Project Management

6 Ways to Create a Simple Project Schedule

Mindaugas Gluchovskis ·

2019 - Present Marketing specialist Innovative content marketeer with MSc in International Communication, Mindaugas brings fresh ideas and inspiration about project management and beyond.

Project schedule

In the world of project management, simplicity is key. Yet, crafting a straightforward project schedule can often feel like finding your way through a maze. 

Did you know that according to recent statistics, 39% of projects fail due to a lack of planning?  

While statistics show the impact of poor planning on project failures, various factors contribute to setbacks, including resource limitations, scope changes, and unforeseen events. Yet, I want to show you how a simple project schedule plan can be a powerful solution to overcoming these challenges. By the end of the post, you’ll not only understand how to structure your project schedule using a simple project schedule, but I’ll also unveil advanced tools utilized by top managers to structure your project for maximum efficiency.

Sounds good? Let’s get right into it. 

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What is Considered an Effective Project Scheduling? 

Project scheduling is a timetable for organizing a project’s tasks, goals, and milestones on a timeline. When you schedule a project, you’re essentially creating a roadmap that lays out the timeline, tasks, and milestones. It’s defining every detail and crafting a roadmap

It’s also about strategically breaking down tasks, sequencing them, and estimating timeframes precisely. Setting clear expectations on who does what and when ensures accountability and establishes a realistic timeline for delivery, keeping clients informed every step of the way. 

roadmap kanban board
Example of a visual product roadmap

Project Scheduling Types 

Often, you’ll find three main types of project schedules, each with its specific reason for existence: 

  • Master project schedule: This is like sketching out the key phases of your project, such as planning, execution, and evaluation. 
  • Milestone schedule: Consider this a way to note the major checkpoints along the way, like the launch date of a new product or the completion of a crucial report. 
  • Detailed project schedule: This involves breaking down every task and activity, such as scheduling meetings, gathering resources, or conducting tests. 

What Makes a Good Project Schedule? 

Effective project scheduling is a critical component of successful time management, especially for professional service businesses. 

A simple project schedule for organizing a team offsite retreat might look like this: 

  • Initiate Your Project: Start by planning the retreat agenda, budget, venue booking, and overall timeline. 
  • Define Tasks: Break down tasks like creating the agenda, arranging transportation, booking accommodations, and planning team-building activities and meals. Set clear start and end dates for each. 
  • Block Calendar: Mark holidays, vacation days, and other availability-related events. 
  • Set Task Dependencies: Connect tasks that rely on each other, like finalizing attendees before booking accommodations. 
  • Assign Team: Allocate tasks based on skills and availability. 
  • Review and Update: Regularly check progress and adjust the schedule as needed. 

A good project schedule is one that’s actively maintained, regularly reviewed, and diligently followed by the team. It must be thorough, offering clear deadlines for every team member’s tasks. Adjust it as necessary to deal with any changes or surprises. 

Read more: Task Dependencies – Types, Management, & Examples 

How to Create a Simple Project Schedule? 

Now that we have an idea of the project schedule let’s dive into the specifics of creating one.  

Let me stress this again: our focus here is simplicity — a schedule that’s not only effective but also easy for you and your team to use. We’re talking about clarity, conciseness, flexibility, accessibility, and user-friendliness. Because when it’s simple for you, it’s simple for everyone. 

6 Ways to Start Scheduling Your Project 

1. Use Calendars 

A project calendar is a crucial component of the project schedule. It sets working days and hours for tasks, helps you visualize your project timeline, and keeps track of upcoming meetings, deadlines, and milestones. 

That, in turn, will enable you to make informed decisions based on available time. 

Frequently, the calendar is categorized into four distinct types, each serving a crucial role in project management: base calendars, project calendars, task calendars, and resource calendars. 

  • Base calendars: Templates for all organization projects, defining standard work hours per day, workdays per week, and exceptions like holidays. 
  • Project calendars: Derived from base calendars, they adapt to individual project needs, accommodating factors like leave of absence or shift work. 
  • Task calendars: Specify task schedules, including start and end dates, along with brief task descriptions and responsible parties. 
  • Resource calendars: Detail required resources for tasks, aiding in resource availability and workload management. 

