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A Guide to Project Scheduling

Discover what a project schedule is, the stages of a project schedule, and how using Motion will benefit your project schedule.

Motion Blog
at Motion
Jul 13, 2023
Table of contents

Have you ever committed to a project deadline only to miss it?

When was the last time you heard a deadline promised to a client and shook your head? How on earth did the project manager think that date was possible?

Have you ever wondered why someone who makes commitments to clients doesn’t check in with everyone performing the tasks on a project to see how much time the tasks will take?

If you’ve ever been in one of these situations, your organization needs to implement project scheduling.

In this article, we will discuss:

  • What is project scheduling?
  • What are the stages of a project schedule?
  • Tools for project scheduling
  • Benefits of project scheduling
  • Using Motion for project scheduling

Let’s get started.

What is project scheduling?

A project schedule includes a project’s tasks, milestones, and deliverables.

Project scheduling aims to determine how to complete the project on time, within budget, and on target, with complete scope and without compromising quality.

When a team implements a project schedule, there is a plan for when each task is expected to be completed and when dependent tasks can begin. It allows project teams to plan better to know when to expect work to get to them.

What are the stages of a project schedule?

Let’s look at what a project manager needs to do to create a successful project schedule.

Define tasks

The first step in a project schedule is to determine the project scope. The scope includes project goals, deliverables, costs, and deadlines.

The scope details are used to create the work breakdown structure (WBS) or what you need to deliver.

Let’s consider a project with the scope of delivering a website. For our website, we will pretend we are making a website for parents to sign their child up for a soccer league.

The WBS consists of the main parts of the website. Our website needs an information page giving details about the soccer league, such as the dates and times of the league games, pricing information, and whom to contact with questions.

‎If parents are interested in signing their child up, they will also need the option to sign up their child and submit payment to the league.

The next step is to determine the tasks needed to deliver the parts of the website. A website development project might have the tasks below.

Determine task duration

To figure out a project schedule plan, you will need to determine how long each task will take to finish. Note that someone familiar with the work should estimate how long a task will take. A project manager should not guess how long the work will take without input from an expert. For example, the QA or test group should estimate how long testing the website on all screen sizes will take.

Even if you have had similar projects in the past, do not just copy and paste an estimate from a similar project. For example, if you’ve developed websites before and the development on the previous website took 10 hours, never assume the next one will take 10 hours. Talk to your team about the specific project. The team members doing the work are experts who will think of things that make this project easier or more complex to complete.

Two items are necessary to calculate how long a task’s duration will be. One is the number of hours of work. The second is the number of available resources that can work on the task simultaneously.

The image above of a website task list includes a “design mockup” step estimated to take two hours. If there is a way to divide the mockup work between two designers, the task’s duration is now only one hour. Rely on the team members who are experts in your work to tell you what is (and isn’t) feasible for dividing up a task.

With our soccer website being an example, ask your designers if one designer could work on the mockup for the registration page. In contrast, the other designer works on the information page.

Use discretion when adding more resources to a task to ensure dividing up work is practical. Some tasks cannot be sped up by applying more resources. For example, if a remodeling company is working on tearing out old tiles on a shower stall, the estimated time to take out the tile might be 8 hours for one worker. There is limited space in a shower stall. It wouldn’t be possible to fit eight workers in the shower stall at the same time to try to complete the task in one hour.

Determine dependencies

Once you have calculated task durations, the team needs to determine which tasks depend on other tasks. Knowing what relationships between tasks exist is critical for making an accurate schedule.

For example, QA testers cannot test a website before development is complete.

However, if they have the requirements of how the website should work, they can work on their test plan while the project is developed. That way, their test plan is ready to go when the website is ready to be tested. So, the QA can develop the test plan concurrently with development, but testing depends on completing both development and the test plan.

Assign resources

Once the task duration and dependencies have been defined, it’s time to determine who will work on each task. Having a schedule for how long tasks will take and when they will be done helps assign appropriate resources. Consider vacation schedules and other priorities as you determine resource availability.

Create the schedule

Once we plan what needs to be done and who will work on the project, it’s time to map out the schedule.

