Let’s take a minute and talk about your project schedule.

You have a brilliant idea. You’ve assembled your crack-genius team. You have goals and milestones. You know every single activity that needs to take place (or at least get you started), and the sequence of events to lead to project success. Now, you need to figure out how to squeeze all of these events into your project timeline.

  1. Define all required activities.
    1. What are my A-Level activities—highest level milestones.
    2. What are my B-Level activities—milestone based but with more detail.
    3. What are my C-Level activities—detailed activities required with duration and resources required.
    4. How long will each activity take to finish?
    5. What is the lowest, most minuscule level of work activity required (include preparation time and meetings)?
    6. Who is responsible for each activity/component?
  2. Add notes on all resources required.
    1. Who are your team members and do they have time available to commit?
    2. Are additional resources needed for any activities?
    3. What internal/external resources are needed?
    4. When will these resources be made available?
  3. Write down the sequence of events around your goals/deliverables.
    1. What comes first? – Remember the A-, B-, and C-Level activities and drill down to the lowest and most detailed level of activities.
    2. Are there any project activities that can be completed in parallel (at the same time)?
    3. What activities need to be sequenced (one after the other)?
    4. What is the last thing you will do? How will you know when the work is finished?
  4. Consider the allocation of money.
    1. What is the estimated budget for each activity, deliverable, and/or component?
    2. Does your project money come in one lump sum? Or is it divided into yearly installments?
    3. How does the distribution/availability of funds affect the activities that need to be completed?
  5. Review the Sponsor Terms and Milestones.
    1. What are the sponsor’s terms and conditions in relation to activity completion?
    2. Are there any activities that should be completed around progress report due dates?
  6. Review the schedule with your team.
    1. Are all activities accounted for?
    2. Have the right people been assigned to the right work?
    3. Do your worker-bees feel like there’s enough time scheduled for each activity?
    4. Is there room for positive and negative opportunities (jump-ahead’s or fall-behind’s)?
  7. Finalize the schedule and plan for change.
    1. What is your contingency plan for when risks become reality?
    2. How will your team handle schedule change requests in the future?
    3. Watch out for those stand-alone activities with no predecessor or successor activities, don’t let them fall behind.
    4. Update the schedule as often as possible—it should be a living document that flexes and changes as the project evolves.

Now you can begin to write down the project schedule. When you look at the schedule as whole, consider what activities can be completed simultaneously according to resource and team member availability. Once you have a schedule solidified, then you may choose to illustrate the project schedule in a format that others can read. Many decide to create a Gantt Chart to illustrate the schedule in more detail (tutorial on creating a Gantt Chart coming soon!).

Determining the project schedule is an important first step to getting your project work started. A good, strong Project Schedule can help you visualize the sequence of events, major milestone achievements, and the timing of expenses over the life of the project.

How do you create your project schedule? Leave a comment and let me know!