Project Management/PMBOK/Time Management

Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what clearly lies at hand.

—Thomas Carlyle

Time management is another key aspect of managing a project. As such, it is considered to be a core knowledge area, and is closely knit to scope and cost areas. The main purpose of this knowledge area, as it name suggests, is to build processes and outputs into the project that assist the manager and team to complete the project in a timely manner. During the planning process, outputs are created to illustrate how project tasks will be sequenced and allocated. The controlling and monitoring process is concerned with tracking and reporting on the progress of work, as well as adjusting time outputs to address shifts and changes in the project plan. Finally, the closing process includes an audit of time targets. Project managers reflect on what contributed to time estimates being accurate, too liberal, or conservative. This reflective process helps them to build better time plans for future projects.

The seven processes in the Project Time Management knowledge[1] area are:

  1. Plan Schedule Management (Planning process)
  2. Define Activities (Planning process)
  3. Sequence Activities (Planning process)
  4. Estimate Activity Resources (Planning process)
  5. Estimate Activity Durations (Planning process)
  6. Develop Schedule (Planning process)
  7. Control Schedule (Monitoring and Controlling process)

Planning edit

Time Management is also among the first processes to be completed. It is necessary because a team needs to be organized to meet deadlines and to streamline collaboration.

Past experience is one of the best guides to creating a plan. Objectives are taken from the project charter and subdivided down into manageable subsections and deadlines are attached. They are prioritized and given the amounts of time needed to complete the objective with extra time added for troubleshooting. The objectives are then put together and each team member is assigned to the different subsections.

The team uses time management tools to focus priorities, and give clear, detailed deadlines. For the stakeholders it gives them a date that they will receive the project as well as when different prototypes or earlier objectives will be completed.

Times are for the most part determined by the team, with the final deadline negotiated with the stakeholders, allowing room to negotiate deadlines for other deliverables.

Inputs edit

The project managers must identify the specific schedule activities that need to be performed and document dependencies among these activities. They must also estimate the types and quantities of resources required and the number of work periods that will be needed to perform and complete each of the scheduled activities. This will assist them in creating and controlling the project schedule.

The inputs involved in time planning are: Enterprise Environmental Factors, Organizational Process Assets, the Project Scope Statement, Work Breakdown Structure, Project Management Plan, Activity List and Attributes, Approved Change Requests, Activity Resource Requirements, Resource Calenders, Activity Duration Estimates.

Scheduling edit

According to PMI, these are main tools used for time management:

  • Schedule network analysis: this analysis can be done through:
    • CPM: technique based on network than is used to determine critical path. Normally critical path determines when your project ends. If you get late in any tasks in critical path, your project will be late independently of other tasks finishin on time or not.
    • Critical chain method: technique based on network changes project schedule taking into account scarce resources.
    • What-if analysis: series of questions in a "what-if" style. These questions will help you to find risks.
    • Resource levelling: technique used to find unbalanced use of resources over time, and for resolving over-allocation conflicts.
  • Schedule compression: when your tasks are running late, you may use two techniques below. Just avoid using those techniques under political pressure, because they have their own risks. It would not be a good idea to incur in those risks without being really necessary.
    • Crashing: consists in decreasing total period of time by assigning more people to that task or working over time. This is quite risky and you may find that task took longer than expected.
    • Fast tracking: consists in start a task before last task really finished. This is risky because you may have to redo some work, as one task should starts only when other tasks finishes.
  • Schedule control:
    • Performance reviews: this can be done using EVM or SPI.
    • Variance analysis: this can be done using SV or SPI.
    • Project management software: use of specific software for project management.

Tools of Time Planning edit

Activity Logs edit

Activity logs help you to analyze how you actually spend your time. The first time you use an activity log you may be shocked to see the amount of time that you waste. Memory is a very poor guide when it comes to this, as it can be too easy to forget time spent on non-core tasks.

These activities must be smaller than work packages, and this decomposition can be done with help of subject-matter experts. It's also possible to use activities templates, when your projects are quite similar by nature.

