Businessman pushing a large clock against a cityscape, symbolizing time management in business.

How to Manage Time in Project Management

By: Dr. Michael J. Shick, MSPM, PMP, CSM

Attention all project managers, team leaders, and functional managers! In the dynamic world of project management, the ability to manage time effectively and efficiently is not just an asset but a necessity. Are you constantly battling project delays, resource misallocation, and communication gaps between project teams and stakeholders? Do you feel overwhelmed by the multitude of tasks or milestones looming over you, the seemingly ever-casting shadow of chaos and uncertainty?

Imagine navigating through your project with a clear, simple, visually insightful, and comprehensive roadmap that supports your understanding of where you are in the project life cycle. Further, imagine having a tool that not only structures every aspect of your project timeline but enhances communication, plan schedule management, and keeps you on time for resource allocation, as well as risk management, all while ensuring that every phase of your project is on track and transparent.

This is the sphere where solid Project Time Management comes into play, a vital area that helps you transform your project’s journey from a turbulent ride to smooth skies. Jump into your understanding and implement robust time management practices by leveraging tools such as Gantt charts, which are supported by the Project Management Institute’s (PMI’s) – Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), seventh edition (7e). Empower your projects by developing the knowledge and skills to prevent delays, optimize your resource utilization, and ensure stakeholder satisfaction.

Avoid getting your project management success into delays and resource misallocations. Ensure you have control over your project with open eyes and set out on the path to successful and timely completion.

Your journey to masterful project time management skills begins now. Are you ready? Dive into this comprehensive article and establish the foundation for project management success, and be assured that your team will triumph in the realm of Project Time Management.

Let’s start on this foundational journey together, and welcome to the world of effective Project Time Management!

"Businesswoman holding a clock with a brainstorming doodle background, illustrating time management and strategy planning."

What is project time management?

Project Time Management is an essential component of managing projects. It focuses on effective organization, scheduling, and time allocation throughout your project’s lifecycle. A project lifecycle has four phases: initiating, planning, executing, and closing. And project time management helps project managers stay within the approved timeframe but also efficiently uses resources and meets the identified project objectives.

Project Time Management supports establishing a detailed project plan that includes duration, dependencies, and resources required for each activity.

Tools such as Gantt charts and Project Schedule Network Diagrams, as defined in the PMBOK 7e, are used to visually represent all the work to be performed through the project schedule, thereby providing clarity and enhancing the coordination of tasks (PMI, page 189).

The purpose behind project time management is to avoid delays, ensure timely project completion, and contribute to the project’s success and stakeholder satisfaction. For example, I remember when I had a project with nearly 140 work packages that needed to be implemented within six weeks of a hard deadline. Had my team and I not actively scheduled and managed the project timeline, we would not have had the project in a place that was ready for the event execution.

In short:

Project time management refers to the way a project manager sets up a strategy to allocate the right amount of time to each task and decide on deadlines for project phases and delivery dates. It is an essential aspect of project management, aiming to stick to the schedule and bring projects to completion on time. Effective project time management is crucial for maximizing the time available, prioritizing tasks, and minimizing time wasters that might jeopardize a project’s success.

Reasons You Need to Know Project Time Management

Effectively implementing good Project Time Management is critical for your project’s success and timely delivery. When project time management is neglected or poorly executed, it can lead to unwanted delays in your delivery, increased costs, and compromised project quality, all of which have the potential to impact stakeholder perceptions negatively, as well as meeting project objectives. Some foundational factors to consider are:

Prevention of Delays:

Simply put, time management helps to avoid project delays by ensuring tasks are completed within the allocated time.

Optimal Resource Utilization:

Effective use of your project time allows for the optimal use of resources (i.e., human and material) and promotes project efficiency while simultaneously reducing waste.

Enhanced Communication:

With tools like Gantt charts, stakeholders have clear insight into where the whole project team is on the project lifecycle, what work has been performed, and what still needs to be accomplished, and they provide a visual representation that promotes understanding and discussion points for expectation management.

Risk Mitigation:

Proactive time management aids in identifying potential risks and delays beforehand and, therefore, allows for timely mitigation strategies.

Stakeholder Satisfaction:

Timely project completion is vital to ensuring stakeholder satisfaction and maintaining a positive perception of the work performed.

Improved Decision Making:

Time management tools provide project managers insight and a clear understanding of the project timeline and the progress that has been made and support timely decision-making.

In short, proper time management is a necessary component for project success; therefore, understanding its critical aspects and tools, such as the Gantt chart and Project Schedule Network Diagram (PMI, page 189), and being able to integrate them into your project time management strategies and approaches, is essential.

"Colorful Gantt chart superimposed on construction site, representing project scheduling in construction management."

Step-by-Step Instructions to Create a Gantt Chart

As discussed, a time management tool is necessary, so we will now walk through creating a Gantt Chart. This tool visually outlines your project schedule and helps ensure that each project aspect is completed on time. This step-by-step guide will simplify the creation of the tool:

1. Initialization:

a. Define the project scope.

b. Develop a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which is a hierarchical decomposition of all the work to be performed in the project.

c. List all the project activities to be accomplished.

