14Oct 2021

Project Scheduling Techniques Every Project Manager Should Know

Living in the moment. Sounds like a great idea. Thrilling even. However, if you’re looking to make the best of your time, you need to plan ahead.

Proof of this can be found by having a conversation with any industry mogul or great entrepreneur. The bets are that you will be shocked at how meticulously they can organize every day of their life. 

What is Scheduling in Project Management?

Project schedules involve more than your run-of-the-mill weekly planner notes. With project scheduling, there’s more at play than just creating a document.

Given that we live in a tech age, you’re most likely thinking of a digital document that lists the project timeline and the resources necessary to get every assignment done. 

To develop a perfect schedule, you need to ensure that it’s accessible to all team members.

Many project management software is out there that can help manage the tasks, assign tasks, and give the proper timing for the task completion.

Given that the goal of a schedule is to pass on crucial information to all team members, it must be easy to understand and comprehensive. 

How Project Scheduling Differs from Planning?

project-scheduling-differs-from-planning

In today’s review, we’re going to mention planning a couple of times. Understandably, planning and scheduling are often used interchangeably.

However, the two terms have different applications in projects. 

To distinguish the two, you need to think of the project plan as the master blueprint while the project schedule maps out specific assignments. 

  • Planning as a project manager involves choosing the right policies, strategies, and procedures that are necessary to deliver a project timely
  • Scheduling refers to converting plans, scope, and cost into a working timeline that’s easily achievable. 

Why is Scheduling Important?

When working on projects, you need to develop a timetable that highlights what needs to get done.

Ideally, you want to sequence activities and milestones according to priority level. This can be a bit tricky to navigate without an elaborate plan in place. 

It’s not just the timing that needs to be right on the money, though. Resource allocation is also important. This is because it enables you to identify and assign the right employees.

Since talents are not homogenously laid out, you also need a schedule that will let you know precisely when everything needs to happen. 

Smart Scheduling

smart-scheduling

There’s only so far that pen and paper to-do lists can get you. If you want to optimize your business’s productivity, you need to invest in scheduling software

While there are twenty-four hours in a day, not all hours are created equal. By this, we mean that productivity levels tend to dip during different times of the day.

To ensure that you can meet your targets and stay ahead of the curve, you need to structure your day, so the most challenging tasks get done during peak productivity hours.

With CalendarHero, you can strategically plan on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. 

Weekly planning is somewhat different. This is because it gives you a leeway to confirm all your scheduled meetings ahead of time while staying mindful of upcoming deadlines.

With monthly planning, the game is a bit different. Here, there’s just enough room for you to have a look at your personal KPIs and make tweaks, so you have a more productive month. 

Notably, with the proper scheduling techniques, you can make changes to specific activities in case there’s a hitch along the way.

It’s imperative to have this top of mind as it acts as the perfect contingency plan when a project is running late or if there are scope changes. 

Scheduling Techniques Every Project Manager Should Know

Seasoned business managers adapt specific scheduling techniques to avoid common meeting management pitfalls. To enhance your effectiveness, we recommend:

Efficiency

efficiency-in-project-meetings

Project meetings can drag on end without much being accomplished. To ensure that you maximize productivity, you need to come up with a system that prevents this.

You want to achieve as much as you can in the shortest time possible with the smallest number of people present in the meeting. 

Not only will this leave you with more time to run other aspects of the business, but your staff will appreciate you for it. This is because running efficient meetings shows that you respect everyone’s time.

It also gives your staff more time to focus on task completion, encourages team member participation, and builds goodwill for the project manager. 

To be efficient, you need to adopt a couple of specific techniques that will help you:

  • Allocate time-intensive tasks as homework. There’s no need to waste everybody’s time during meetings reviewing materials and reading reports. 
  • Only invite team members who are vital to a project in the meeting. That said, you should leave the door open to other interested parties to come along voluntarily. 
  • Have a timekeeper to keep everyone in check on a regular. This is a brilliant strategy as they will notify the current speaker when five minutes remain in every section of an agenda. 
  • Before the meeting, you must develop a standard “status update form” for all task leaders. 
  • Rather than lengthy occasional meetings, plan for shorter and more frequent status meetings.
  • Come up with facilitation techniques like accompanying documentation to develop ideas on the fly. One brilliant idea is to give attendees about three minutes to brainstorm ideas before kicking off a group discussion individually.
  • To ensure balanced participation, we recommend embracing the round-robin technique. Here, you will be able to get feedback from around the room and minimize dominators taking charge. 

Look Back – Look Forward System

The lookback – look forward gives you an expanded view of current scenarios. This is because you can review both the previous immediate timeframe and the immediately upcoming timeframe.

Importantly, you want to ensure sufficient data that allows for a deep scan of +/- 2 weeks. With proper documentation, scheduling for this isn’t going to be complicated. 

Looking back and then looking forward will motivate the team to put more narrow down on a current snapshot of the project.

Through this focus, the team will be able to identify relevant issues to the current timeframe. 

It’s a brilliant strategy since it provides a quick historical view that offers context about the current state of project affairs. This detailed brief also gives you ample time to recognize team members for their efforts. 