You may define all your activities in a up-front style, or define them in a rolling wave plan. You define required activities for next milestone when you are reaching end of current milestone. This can be in milestone basis, or monthly basis. What makes your planning easier.

Tools and techniques for precedence edit

For determining precedence is possible to use:

  • PDM: Precedence Diagram Method, is a diagram where is possible to visualize precedence among tasks.
    • Depencency determination: a dependency may be mandatory, discretionary or external. Mandatory dependency may be due to resource constraints or due to task nature. Discretionary dependency is more about a preference, e.g. I'd like you start painting the room after you finish dining room.
    • Leads and Lags: there are four possible relationships among tasks are: finish-to-start, start-to-start, start-to-finish and finish-to-finish. Most used precedence is finish-to-start.
  • Schedule network templates: standardized schedule network diagram that can be used to expedite preparation of networks of project activities.

Using Activity Logs edit

Keeping an Activity Log for several days helps you to understand how you spend your time, and when you perform at your best. Without modifying your behavior any further than you have to, note down the things you do as you do them on this template. Every time you change activities, whether opening mail, working, making coffee, gossiping with colleagues or whatever, note down the time of the change.

Learning from Your Log

Once you have logged your time for a few days, analyze your daily activity log. You may be alarmed to see the amount of time you spend doing low value jobs. You may also see that you are energetic in some parts of the day, and flat in other parts. A lot of this can depend on the rest breaks you take, the times and amounts you eat, and quality of your nutrition. The activity log gives you some basis for experimenting with these variables.

Your analysis should help you to free up extra time in your day by applying one of the following actions to most activities:

  • Eliminate jobs that your employer shouldn't be paying you to do. These may include tasks that someone else in the organization should be doing, possibly at a lower pay rate, or personal activities such as sending non-work e-mails.
  • Schedule your most challenging tasks for the times of day when your energy is highest. That way your work will be better and it should take you less time.
  • Try to minimize the number of times a day you switch between types of task. For example, read and reply to e-mails in blocks once in the morning and once in the afternoon only.
  • Reduce the amount of time spent on legitimate personal activities such as making coffee (take turns in your team to do this - it saves time and strengthens team spirit).
Activity Logs Key Points edit

Activity logs are useful tools for auditing the way that you use your time. They can also help you to track changes in your energy, alertness and effectiveness throughout the day. By analyzing your activity log you will be able to identify and eliminate time-wasting or low-yield jobs. You will also know the times of day at which you are most effective, so that you can carry out your most important tasks during these times.

Action Plans edit

An Action Plan is a simple list of all of the tasks that you need to carry out to achieve an objective. Wherever you want to achieve something significant, draw up an Action Plan. This helps you think about what you need to do to achieve that thing, so that you can get help where you need it and monitor your progress. To draw up an Action Plan, simply list the tasks that you need to carry out to achieve your goal, in the order that you need to complete them. This is very simple, but is still very useful. Keep the Action Plan by you as you carry out the work and update it as you go along with any additional activities that come up. If you think you'll be trying to achieve a similar goal. Maybe colleagues would have been able to follow up on the impact of your newsletter on clients if you have communicated with them about when it would be hitting clients' desks.

Action Plans Key Points edit

An Action Plan is a list of things that you need to do to achieve a goal. To use it, simply carry out each task in the list.

Task Lists edit

One of the basics of effective time management is to be aware of all that needs to be done. Though many people keep track of day-to-day activities in their heads, effective time managers facilitate planning and productivity by making a task list. If you develop the skill of listing tasks regularly, you'll benefit in several ways:

  • You will be less likely to forget even minor tasks.
  • You may procrastinate less when you have a realistic idea of the work that needs to be done, and the time available to do it.
  • You'll have more flexibility when deciding what to do and when to do it because you determine which tasks have high priority.
  • You'll have both a short- and long-range view of the work coming up.

The first step is to write down all the related tasks that need to be done. For most people this is just an extension of what they're already doing. Almost everyone uses a calendar of some sort to jot down due dates and appointments. The key differences are that you do it regularly — usually once a week works well — and that all the study tasks you have, everything from day-to-day work to writing reports or major projects, are put on the list.

