, scheduling conflicts still occur. 

We’ve talked to George Yang, brand founder at OxygenArk, about three key steps to handle scheduling conflicts once they occur.

Communicate the conflict

The first step is to communicate the conflict to everyone involved. 

When scheduling conflicts occur, the biggest problem is communication. Open discussion with all key parties will help identify the bug and, most importantly, its output,” says Mr Yang.

Making your team aware that scheduling conflicts arise helps you work together to find solutions. 

Modify the schedule

Mr Yang reveals that his team tackled scheduling conflicts by modifying the project schedule. 

When we were trying to launch a key product, we found ourselves in a big scheduling issue. We needed to juggle around some priorities and shift resources, but we could easily adjust the project schedule without threatening the success of the launch. It was necessary to push some deadlines up and extend others, making it very clear to the team.”

In Toggl Plan, you can reschedule tasks by dragging and dropping them on the Timeline. 

Screenshot showing how to reschedule tasks by using drag and drop on the Timeline View.

Expand the project’s duration

If you can’t reassign or reschedule tasks, what’s left to do is expand the duration of your project. 

According to Mr Yang, “Upon the needs of the situation, another step that can be taken is changing the project schedule or [extending] project duration. This kind of flexibility may be used to accommodate such unforeseen issues to keep their disturbance level at a minimum. However, the overall time and budget impact of taking such a step needs to be seen.”

While this step may seem like a step back, it can often lead to a better end product. Make sure to communicate these changes to clients and other stakeholders. 

Over to you

As you’ve seen, avoiding and handling scheduling conflicts is essential to keep projects running smoothly. It’s also not an easy task, but the process gets easier with a scheduling app like Toggl Plan. 

If you want to give Toggl Plan a try, sign up for a free Toggl Plan account and discover how a scheduling tool can help you:

  • Create centralized team schedules 
  • Easily visualize team member availability and plan accordingly
  • Manage time off and schedule projects with confidence
  • Quickly re-schedule tasks if conflicts arise

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Toggl Team
Toggl Team

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