Creating a work schedule: our quick guide

create a work schedule

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Have you been given a job to do, with only one deadline to meet? A work schedule will help you complete specific tasks without stress!

When project managers are faced with a looming deadline, they often don’t know where to start, so what steps should they take?

What is a work schedule? Why is it important? Let’s find out in this guide.

What is a work schedule?

Unlike conventional project planning methods, the work schedule is a tool that traces a project’s chronology from delivery date to start date. If you only have the project deadline, you need to reverse-engineer the timeline.

A work calendar, to put it simply, is a calendar that, instead of listing activities from beginning to end, identifies the completion of tasks from end to beginning, clearly indicating those that must be completed by a certain date. An inverted calendar is another name for a work schedule. It helps you determine the answers to questions such as:

  • When does the project officially begin?
  • What tasks still need to be completed?
  • Who’s being asked for too much or too little?
  • How much longer does this project have to run before it comes to an end?

Project managers divide time into distinct parts and use a work schedule. Each brick is built on the blocks that preceded it. This method is particularly useful for projects carried out in large companies, as the achievement of project objectives depends on the ability to accurately forecast project completion times. It also lets everyone know how much time is left before the deadline.

A sample calendar

Let’s say you work as a wedding planner and have five months to organize a wedding for one hundred guests. You need a work plan to ensure that you complete all the steps leading up to the wedding, because you know that the delivery date won’t change.

More often than not, you’ll start by figuring out what needs to be done at the last minute and work backwards to determine what can be done sooner.

As the completion date is set in stone, it always shapes and influences the items on the to-do list you tick off as they are completed.

The importance of work schedules

When working on complex projects with many moving parts, the work schedule is very useful to ensure that each task receives the necessary attention at the right time.

They are important for the following four key reasons:

Time management

Work schedules provide an overview of the actions required to complete a project, as well as its timetable. This visual aid can make it easier to spot problems and make the necessary corrections. Knowing who’s doing what and when will help improve team communication. Work schedules avoid the mistakes that result from overscheduling, and make everyone more accountable.

Resource planning

They allocate resources to ongoing projects and celebrate the achievement of certain project milestones. For example, if a project manager knows that someone will be available on a given day, he or she can assign work to the right person at the right time.

They help identify realistic completion dates

Work schedules can be used to identify cases where the time allocated to a certain job is unreasonable. To show stakeholders how realistic the deadline is, or whether additional resources are needed to meet the completion date, a reprocessing schedule can be used.

They allow you to set milestones

Creating a work schedule allows you to visualize your project and due dates in a practical way. Work schedules, unlike linear calendars, help you segment your project into distinct tasks and milestones for efficient planning and execution. Detailed work schedules ensure that nothing is overlooked.

A work schedule lets you organize your tasks in advance. By eliminating distractions from other aspects of your project, you can concentrate on one aspect at a time, increasing productivity and reducing stress levels.

These guidelines will help you :

  • Recognize exactly what needs to be done.
  • Understand when certain activities need to be completed and how to manage resources.
  • Establish reasonable expectations with the parties involved.
  • Get the job done faster and more cost-effectively – without unnecessary stress or extra costs.

When should you use a work calendar?

If your project has a fixed completion date, you’re more likely to adopt a work schedule, regardless of the resources required. This means that on the last day, you’ll start with the last task. Resources will be allocated in reverse, which will help you determine when you need what.

By scheduling particular specialists for your project, you’ll also be using reverse resource allocation. When you’re developing a technical product, for example, and you know that only one employee in your organization has the necessary knowledge, you can arrange for that employee to work on the assignment on a given day. To ensure that everything is in order and that you can use this resource at the right time, you’ll also need to allocate tasks starting with that date and working backwards.

Difficulties posed by work schedules

On the one hand, it’s difficult to foresee every unforeseen difficulty, delay or complication. Scheduling is still a manual process… so it can be difficult to deal with unforeseen situations. You have two options for avoiding deadline extensions: start the project earlier, or add extra staff!

At the same time, it’s essential to take into account the time it will take you and your team to complete the tasks. If your estimates are wrong, you’ll have to go back and revise your program several times until it’s perfect.

Another difficulty is planning all your projects and tasks to be completed within a certain timeframe when you’re under time pressure. Talk openly with your customer about adjusting the project to meet the deadline if you think your team won’t be able to make it.

There are several ways of overcoming the disadvantages of planning. Using a project resource management tool, such as Teambook, is one way to simplify and automate part of the work, and avoid having to update everything by hand all at once.

How do you draw up schedules?

To set up your own work schedule, you must :

  • Summarize the steps you need to take to reach your goal;
  • Determine the main control points for each action: these are the due dates for tasks requiring several phases;
  • Calculate the approximate duration of each milestone using the MoSCoW approach;
  • Enter each milestone in your management program or planner in reverse chronological order.

The procedures for making calendars are as follows:

1. Determine strict due date or delivery date.

Determine how long it will take you to meet your deadlines, and assign teams, deliverables and due dates in the appropriate order. To decide on the appropriate due dates, you’ll need to coordinate with your team, as well as with your customers and other stakeholders.

2. Calculate the approximate duration of each stage in the project life cycle.

This is where the specifics of the project plan come into play. At the start of a major project, it’s a good idea to plan at least two different versions, such as an optimistic and a pessimistic scenario.

Ask your colleagues for advice if you’re not sure how long a task will take or where it fits in your inverted calendar. They can give you a better idea of how long tasks last and what needs to be done before tasks closer to the deadline can be started.

3. Take into account available resources

It’s important to understand the scope and resources of your organization when organizing a work resumption schedule or any other project, so that team members are assigned tasks appropriately. Reallocating projects or resources from other projects is another way of preparing for project uncertainty. Consider whether you need extra help to meet a suggested deadline.

When assigning responsibilities, take into account the impact that vacation, sick leave and other holidays have on project results. It will be easier for you to accurately estimate the number of days the team will work if you know what’s going on for your team members.

4. Align resources with milestones

Aligning resources with phases is a prerequisite for effective retroplanning, so it’s important to ensure that the right people or teams are working on a given job. Financial resources, means of transport and a whole range of other resources need to be aligned with established benchmarks.

Using a resource management application, such as Teambook, is one of the most effective ways of allocating your project resources, especially in dynamic environments.

5. Try out different work schedules.

You may need to try out several calendars to determine which one best suits your projects. Your first project doesn’t have to be your last; you may have to experiment for a while to find the ideal schedule.

Project managers can quickly and easily build various models using modern planning technologies. Once a work schedule has been drawn up, team members and stakeholders should be asked for their opinion, and any necessary changes made.

Keep everything tidy when presenting the project schedule and soliciting specific ideas and comments. Make sure that everyone has a deadline for comments, so that there are no hiccups in agreeing and distributing the final schedule.

Things to remember

Project managers can monitor the work of their teams and the progress of projects using work schedules. The schedule breaks down each activity into its component parts, and estimates the total time required to complete each one.

Work schedules are an effective tool for keeping projects visible, organized and on schedule, even for complex projects with many moving parts.

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