Regardless of the kind of project you are handling, your calendar will always have a huge impact on how well – or not so well, you run and conclude the project. The fact that a calendar is important in project management is never in question. Rather, what’s in question is the effectiveness of those calendars that we create for ourselves in running our projects as well as managing our time.
Sometimes managers find themselves running against time trying to catch up with their schedules. In such a situation, it can be common for a person to develop some kind of resentment towards his or her calendar, almost as if the calendar was a deliberate enemy. Always remember that your calendar is the product of your own making, even if your assistant is in charge of it.
Creating an effective schedule will facilitate a smooth relationship between you and your calendar; the kind of relationship that is going to be productive and fulfilling. Now you already know how to make a calendar, so here are ten great tips for creating more effective calendars that will make your projects run like clockwork.
1. Be one with your tool
Before anything else, you have to be absolutely at ease with the type of calendar that you opt to use. There are two basic types of calendars, paper and electronic. While the traditional pen to paper provides a much easier media, electronic calendars are unmatched for their versatility, ease of access and a load of additional features such as reminders and task dependency builders.
At this day and age, we are lucky to have technology that we can leverage to make the project planning process more efficient. A number of the more comprehensive project management software already have calendars that make the lives of project managers a whole lot easier. Conclusively, it is much easier to create effective calendars when we have the right tool.
2. Be accurate with your time estimation
It is normally very easy to underestimate the amount of time that is required to complete certain tasks or activities. Therefore, the effectiveness of a project calendar can be greatly undermined by over or under estimating the length of time it takes to complete particular tasks. Consequently, it is very important to set realistic project timelines and also reflect these on your calendar. However, you can only ensure that by accurately estimating the time required for all tasks and processes and schedule accordingly. Here is a great resource on how you can go about calculating and estimating time more accurately.
3. Include scheduled time for tasks that will take time
The calendar is meant to help you manage your most valuable resource, time. If you only have scheduled appointments and meetings in your project calendar, then you are not utilizing that tool as efficiently as it should be. You should include in your calendar all tasks that are going to consume your time in order to be fully effective.
Say for instance you plan to attend a meeting on Thursday morning right after checking, returning and sending some emails. When you do not schedule the part where you will be checking your emails, you may consequently show up late for the meeting. It will be especially true, if you get overly engrossed in a very important email that requires your full attention. However, in an effective calendar, you will have already scheduled that part and allotted it ample time.
4. Schedule descriptive tasks
Your calendar will be far more effective with explicitly descriptive tasks as opposed to a generalized undertaking. Say for instance the project you are creating involves getting media mentions for a particular product, service or event. You cannot simply enter in to your calendar a schedule like, “get media mentions” and leave it as such. Having such an entry will do nothing to improve the smooth running of the project since it only tells you something you already know you need to do.
An appropriate entry for such a task would have been something like, “reach out to five media publications” or “contact Mr. Bofface, the publicist from the local media association”. Descriptive tasks provide you with ready tasks that need only to be undertaken. Such tasks also make it easy for anyone on the team to fully understand what task needs to be undertaken even if he or she was not the person initially intended to do so.
5. Schedule tasks that you have control over
It is true that there are some things in life that are clearly out of our control; however, there are those things that we do have control over such as managing our schedule. When creating your calendar as a project manager, scheduling tasks that you have control over, whether directly or indirectly, will make for an effective calendar. This is especially so when scheduling time sensitive tasks that are interdependent with other tasks.
Having tasks that you can control in your calendar eliminates instances where someone else who is in control of the task decides to alter its progression. Such instances will do nothing short of disrupting your entire calendar.
6. Align schedules with the priorities
It is quite common to find extremely busy project managers who appear to have no time on their hands to complete anything; yet in most cases, what is constraining their schedules are simply tasks that have not been properly prioritized.
Each day every one of us has an equal amount of time on our hands, but only those who prioritize what needs to be done in a selective order will accomplish their goals and objectives for the day. Priorities makes things happen, at least that’s what Scott Berkun tell us in his book, The Art of Project Management, in the chapter on “How to Make Things Happen”.
7. Schedule high risk tasks near the start of the project
Every project has a potential risk involved that can cause delays when it is least expected. Therefore, it is advised to plan in advance any contingencies. As well, scheduling them much earlier not only makes for an effective calendar, but also increases significantly all chances of a successful project conclusion.
Instead of scheduling risky tasks and allowing nature to take its course, consider scheduling them early on if possible. This will guarantee enough time to deal with any problems that may arise during the course of your project.
8. Involve your team
More effective project calendars are normally the results of active collaborations between the project manager and team during creation. Therefore, when everyone working on a project is involved in scheduling of tasks, they not only embrace the plan, but also become more motivated to get it accomplished efficiently. Your team, whether in-house or remote, can provide you with valuable ideas on when to schedule what tasks.
At the very onset of a project, it is advised that you gather your team together and let them be part of the calendar creation process. You can also involve your clients and other stakeholders because they will be in a good position to provide you with clear insights on when the project needs to be completed.
9. Schedule personal time as well
Remember to also include scheduled times for things that are not related to work in your calendar. If you fail to indicate those periods when you will be tending to personal issues, then you, your assistant or someone else in the team might schedule something else that will require your attention during that time and thus cause a conflict.
You don’t have to be descriptive about what you will be doing during that time on the project calendar. Rather, you can simply have an entry indicating that you will be away on personal matters. Ultimately, project management applications are meant to make the sharing of resources easy among team members.
10. Back it up
An effective calendar will only remain so as long as it exists. The risk of losing or misplacing your calendar is always there, whether you have it on paper or electronically. It is possible but rather cumbersome trying to have and maintain a backup copy of your paper calendar. However, with the electronic calendar, you can create and maintain a synchronized backup copy or two in as simple as just a few clicks.
Always remember that a calendar is meant to assist you in managing your time better more efficiently and effectively. It is there to make sure that everything that needs to be done is duly noted and appropriate time is allotted to complete each task. How your calendar achieves all that will largely depend on how effective it is. Fortunately, those ten tips can assist you in creating a manageable schedule that fits your life accordingly.