What Is Project Scheduling? (With Tips And Techniques)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 1 November 2022

Published 4 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Project managers often use different scheduling techniques to complete team projects on time. Time management and schedule organisation can help leaders and managers succeed in achieving project goals. Learning how to manage and effectively schedule projects can improve your chances of career development and growth. In this article, we define project scheduling, explain how to schedule a project and review some different scheduling techniques that project managers use.

What Is Project Scheduling?

Project scheduling is the process of developing a well-documented and detailed plan for completing the project on time. Scheduling a project usually starts from drawing an outline and making a step-by-step guide of the tasks that require accomplishment at every stage of the project. A well-documented schedule allows project managers to transparently share critical project information with clients, team members and other stakeholders. The process of scheduling also involves deciding and designing different tasks with a timeframe. Some examples of projects that require scheduling can be the monthly or annual editorial calendar or the hiring process of a new employee.

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How To Schedule A Project?

Project managers can schedule a project by following these steps:

1. Define the goals of the project

Defining the goals of the project comes immediately after the project managers meet the client or explain the project to their team for the first time. This step includes planning each step and prioritising the tasks completion process to achieve the project outcome. While defining the project, you can focus on the most important tasks and integrate smaller or trivial activities within them.

2. Decide the task arrangement

After deciding which tasks and milestones to include in the project, you can determine their arrangement in a particular order. Project managers arrange these tasks in such a way that all of them have adequate time and attention. Some tasks are dependent on the previous tasks and can only begin after completing others. Make sure to arrange all project tasks in a chronological manner for maximum efficiency.

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3. Check the critical path

In project scheduling, critical paths refer to the tasks that require the maximum time in completion. A delay in completing these tasks can affect the overall time duration and delivery of the entire project. It is important for the project manager to tell the team to focus adequately on critical paths. Talking and discussing the critical paths with the project management team can help ensure that all high-priority tasks finish on time.

4. Identify essential resources

Resources in scheduling can be equipment or employees. Some projects require specific equipment or software to complete tasks, while others may require more human resources. This step requires project managers to identify the essential resources necessary for the project and arrange for the same. This step can result in hiring new employees or purchasing new devices or equipment. Ensure that all critical resources are available at the earliest to prevent any delay.

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5. Create a realistic timeline

Creating a project completion timeline before initiating the project is vital. A timeline focusing on the critical paths can help the project management team to save time and allocate sufficient resources for them. Consulting different stakeholders before making a timeline can make it more realistic and reduce the chances of delays happening in the future.

A timeline represents all the tasks and project milestones along with the time in which they require completion. Project managers can use various software and applications for developing a project timeline. Using such software and tools can allow you to clearly assign tasks to team members, clarify the time allotted for the specific tasks and track progress regularly.

Popular Project Scheduling Techniques

The scheduling approach may depend on the team size, nature of the project and available resources. Here are some popular techniques that project managers can use to schedule projects:

Critical path method

In this method, project managers analyse and calculate both the shortest and the longest timeline of the project using mathematical calculations. In the critical path method (CPM), the entire scheduling process gets divided into four steps A, B, C and D. This technique works in such a way that steps B and D can only begin once step A is complete. Many project managers prefer using this method to ensure that their team understands all the interdependencies and deliverables of the project clearly.

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Resource optimisation

In this method of scheduling, project managers examine all the available resources to use the right combination for maximum utility. When carrying out resource optimisation, it is the project manager's job to prevent under-usage or inefficient usage of resources, which may lead to a decline in productivity. Project managers can also work on resource smoothening when there is limited time for the project completion. Resource smoothening involves hiring more professionals to complete the project without any delay.

Crashing

This technique of scheduling includes adding extra resources to boost the productivity of the entire team quickly. In this method, project managers may add temporary contractors to the team. For example, if a team of three graphic designers is handling an advertisement campaign, the project manager can add an extra graphic designer to the team to help finish the campaign on time. Another way of implementing a crashing schedule method is by allowing employees to work for extra hours and offering them a certain amount of additional payment.

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Fast-tracking

Fast-tracking is an advanced technique of scheduling that many project managers use when they identify possible opportunities in different projects which can overlap. Fast-tracking involves finding tasks that project managers can complete simultaneously. This method can help reduce the time in hiring or training many team members as it involves performing several tasks together. Fast-tracking may require a lot of coordination, effort and planning, as the project management team deals with two or more tasks at the same time.

Simulation

Project managers use this method for scheduling when the deliverables and interdependencies are unclear. With the help of simulation modelling, project managers can plan the necessary steps and tasks essential for the completion of the project. This method focuses on enhancing teamwork and leadership, along with communication and collaboration. Simulation allows project managers to track the progression of the entire project and individual tasks.

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Additional Tips For Project Scheduling

The first step in scheduling a project is to visualise the project schedule and timeline. There are several ways through which project managers do this before initiating it. Here are some tips that can help project managers visualise the scheduling process:

Use Gantt charts

A Gantt chart is a bar graph containing the x and y-axis. Project managers design Gantt charts in such a way that the x-axis represents the date or time depending on the project requirements. The y-axis can represent the completed tasks or the milestones achieved.

Gantt charts can help the project management team in planning the workload according to the given timeline and optimising available resources. This chart enables project managers to visualise the progress of a project and analyse how different tasks interact with each other.

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Use calendars

Using calendars allows the project management team to set dates for project initiating and helps decide when to finish the entire project. This supports project managers in effectively planning and organising tasks in the most efficient manner. In scheduling, project managers may use more than one calendar, which makes the scheduling more efficient. They may create a base calendar first on which the rest of the calendars get designed. It represents both working and non-working days, along with the standard working time.

Prepare task lists

Dividing and breaking the entire project management into smaller and manageable parts can help project managers schedule the project. Task lists can be helpful when there is a requirement to divide and distribute tasks depending on their urgency. Project managers can list the most important task and then subdivide them into several smaller tasks. Prioritising tasks in such a way makes them manageable, and the team can easily estimate the time duration to complete them.

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