2. Timeline Establishment:

a. Determine the start, due date of milestones (if any), and end date of the project, then identify the duration for each activity.

b. Assign a sequence or order to each task and delegate them as required.

3. Chart Construction:

a. You may use a software tool (e.g., Monday.com, Microsoft Project, etc.) or graph paper to plot the activities and milestones against the timeline.

b. Draw horizontal bars to represent each activity, label the bar with the activity name, and sequence them according to their start and finish dates, as well as the logical order in which they must be accomplished.

4. Assignment of Resources:

a. List the resources allocated to each activity on the chart.

5. Critical Path Identification:

a. Highlight the critical path (i.e., the longest time duration of the connected activities from start to finish) in the chart to identify the project tasks that directly impact the project completion time.

6. Review and Refinement:

a. Review the chart to ensure all activities are accurately represented and sequenced correctly.

b. Make necessary adjustments for overlaps or gaps.

7. Finalization:

a. Finalize and share the Gantt chart with your team members and relevant stakeholders.

8. Maintenance:

a. Regularly update the Gantt chart as your project progresses to reflect the work accomplished with a proper project plan, timeline, and resource allocation.

The journey of creating a Gantt chart with this systematic approach will support your project team’s understanding of all the work to be performed and an appreciation for time management.

"Professional analyzing a transparent Gantt chart with progress indicators for project tasks."

Key Considerations for Successfully Creating a Gantt Chart

As you create a Gantt chart, it’s important to remain flexible and anticipate the need for changes. This concept is supported in the PMBOK (7e), which emphasizes that the chart is a graphical representation of project schedules and is intended to outline planned dates, durations, milestones, and resources (PMI, page 189). That said, projects are dynamic, and adjustments are likely required as the project progresses; therefore, you will want to ensure your Gantt chart can be easily modified.

It is also necessary to maintain clear and consistent communication with all team members, as well as stakeholders, to ensure project success. By keeping everyone informed about the project progress and any changes that may have occurred, will help ensure the project stays on track. A Gantt chart is an effective communication tool to rely on such updates.

Also, I recommend paying close attention to the critical path within your Gantt chart. As stated, this path highlights the sequence of tasks of the longest duration that directly affect the project’s completion time. Ensuring that all the tasks and activities on the critical path remain on schedule is critical to completing your project on time.

"Team collaborating on a project with laptops, charts, and reports on a table, highlighting teamwork and data analysis."

Taking it to the Next Level: How to Enhance Your Gantt Chart Management

Do you want to take your project time management to the next level? Consider integrating other project management tools and techniques, such as Earned Value Analysis (EVA; PMI, Page 239), for a robust assessment of your project’s scope, schedule, and cost. Otherwise known as Earned Value Management (EVM), this approach provides a clearer insight into project performance and schedule, enabling more precise adjustments to your project timeline and Gantt chart (Greenburg et al., 2023).

Another consideration is the use of a project management tool or software that helps to automate your Gantt chart creation, as well as leveraging other project management tools. Many modern project management software provides features such as automatic updating and integration with other various project monitoring metrics, which optimize the time required for updating your chart and reduce the possibility of errors.

Alternatives to Gantt Chart Management

Project Schedule Network Diagrams:

If you’re looking for a more in-depth alternative to the Gantt Chart, you may consider using a Project Schedule Network Diagram. As described in the PMBOK 7e (Page 189), this graphical representation shows the logical relationships among the project schedule activities. It is a more detailed and complex map of all the work to be performed. Project teams predominately use it because it provides a clear and precise illustration of the project workflow, its dependencies, and the sequence of tasks.

"Person interacting with a Kanban board, selecting tasks categorized as 'To Do' and 'Work', visualizing task organization and agile project management."

Wrapping Up and My Experience with Project Time Management

Mastering project time management requires an understanding and effective use of tools like Gantt charts, Project Schedule Network Diagrams, and EVM. Each comes with unique features and benefits.

In my experience, these tools have proven pivotal for maintaining the schedule, managing resources, and meeting project goals and objectives without unnecessary delays; moreover, time management is so important that PMI has a certification specific to it known as the PMI-Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP). Whether you use a Gantt chart for a strategic overview of the timeline, a Project Schedule Network Diagram for a detailed understanding of the work to be performed, or EVM to understand whether or not you are on time and within budget, I can say unequivocally, these tools and strategies will significantly enhance your project time management capabilities!

References:

Greenburg, D., Michalaka, D., & Shick, M. (2023). An Integrated Exercise to Teach Earned Value Management. Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice, 23(13). https://doi.org/10.33423/jhetp.v23i13.6321

Project Management Institute. (2021). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) (7th ed.). Newton Square, PA: Author.

About the author: Dr. Michael J. Shick, MSPM, PMP, CSM, founder of ROSEMET, is a combat-wounded warrior and retired senior military officer turned esteemed academic and project management expert. Holding a doctorate from Creighton University and serving as an Assistant Professor at Western Carolina University, Dr. Shick’s dedication goes beyond credentials, as he commits to empowering individuals and organizations toward project excellence. With an extensive military, academic, and project leadership background, he epitomizes resilience, expertise, and a steadfast devotion to fostering growth and success in others.

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