Project Time Management
Time, above all else, is our most valuable and finite resource. From a project management perspective, an effective project time management plan can revolutionize your team’s processes and make a substantial impact on your project’s scope, cost, and quality.
Table of Contents
- What is project time management?
- The importance of project time management.
- Benefits of project time management.
- Project time management best practices.
- Frequently asked questions.
What is project time management?
Project time management involves analyzing and developing a schedule and timeline for project completion. Formalized time management processes provide a buffer for things like unexpected roadblocks and under or over-estimated project timelines.
Time management plans determine what tasks to adjust, and how to allocate and manage resources throughout the project.
How project managers define project time management varies, and techniques differ between project management methodologies. For instance, an agile marketing method might need tasks that can fit into short sprints as requirements change. Managers using Kanban methodologies, on the other hand, might plan time in more generous segments — allowing for smoother flow.
Regardless of project type, the definition of project time management involves setting time markers against your project and its tasks. It means defining the time value of each task and allocating resource to each step.
The importance of project time management.
Project time management directly impacts the quality, scope, and cost of a project, making it one of the most important project management knowledge areas. Managing time helps to secure project completion on time and on budget. It also clarifies:
- How much time a project requires
- What stakeholders (internal and external) to involve
- And at what point to include their expertise
This process provides a framework for developing a sequence of activities, activity durations, resource estimations and how these fit into the overall project management plan.
In project management, the time management phase is an important step — when you know what you intend to deliver and why, time planning helps you get there smoothly. It gives each formerly abstract subtask a value.
Correct timings are essential.
- Time planning allows you to set realistic deadlines
- Time is money, so managing it well helps boost your bottom line
- Time management can empower your teams to deliver projects on time
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Benefits of project time management.
One of the primary benefits of project time management is it creates more time for teams and other stakeholders to deliver on projects. Effective time management positively impacts the careers and personal lives of everyone involved.
Additional benefits of time management in project management include:
Reduce stress with project time management.
Project completion plans reduce stress levels associated with meeting deadlines. When your teams know timelines have been mapped out effectively, they can visualize the path to completion with confidence. Accurate time estimates also reduce unnecessary pressure on an individual level and across your teams.
With good time management, you may find it easier to keep project scope in check, keeping your talent focused on what’s important. When there’s also a change management plan in place, your people feel empowered to dedicate the right time to the right tasks, even as processes shift.
Increase productivity with project time management.
Knowing what to prioritize increases productivity and allows you to focus on the most beneficial and strategic needs. This works by giving your teams a sense of urgency, control and direction.
Each of your deliverables should align with a time investment estimate to serve as a guide. This should prevent aspects of the work taking more time than they’re worth, keeping the knots of productivity tied tight.
Make fewer project mistakes with time planning.
Focusing on only one aspect of a project helps get the right work done and prevents mistakes overall. Incorporating time values into your project plan helps staff to understand the required investment for each task. When there’s time planned for checks, this effect is heightened further still.
Great project time management helps you avoid last-minute rushes and meet lead time goals without sacrificing quality.
Increase proficiency with better time management.
Having a timeline in place for projects provides a view into what teams need to work on and when. This makes them and their organization more proficient across many areas. Effective time management in project management allows managers to pull together the best talent for the required work. In turn, this allows for specialization — delivery teams will soon know project details inside and out, reducing pressure on you.
Create more opportunities with better time planning.
With the right approach, teams or departments can become more efficient at managing projects and completing them on time and on budget. This may even generate further opportunities to manage additional projects in the future.
What’s more, great project time planning techniques let you showcase your ability to manage ad-hoc projects effectively on the side. Time management doesn’t mean tunnel vision — rather, it’s about making accurate projections. This allows you to be flexible in positive ways.
Stay on budget with strong time management.
Everyone knows the phrase ‘time is money.’ Keeping a project on target not only ensures things stay on budget, but keeps stakeholders happy that their investments are working in the most efficient, valuable way.
For this to work best, consider implementing project monitoring and controlling processes. The sooner you have accurate data on delivery, the sooner you can recalibrate if aspects of the work start to look unprofitable.
Project time management helps you meet goals.
