Time Management and Project Schedule

November 10, 2010

In any project, Time is the most valuable resource. More money can be made, more people can be hired, more building can be built, but Time is a constant, one-dimensional quantity. Having effective Time Management will have the greatest impact to any project. Implementing effective Time Management into your Project Schedule is essential to be successful.

Time Management is built around defining your project’s goals, and completing the tasks that make up those goals in an orderly fashion.

Goals and Goal Setting – To identify your goals for the project, determine what must be done on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis for your project to be completed.

  • Focus on what is important
  • Provide a unified direction for your team
  • Prioritize goals and devote less energy to the less critical tasks
  • Motivate yourself and your staff by leading from the front

Prioritizing Goals – Once the goals for the project have been defined, the next critical step is to prioritize the goals in order of importance to get the task accomplished. Several methods of prioritization exist. Some of the most popular are:

  • A,B and C analysis
  • Pareto Analysis
  • The Eisenhower Method
  • The POSEC Method

More detail on Prioritizing Goals can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_management

Sorting the prioritized goals into tasks– From each of your Goals, you will need a list of tasks that must be completed for your goals to be met. Determine each step of work to be performed for each of your goals. Each of these steps or tasks has resources that must be in place for the task to be accomplished. The questions that must be answered about your tasks:

  • Resources – Who must be available to perform the task?
  • Dependencies – What must be available for the task to be accomplished?
  • Duration – How long will the task take?
  • Budget – How much will this cost?

When building a Project Schedule, it is important that we define all of the tasks that must be completed for our goals to be met. Determining the Critical Path with your Project Schedule will tell you the exact minimum amount of time your project will take.

Project Scheduling – The Project Manager’s greatest ally in keeping the project on time and on target is the Project Schedule. If the Project Schedule has included the all of elements of to complete each task, Resources, Dependencies, Duration, and Budget, and the work completed is reported correctly and honestly, the PM should be able to know at a glance if the project is proceeding on time.

The most popular type of project schedule is the Work Breakdown Structure, or WBS. The WBS allows for easy ordering of the tasks and their interdependencies.

A sample Work Breakdown Structure Schedule of a typical Saturday morning at my house:

1.0 – Wake from sleep

· 1.1 – Determine what is making noise

· 1.2 – See Dog pawing at bed

· 1.3 – Attempt to stand

2.0 – Take Dog Outside

· 2.1 – Locate shoes

· 2.2 – Take dog outside to the yard

· 2.3 – Wait patiently on dog in yard

· 2.4 – Wave to neighbors on their morning walk

· 2.5 – Realize I am outside in sleep ware and sneakers

· 2.6 – Retrieve dog now barking at neighbors from yard

· 2.7 – Go back inside

3.0 – Make Coffee

· 3.1 – Locate coffee container

· 3.2 – Plug in coffee pot

· 3.3 – Etc.

Failure to launch– There are many reasons why projects stall or do not happen as quickly as we hope for when we first create the definition of a task as a new project. We often rationalize these issues as reasons to procrastinate and fail to get our project launched. Some of these reasons include:

  • The project’s size seems daunting
  • The project’s requirements are outside our current capabilities
  • The project’s outcome is uncertain
  • The project’s cost will be expensive to our current budget

Whatever the reason, the outcome is only that we wait. This procrastination often results in (a) someone else launching the idea and making it happen before we do and beating us to the market, (b) stagnation and the money, time, or capability never develop the way we thought it would, and/or (c)Failure to complete the project.

Project Time Management Tips

Delegation – For larger projects delegating tasks is essential to for project efficiency. Delegate most of your minor tasks to capable and proven co-workers. For smaller projects, work together with newer co-workers on tasks.

Get your project started– Getting started or knowing where to begin is usually the hardest step. Break down the elements of the first task into even smaller tasks, and take them one at the time.

Keep your project familiar – Work on your project daily, even if you are in a waiting mode. Keeping your project fresh in your mind makes it easier to restart once the other tasks that were causing you to wait have been completed.

Plan for the future – The best run organizations have a plan. And every person within an organization should also have a plan for their future. Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly and Annual Goals are the backbone of most business organizations.

Make Time Management a habit – This can be accomplished with simple bookkeeping. Keep a log of tasks performed and how long it took to perform them. Keep a constantly updated To-Do List. And carry a note pad with you everywhere, just in case you need to add to the list.

Use tools built to help you stay on track – Calendars, planners, project schedules, notes, and reminders are a waste of resources if you do not use them. An excellent self help guide to Time Management is located here: http://www.studygs.net/timman.htm


By: Phil Stafford

One Response to “Time Management and Project Schedule”

  1. Mike Gann said

    “time is a constant, one-dimensional quantity” – I think Doc Brown would disagree .

    Your WBS is also great – especially “1.3 – Attempt to stand”

    Seriously though, out of everything you said I think delegation is really the hardest tip here to implement successfully – at least in my case. I struggle with letting various aspects of what I’m working on go to my juniors, oftentimes because I don’t see myself as having time to coach them through a task or I don’t want to do it over. I’ve gotten better over the last half year, but it’s still difficult to let go and just manage a team.

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