Learn more: Project Management Templates

I recommend using calendars for scheduling your projects, though their effectiveness varies based on your project’s needs. 

Calendars can be useful for visualizing timelines, sending reminders, integrating with other tools, and color-coding tasks.  

Teamhood Gantt structure
Color-coding tasks

However, remember that it’s a fixed schedule design tool that may lack advanced features compared to dedicated project management software. Managing multiple calendars for complex projects could lead to confusion, missed deadlines, etc.   

2. Use Agile Practices to Schedule Your Project

Methodologies for scheduling, such as Scrum or Kanban, are both Agile frameworks used to accommodate changing priorities and requirements, but they have different approaches to scheduling and managing work. 

Scrum organizes work into fixed-length sprints, typically lasting one to four weeks, based on the product backlog. The team aims to create potentially shippable product increments during each sprint, estimating effort using story points or hours and calculating velocity to forecast project completion. 

Kanban focuses on visualizing and optimizing workflow without fixed iterations. Using a Kanban board, the team pulls work from the prioritized backlog, limits work in progress, and measures lead time and cycle time

Kanban
Kanban view on Teamhood

Both Kanban and Scrum offer flexibility in project scheduling, allowing teams to adjust and prioritize tasks as needed. However, Scrum’s fixed-length sprints often demand more upfront planning and estimation, whereas Kanban’s continuous flow approach enables immediate adjustments to the project schedule. 

3. Combine Waterfall with Gantt Charts

Using a waterfall approach for scheduling, which involves breaking down the project into phases and setting milestones for each phase. 

The Waterfall approach to scheduling is a traditional method that follows a linear sequence of activities, where each phase relies on completing the previous one. Gantt charts display the project schedule, task dependencies, and progress toward milestones. 

This method works best for projects with clear requirements and fixed deadlines, as it helps create a structured plan. 

box 1824 projects
Gantt view on Teamhood

In a software project using Waterfall, your project schedule might go like this: 

  1. Document all requirements 
  1. Design the system and create mock-ups based on requirements 
  1. Develop the software, writing code according to approved designs 
  1. Test the software thoroughly for functionality, usability, and performance 
  1. Deliver the product to the client after fixing any defects 

As previously noted, Gantt charts are commonly utilized in the Waterfall project management approach. 

  • Visualize Tasks and Dependencies: For software development, use a Gantt chart to visualize coding, testing, and deployment tasks, seeing their order of execution clearly. 
  • Track Progress: In construction projects, update your Gantt chart as tasks like site preparation and building construction progress, enabling you to monitor progress and spot delays. 
  • Identify Critical Tasks: In marketing campaigns, highlight crucial tasks like market research and campaign launch on your Gantt chart to ensure timely completion and success. 
  • Create milestones: Use a Gantt chart to designate significant points or achievements in the project’s progression rather than simply listing them as individual tasks. 
  • Allocate Resources: For consulting projects, assign team members to tasks using your Gantt chart, ensuring optimal resource allocation and timely completion. 
  • Collaborate with Your Team: During a product launch, use a cloud-based Gantt chart for real-time collaboration, task updates, and effective communication among team members. This will foster teamwork and alignment with project goals. 

Gantt chart clarity aids in understanding project timelines and spotting potential hurdles. Yet, their complexity and rigidity can pose challenges, especially in larger projects. Despite these drawbacks, their ability to facilitate resource allocation and promote collaboration makes them a valuable tool in project scheduling. 

Although less adaptable than other methodologies, Waterfall proves effective for projects with well-defined requirements and fixed timelines. However, if you seek a more adaptable project management approach, Agile might be a better fit. 

4. Use Task List 

When it comes to project scheduling, task lists can be incredibly handy in various situations. For instance, they’re perfect for managing workloads and keeping track of progress in smaller projects where tasks are clear-cut.  

In team environments, they make it easy to distribute workloads, hold team members accountable, and ensure everyone knows their responsibilities.   

For more complex projects, task lists complement other tools like Gantt charts. They help manage project details while giving a broader view of the schedule. Task lists are simpler and more straightforward than Gantt charts, as they do not require the creation of a visual timeline or the management of task dependencies. 