Calculate the tasks and consider dependencies to determine when each task will start and complete. There are a couple of project management tools that can be useful to use for this.

PERT chart is a visual representation of milestones, task dependencies, and timelines used to calculate the longest path to know how long a project will take (also known as the critical path).

The critical path method is a project management technique that involves mapping out the tasks in a project and determining the longest time the critical tasks will take to complete a project.

Once you’ve created the schedule, it’s time to get to work.

Monitoring and adjusting the project schedule

As the team begins working on the project, monitoring progress is important.

A calendar with task being scheduled by Motion

If the team is running behind schedule on a task, what can be done to get the team on track?

On larger teams with multiple employees who do the same type of work, is it possible to add additional resources to the project to help? If two developers are working on building different parts of the website and one finishes a task early, they have additional time. They can help get their team member’s work done.

Does the team need to put in some overtime? If overtime is required, team members can have some flexible time away from work to account for the extra time they had to put in to complete the project on time.

Can you change the scope? For example, is there a “nice to have” design on the website that can wait until an update is made to the website down the road?

As a last resort, can you adjust the deadline? Can you push the deadline back if a project’s estimated completion date is ahead of when it is truly needed?

Tools for project scheduling

Different project scheduling tools are available for making a project schedule. Let’s take a look at a couple of options.

Gantt chart is a tool used to visualize a project timeline. The due dates of tasks shown in a Gantt chart allow a project manager to know at a glance if the project is running on time. Gantt charts also show task dependencies, making it easy to see what tasks can be worked on simultaneously and which must wait for another task to be completed first.

Kanban methodology allows users to manage their workflow and prioritize tasks visually. The visual representation of what the team is working on shows whether the team is on track. The team can also visually see what they’ve completed to help monitor progress.

Benefits of project scheduling

Having a project schedule in place gives a team many benefits. Let’s look at a few of them.

Visual clarity of the schedule

The visual clarity in a project schedule allows the team to see what tasks are in the project and individual deadlines for each task. The time frame for when tasks need to be worked on is clear.

The team can also see dependencies to see what needs to be completed before they start a task.

Resource leveling is easier when seeing the visible schedule. Team members can speak up immediately if there are scheduling concerns, such as if a team member will be on vacation when a task is due or have other priorities that need to be discussed. Team members can have a better individual plan of their own work schedule when they know when to expect assignments to get to them.

Project monitoring

When you check task completion against the schedule to see if the project is on time, scheduling issues are caught sooner. If a task is running behind schedule, look at what other tasks depend on it to predict other delays.

Improved productivity

Once the schedule is laid out, team members have it as a reference rather than needing to have discussions about what comes next.

A table showing the benefits of project scheduling

‎Additionally, having the dates laid out eliminates the need for many status updates. Instead of asking questions such as “where are you at, and will the project be done on time?” the project manager can compare tasks already completed versus the schedule to see if everything is on track. Having a plan in place means there is better business performance.

Using Motion for project scheduling

Motion is a project and calendar management software allowing users to set up tasks for easy project management. It has unique scheduling features to make your job as a project manager much easier.

After a manager has set up task assignments and priorities in Motion, Motion’s task manager adds tasks from projects to a team member’s schedules. After entering information about the expected duration, priority, and deadline, Motion will put the task in the ideal spot in a user’s schedule based on other priorities and deadlines.

‎The task manager alerts users if a task will not be completed by the deadline so it can be rescheduled. Users know there is a task scheduling issue in advance, so it can be addressed before a deadline is missed.

Motion's calendar feature will combine your project tasks with the rest of your schedule. It eliminates manual planning by creating the ideal schedule based on priorities. Your team can spend more time actively working and less time worrying about planning out their schedule.

Try Motion for project scheduling

When you implement project scheduling, your team will be confident about meeting deadlines. Deadlines that are possible reduce stress on employees rather than putting them constantly at risk for burnout. Clients who receive projects on time are much more likely to continue to use your services. Let Motion do the scheduling for you so you can get right to work on your tasks and keep your customers happy.

If you are not already using Motion for project scheduling, access a free trial today.

Motion Blog
Written by Motion Blog