Better three hours too soon than a minute too late. You might have heard this popular saying about the importance of time. Being on time is a quality not everyone possesses. But for project managers, time is the most important element in every project. It is interesting to know that time management is one of the 10 knowledge areas that a project manager must excel in to acquire the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.
Poor time management skills result in late project deliverables, which not only put your abilities in doubt but also negatively impact your organization’s reputation. As you develop basic plans for your project, a time management plan is a significant one. It offers a detailed guide to how much time you need to spend on which project activity. Having a proper schedule and timeline ensures that you stick to your plan.
Now, here’s a step-by-step guide to writing down an efficient and effective project time management plan. Read on!
1. Write Down Your Project Scope Statement
The project scope statement is an important component of your project plan, so, the first step is to write down your scope statement. It lists down all your project deliverables and helps you achieve your goals and objectives on time. It includes all your short-term and long-term project requirements that a project team needs to adhere to.
However, know that the project scope statement is not a detailed outline, yet it comes with all the necessary details to explain the end outcome of the project.
Let’s consider a quick example. If your project stakeholder requires you to build a vegetable farm, your scope statement will look something like this: We will plant 100 sq. ft. of the vegetable garden that grows tomatoes, potatoes, peas, cucumber, and corn. That’s how you include all your significant and major deliverables in your project statement.
Most commonly, you will already have your project statement in hand as you sit down to write a project time management plan. If yes, all you need to do is look into your scope statement and get a brief overview. If not, it is best to write down your scope statement right away. It comes in handy throughout the project, especially when sequencing and prioritizing your project activities.
2. Create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
Work Breakdown Structure, shortly called WBS, is a detailed outline of your project activities. To create your WBS, you need to pick your scope statement and identify your deliverable or deliverables. Once you do so, you should break your deliverables into further tasks.
For instance, one of the major deliverables in the scope mentioned above statement is building a vegetable farm. The WBS will include all the activities required to build your vegetable farm. Then, you will need to divide the farm according to the required production of each vegetable.
When creating WBS, it is important to keep stakeholder requirements in mind. Considering the above example, you cannot just divide the farm equally. Maybe the stakeholder requires higher production of tomatoes than the rest of the vegetables.
As you break your deliverables into smaller deliverables, each sub-deliverable is known as a work package.
3. Divide Each Work Package into Smaller Tasks
Well, the work package is still a major task. You need to divide each work package into even smaller tasks, so it is simply one task at a time. As you break down your work package, you get a to-do list for each sub-deliverable. It also helps you identify the gaps and loopholes between your baseline and each deliverable, as well as the end goal. What do you need to do to move from A to Z? How will you reach the end goal? What are the resource requirements? Is there any hindrance?
Dividing the work package into to-do lists will clarify all of the questions in your mind. Also, it makes it easier to allocate and manage the time for each activity.
If you are going to produce 10 sq. ft. of tomatoes, you can organize your tasks for this work package in a table. It is important to make sure that your WBS is not only created but structured and organized so that it is easy to understand.
4. Estimate Required Resources
Each work package requires certain resources. Allocation and time management largely depends on the availability of resources. If all the resources are available, you can get done with your tasks in the estimated time. If not, it can delay the entire project.
Therefore, before you estimate time, you need to estimate the required resources. Usually, your team members are limited resources. So, you need to make sure that you have adequate human resources. An easy way to do so is to determine the roles and responsibilities of your team members. When each team member is well-aware of his roles and responsibilities, there is little chance of unavailability or any other resource constraint.
Other than a human resources, your budget, tools, materials, and equipment should also be sufficient.
5. Figure Out Project Dependencies
Project dependencies include tasks that cannot be initiated until certain task/s are completed. For instance, you cannot plant your tomatoes until the farm has been tilled. Mapping dependencies is a bit complex, but it greatly helps in the long run.
The best thing about figuring out project dependencies is that it allows you to shift your activities and resources as per the priorities. Mapping dependencies also helps you decide the sequence and priority of your tasks.
You might be thinking about how to map the dependencies. Well, the right way to do this is using a flowchart or a detailed diagram. With a flowchart, you can easily map as well as identify the dependencies at later stages. Also, you can be quite creative when creating a flowchart. Use different colors and sizes to designate team responsibilities, and reflect task priority and constraints, if they might appear.
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6. Calculate Time Required for Each Task
Now that you have your dependency chart, you can easily estimate or calculate the time needed for each task. When calculating time, assume that your team members dedicate all their time and energy to the project. It allows you to determine the minimum time to complete a project activity.
When calculating the required time, the best way out is to specify a period rather than a fixed time for each activity. This allows enough room to find solutions to any constraint and figure out the maximum time that you can give to a certain activity.
Your calculated time should look something like this: Tilling the farm – one hour to three hours.
It keeps your project time management plan flexible.
7. Identify Project Milestones
Project milestones act as performance indicators. They assist in tracking your project progress from the start to the end. As you compare your project milestones to your progress, you will know beforehand if you are late with a certain work package.
This way, you can incorporate the required changes and adjust your to-do list to hold onto your expectations. Project milestones are significant components of a project time management plan.
8. Develop Your Time Management Schedule
Here comes the fun part!
As you are done with all the determination and estimation, it is time to develop a proper time management schedule, also known as the project timeline. List down your tasks for each deliverable or line them end to end. Adjust the length of each project activity as per the allocated time. Include project milestones on all the important tasks and deliverables. Voila!
By now, you must have a time management schedule that reflects all that needs to be done at a specific time. It makes sure you stay on track!
9. Control Your Time Management Schedule
No project time management plan comes with management alone. You need to have a time control plan in place as well. Get hold of all the essential tools, techniques, and processes needed to control the timing and incorporate changes. It helps you complete the project on time, even if there comes a delay.
To create a suitable time management plan, you need to have a deep insight and a proper guide to follow.
A project time management plan is all you need to achieve your targets timely. Without a time management plan, it is impossible to manage a project, no matter the magnitude. Preparing a schedule for your project and staying on track is a big deal. However, with a project time management plan in hand, you are already halfway through your project.