Time management is one of the 10 knowledge areas that project managers must master to obtain a Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification from the Project Management Institute. It's essential part of managing a project because it helps ensure the project is completed on time.
The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)® Guide offers a framework for project time management that for those looking to obtain PMP® certification, and it can be useful for all project managers, as well. It's made up of seven processes:
- Plan schedule management
- Define activities
- Sequence activities
- Estimate activity resources
- Estimate activity durations
- Develop schedule
- Control schedule
Let's take a deeper look into each one of them.
Plan Schedule Management
This step requires that you establish all of the policies, procedures, and documentation required for managing the project schedule. The aim is to provide guidance on how the project's schedule will be managed throughout the entire process.
However, you probably won’t have a separate plan for managing your schedule. Much of what you work out here will end up in your project management plan.
This is where you identify and lists the individual tasks that must be done throughout the project to ensure all of its deliverables are met. You can do this by looking at each major project milestone and breaking it down into smaller activities that must be done to reach that milestone. You'll need the resulting list of project tasks to move on to the next process.
This process helps you put your project work in the right order so that you can make efficient use of the project’s resources and deliver as quickly as possible. It involves taking the list of project activities that you created earlier and putting each task in the right order. At the end of this process, you’ll have a view of the relationships between project tasks.
The PMBOK® Guide talks about producing a network diagram as the output of this process, but that’s rarely necessary, and certainly, nothing that you’d have to do by hand. If you want to do network diagramming, then you can use your project management software to do it. Ultimately, though, a list of dependencies and potential start and end dates for tasks will be just as good and less time-consuming.
Estimate Activity Resources
Once you have your tasks laid out in the correct order, the next step is to figure out what resources you need to achieve them, including human resources, equipment, and supplies, plus the quantity you need of each. It's usually a good idea to tap a specialist in this area to ensure that you get an accurate estimate for the project.
Estimate Activity Durations
This step is where the hard work of calculating how long each task is going to take happens. During this process you’ll work out how long it’s going to take to do each activity using the resources that you've identified. Don’t forget to take resource availability and holidays into account. Also be realistic: Just because you estimate that a task will take eight hours doesn’t mean it will be finished by the morning.
Finally, you can put together your project schedule. Developing the schedule is one of the more complicated processes in the PMBOK® Guide. There are 13 parts to it, including everything above, plus risks, scope, and elements relating to the project context. You can use project management software to create the schedule.
This process gives you the tools you need to monitor and update your project schedule. It will help you make sure that changes are managed appropriately and that you keep control of the timing of your project.
Preparing your project schedule and tracking it afterward are a lot of work, but it’s worth it to know that you have a schedule that you can be confident about.