Time management plans help to achieve project goals as well as impact other personal and professional goals. All of these benefits lead to increased efficacy and satisfaction across the board.
The main task for any project manager is to get professional projects done. Great time management makes successful delivery more likely by reducing the risk of project overrun.
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Project time management best practices.
The Pareto Principle.
The Pareto Principle is also known as the 80/20 rule. This means 20% of your time should produce 80% of your results. From the beginning, identify and highlight the tasks that provide the most value. If, at any time, value and time fall out of balance, review the task priority and, if necessary, submit a formal change request.
Keep it simple.
It’s easy to overcomplicate tasks. Take a step back, evaluate the real ‘why’, and think of more focused ways to accomplish a task. Concentrate efforts on the most effective methods for completing each given task, while always keeping the end project goals in mind.
- What’s involved?
- What resources do you need to get the job done?
And lean on internal teams to estimate timings. After all, they’re the experts in their fields.
Observe and analyze time expenditure.
Regularly review time allocation across the board. Efficient use of all resources, especially human capital, maintains project timelines and budgets.
Great data insights help you review this more efficiently, identifying patterns while there’s still time to claw back resources. For example, if the data shows that it looks like you underestimated IT resource needs, recalculate and communicate.
Act rather than worry.
It’s easy to spend time worrying if something is ‘good enough’ or if the team will really hit that deadline. Drop the worry and take action. Do more research. Ask for an extension if needed and make the necessary adjustments to get something done right.
Break larger goals into subtasks.
At first, any large project seems daunting and difficult to figure out where to start. Take larger projects and break them into smaller pieces and smaller tasks, providing a simpler way to start and prioritize a project.
When each of these has its own deadline and time allocation, it’s easier for everyone to stay within the lines, reducing the risk of backlogs. Consider working in sprints.
Set daily, weekly, and monthly goals.
Setting goals helps to instil a sense of urgency. Set a monthly goal and work backward. Weekly and daily goals should roll into each other. When teams and departments hit their daily and weekly goals, they meet the entire month’s targets by extension.
Plan for short breaks.
When breaking large tasks down into manageable pieces, make sure to plan time for breaks. Providing much-needed, scheduled breaks keeps the mind fresh and the body energized. Your people are better placed to stay on track when there’s breathing space built into the plan.
Think strategically about team energy.
We should all work on the most important tasks during the most productive, energetic hours of the day, and save other tasks for less-motivated portions of the day. A project manager’s job is to get the best work from your people, so broaden your thinking beyond overambitious deadlines. Is it wise to plan so much specialist software development work in a single week, and do those deadlines really need to be so close? Asking questions like these helps you to keep things running smoothly.
Creating effective project timelines is an art and a science. Learn how to create a project timeline with our step-by-step guide.
Keep Learning: Read more about lead time to find out how this metric affects project management success.
Frequently asked questions.
Why is time management important in projects?
In any project, time management is important to determine:
- How many hours, days, weeks and months are needed
- A timescale for when tasks will be completed
- Activity durations, sequences and resource requirements
Assigning accurate amounts of time to each task helps ensure timely completion of individual elements and the project as a whole. It can increase efficiencies, effective decisions and avoid unnecessary stress on project personnel and potential project failure.
What are five time management strategies?
There are many strategies to improve time management in project management. These five provide a good starting point:
- Set clear priorities – Rank your tasks in order of importance to ensure you follow an appropriate activity sequence.
- Introduce shorter deadlines – Bring forward deadlines so there’s leeway in case of any delays or interruptions to tasks.
- Delegate tasks effectively – Ensure relevant personnel are responsible for tasks within their area of expertise.
- Reduce interruptions – Improve focus by managing external, environmental and other distractions.
- Plan with intention – Create to-do lists for each day of tasks intended to be complete, as a powerful way to increase productivity.
What is the ABC priority method?
The ABC priority method is a common technique used for improving time management of a project. Every task is ranked with the letter A, B or C in order of importance. Those assigned the letter A are worked through first, then B and then C.
These rankings are based on the impact each one will have on your project goals and the time they should take. It helps project managers define the tasks that need focusing on first and those that can be left until later, to ensure efficient and timely project completion.