If you’re looking to implement the “look back – look forward” system, you must consider:

  • Developing a project schedule that focuses on the immediately preceding and upcoming periods
  • Pinpointing significant milestones on the project schedule
  • Summarizing key accomplishments leading to the current project state
  • Asking team members to anticipate risks and issues likely to emerge during the immediately upcoming period

While the look back – look forward review technique emphasizes providing a status update on the current period, it’s vital that the plan also creates opportunities for you to deal with relevant issues outside this period.

Say there’s a pressing issue that was anticipated to happen at the end of the project and occurs early in the project. Team members need to be open to raising concerns ASAP. 

This scheduling technique is not built to exclude discussion of tasks outside the immediate timeframe.

Instead, it’s created to focus the group’s attention on a particular timetable and reduce time wasted repeatedly reviewing tasks happening before or after the status review meeting. 

Accountability

acountability-in-projects

You can’t be an authority figure in every subject. Trying to do so would soil your name and put the business a couple of steps behind.

For optimal operation, you need to take on the counsel of subject matter experts to help you achieve tasks on time. 

Scheduling allows you to anticipate additional items that will come up during the project. For this, you need to have team members who can be held accountable for tasks.

With this setup, the odds are that team members will strive to do their best and meet laid-out objectives. 

Without accountability, several problems are likely to arise:

  • Tasks will take a hit as they aren’t completed in good time.
  • As the project manager, you will find yourself taking on more tasks on your plate. While it’s good to be an all-rounder, it can diminish productivity as you’ll focus less on management.
  • When team members notice others in their circle aren’t being held accountable for their actions, they tend to develop a lackadaisical approach to work. 
  • Team members who aren’t held accountable have zero motivation to amend their actions.
  • Project schedule delays become a regular occurrence
  • Your credibility as a project manager gets negatively impacted

To ensure that these issues don’t arise, project managers need to develop a culture of accountability from the get-go. You want to enforce accountability measures during project meetings to ensure that everyone is kept in check. 

While you may assume that confrontation is the way to go here, it’s not the best approach to take for the long haul.

To ensure that accountability is internalized and viewed as more than a way to reprimand staff, it’s best to encourage the team to hold each other accountable.

This way, you’ll be able to build a culture of accountability that works for you in the future. 

Simplify the Agenda

simplify-the-agenda

Every project meeting needs to be elaborately mapped out. You should not just feature topics but also timings, the topic owners, and facilitation techniques for every discussion.

This avoids pitfalls during the meetings and also enables you to touch on various subjects. You will find it easy to keep the team on track and make preparation less strenuous for team members with a good layout.

During meetings, you want agendas to be simple to understand and consistent. You want to determine which topics are up for discussion during regularly scheduled meetings to avoid surprises.

To minimize time wastage, it’s best to circulate the agenda as a reminder before each session. 

If you want to give this a try but you’re unsure of how to start, consider these topics as part of your agenda:

  • Review of action items from the last meeting
  • What have we done? What are we planning to do next (Look back – look forward review)
  • Task leader updates and feedback and quality, time, and cost
  • Review of unfinished business
  • Debriefing

The main takeaway here is that you need to work on developing agendas that are simple and brief. Rather than dilly dally, you want the discussion to be laser-focused on yielding specific status updates.

Overly aggressive agendas aren’t best since they usually lead to lengthy meetings that drift about.

Remain Focused

remain-focused

Leading a team isn’t easy. Everyone comes at you with their favorite soapbox issue that they want to engage with you.

Without a control system, it’s easy to take a tangent away from the agenda and eat up critical time, resulting in late meetings. 

To maintain focus during project meetings, its best to:

  • Have someone on the team “raise a flag” whenever a discussion starts going off-topic
  • Enquire whether some issues can be taken offline
  • Have an egg timer that allows you to discuss issues currently not on the agenda
  • Redirect issues to the parking lot
  • Come up with some ground rules and mantras about meetings

Staying focused during project meetings is essential if you plan to ensure that you only use up the allotted time.

The trick to ensuring that you can implement the highlighted scheduling techniques with ease is by surfacing the issue with the team during the early stages of the project cycle.

This way, you’ll be able to promptly identify which techniques are likely to work best dealing with this common issue. 

Conclusion

The highlighted project scheduling techniques are a critical tool for you to have to conduct project meetings successfully.

While it’s unfortunate that few managers have onboarded the pointers shared, that’s not to say that you should conform. Instead, strive to make your meetings not just productive and valuable but also concise. 

Having this top of mind works excellent as you’ll be able to see the results in no time. Team morale will get boosted, you’ll have timely information on project status, and you’ll also be able to resolve issues promptly.

Acodez is a renowned web development company and web application development company in India. We offer all kinds of web design and Mobile app development services to our clients using the latest technologies. We are also a leading digital marketing company providing SEO, SMM, SEM, Inbound marketing services, etc at affordable prices. For further information, please contact us.

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Rithesh Raghavan

Rithesh Raghavan

Rithesh Raghavan, Co-Founder, and Director at Acodez IT Solutions, who has a rich experience of 16+ years in IT & Digital Marketing. Between his busy schedule, whenever he finds the time he writes up his thoughts on the latest trends and developments in the world of IT and software development. All thanks to his master brain behind the gleaming success of Acodez.

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