Task Lists Estimate edit

This second step is critical, but very few people do it. For each task on the list, estimate the amount of time it will take you to complete it. At first you may find this difficult, and your guesses may be way off. With practice, however, your accuracy will quickly increase. Major tasks which span several weeks may pose a problem, but by breaking the work down into steps, estimating becomes much easier. A report, for example, could break down like this:

  • Do bibliographic search to make sure enough information is available on topic.
  • Finalize topic and do research.
  • Organize and categorize research material and create an outline.
  • Write rough copy.
  • Get feedback on rough copy and revise.
  • Edit, polish, and print good copy.
  • Do references and footnotes.

Estimate how long each step will take, and then total the estimations. Next, add a safety margin to the total. This "red zone" allows for all the unexpected things that can happen over the course of several weeks — everything from your getting sick to not finding a source you need. Fifty percent over the initial estimate is commonly used, but the more experience you have, the less safety margin you'll need.

Divide the new total by the number of weeks you have to do the task. For example: Estimated time for work: 10 hours x 1.5 (sanity zone) = 15, 15 hours divided by 5 weeks to do assignment = 3 hours per week.

You would then put 3 hours for this task on your task list for each of the next five weeks. If you need to compromise a few hours somewhere, assignment time is usually a safe choice if the due date is far enough away.

Although at first it may be wild guessing, estimating how long study tasks will take is one of the few ways of getting a realistic picture of how much work you really have to do.

Task Lists Prioritization edit

The next step is to prioritize — decide what tasks are most important to do first and number them in rank order. Sometimes (particularly if you've been procrastinating) there will be more items on the list than can be realistically completed in a week. If time is tight you can delegate certain tasks or postpone low priority items. Prioritizing forces you to weigh the importance of each item on the task list, and to make a conscious, thoughtful decision about what to do when.

Task Lists Key Points edit

Task lists are a great way to setup and plan your work. Prioritizing and time estimation help to maximize your work potential.

Gantt Charts edit

Gantt Charts are useful tools for analyzing and planning complex projects. They can:

  • Help you to plan out the tasks that need to be completed
  • Give you a basis for scheduling when these tasks will be carried out
  • Allow you to plan the allocation of resources needed to complete the project, and
  • Help you to work out the critical path for a project where you must complete it by a particular date.

When a project is under way, Gantt Charts help you to monitor whether the project is on schedule. If it is not, it allows you to pinpoint the remedial action necessary to put it back on schedule.

An essential concept behind project planning is that some activities are dependent on other activities being completed first. As a shallow example, it is not a good idea to start building a bridge before you have designed it!

These dependent activities need to be completed in a sequence, with each stage being more-or-less completed before the next activity can begin. We can call dependent activities 'sequential' or 'linear'.

Other activities are not dependent on completion of any other tasks. These may be done at any time before or after a particular stage is reached. These are non-dependent or 'parallel' tasks.

Gantt Charts Key Points edit

Gantt charts are useful for planning and scheduling projects. They allow you to assess how long a project should take, determine the resources needed, and lay out the order in which tasks need to be carried out. They are useful in managing the dependencies between tasks.

Techniques edit

Here are some Techniques that would help manage your time more effectively.

Make a Plan

Planning is one of the most important project management and time management techniques. Planning is preparing a sequence of action steps to achieve some specific goal. If you do it effectively, you can reduce much the necessary time and effort of achieving the goal.

Prioritizing effectively

Prioritizing skills are your ability to see what tasks are more important at each moment and give those tasks more of your attention, energy, and time.

Eliminate procrastination

Ability to beat procrastination and laziness is among the most important time management skills to learn.

Control Schedule edit

The Control Schedule process is a monitoring and controlling process that keeps all of the documents elaborated during the Develop Schedule process up to date and turns Work Performance Data into Work Performance Information. In the Control Schedule process, a project manager determines the current schedule status of the project and responds appropriately to any observed and measured variance.

A project manager uses the Control Schedule process until all project activities are completed, that is until the end of the project life[2].

Further Reading edit

  1. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (third ed.), p. 141, Project Management Institute, 2004
  2. PMP Certification Exam Prep — Project Time Management