Gantt charts, on the other hand, give a broader project view, while agile methods encourage dynamic adaptation and teamwork. You can use one or both of these tools to effectively plan, track, and execute your projects. 

With a task list, you can see more important details, such as item fields, which is especially useful when prioritizing tasks. On the downside, if not managed effectively, task lists can easily overwhelm team members, leading to feelings of being overloaded with tasks. 

teamhood list view
Teamhood List View

5. Critical path method (CPM) 

The critical path method (CPM) and program evaluation are used to identify a project’s critical path, which is the longest sequence of activities that must be completed on time to meet the project’s deadline. 

The critical path method (CPM) helps you identify the longest sequence of dependent tasks that must be completed on time to ensure the project stays on schedule.  

You often see the Critical Path Method (CPM) used in construction projects like building homes. It helps map out tasks and their dependencies to determine the crucial path. 

This technique requires accurate data to work well. It’s not great for projects that require a lot of creativity, and it might not fully grasp resource constraints. 

6. The program evaluation and review technique (PERT) 

The program evaluation and review technique (PERT) allows you to analyze the time needed to complete each project activity, considering various uncertainties and risks. 

Imagine you’re overseeing the construction of a house. With PERT, you can break down tasks like laying the foundation, framing, electrical, plumbing, and finishing. It helps you manage uncertainties and risks, so you can allocate resources wisely. If, say, foundation work hits a snag, PERT lets you tweak schedules and assign extra help to keep things moving. 

PERT provides a more comprehensive understanding of the project’s timeline, helping you allocate resources effectively and manage expectations realistically. However, it heavily relies on time estimates, which can result in inaccurate project timelines. 

Benefits of Using Project Scheduling Software 

When deciding how to schedule your project, project scheduling software surpasses individual techniques. As we’ve discussed, while each technique offers benefits, it also has limitations, such as lack of flexibility, reliance on accurate data, or complexity in managing tasks.  

Project scheduling software solves this by integrating these features.  

In a software development project, project scheduling software integrates features like Gantt charts, CPM, and PERT to create a comprehensive schedule. This allows the project manager to visualize flow, manage dependencies, allocate resources, and assess risks effectively. 

We’ve got a full list of top 18 project scheduling software tools that covers a variety of project management tasks, activities and overall needs. 

Ultimately, the ideal approach depends on the project’s unique requirements and the team’s preferences. Thankfully, not everything about your job needs to be as arduous. While each method has its pros and cons, project scheduling software combines these benefits, ensuring efficient, clear, and collaborative management, ultimately leading to greater overall success. 

Frequently asked questions

  • How to estimate the total work and create a schedule? 

    To estimate work and create a schedule, break tasks down, estimate time, and set a timeline. Consider dependencies, monitor progress, and keep the team informed. Adapt as needed throughout the project. 

  • How to handle changes to the planned schedule? 

    Navigating unexpected schedule changes requires acknowledging emotions, gaining perspective, and accepting the change. Employ adaptive coping, revise plans, and communicate openly to minimize disruption. Following change management processes and learning from the experience ensures adaptability and project resilience. 

  • How to involve team members in the creation and review of the schedule? 

    Involve your team in scheduling by hosting collaborative sessions and using tools like Teamhood. Assign tasks, review regularly, and stay flexible. This inclusive approach boosts ownership and teamwork, leading to better project outcomes. 

  • How to prioritize tasks and allocate resources to the schedule? 

    First, identify key goals and tasks. Utilize tools like Teamhood to assign resources based on priority and availability. Regularly review and adjust allocations for optimal productivity. This ensures success within your timeframe. 

  • Which types of dependencies are most common in project schedules? 

    The most common types of dependencies in project schedules include: 

    Finish-to-Start (FS): Task B cannot start until Task A finishes. 

    Start-to-Start (SS): Task B cannot start until Task A starts. 

    Finish-to-Finish (FF): Task B cannot finish until Task A finishes. 

    Start-to-Finish (SF): Task B cannot finish until Task A starts. 

    These dependencies help sequence tasks effectively and ensure the project progresses smoothly.

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