5 Steps to Efficient Project Time Management
Want to manage your project time efficiently?
While tracking project time is a great idea, it isn’t exactly as simple as using a stopwatch to time each project task.
Project time management is an extensive process that includes planning, scheduling, monitoring, and controlling all project activities.
So if you want to be an efficient project time manager, set aside the timer for now.
In this article, we’ll explore the five steps in project time management and highlight the perfect tool that’ll help you carry out all of them.
Want to brush up on project management basics before you start? Check out these articles:
- What Is A Scope Of Work Document (With Templates)
- Project Management Training Guide (Courses + Processes)
- 10 Handy Project Management Templates (2023)
- Time Blocking Templates
Let’s get started.
What Is Project Time Management?
Project time management is the process of creating project timelines and following through on them. Spearheaded by the project manager, a project time management plan ensures timely completion and coordination over project objectives.
An important knowledge area for any manager, project time management also helps you decide which organizational process assets (standardized process guidelines, work breakdown structure, project files, etc.) to deploy and when to deploy them.
Why is time important in project management?
Time, along with your budget, is the most significant constraint of any project. If there isn’t a timeframe to do a project, it probably won’t be done at all.
Think of it in terms of a new year’s resolution. For example, let’s say Homer Simpson decides to work out regularly this year. But he never really decides when or how often he’s going to do it.
Without scheduling, his resolution fails right from the beginning, setting him up for a year full of procrastination.
Which works out just fine for Homer.
How long does it take to do a project?
Several factors like objectives, constraints, and project team size affect project duration. But a crucial predictor of project cycle length is the project’s management process.
If you’re looking to learn about a new process, read these articles:
- Understanding the Differences Between Agile and Waterfall
- What Is Agile Project Management?
- What Is Scrum? (Everything You Need To Know)
Back to project duration, though.
For example, let’s imagine Homer (with his procrastinating habits) as a project manager.
If he was managing a Waterfall project, all of his deliverables would pile up at the last minute, and he’d have no option but to hustle through them. However, if he was on an Agile, Scrum, or Kanban project, his laidback style could derail every single delivery in each round of the project cycle.
In either case, it would increase the project duration exponentially.
And honestly, we don’t think Homer Simpson would be a great project manager.
But you could be!
Just follow these steps for efficient project time management.
What Are the Steps in Project Time Management?
Is making lists your go-to method for anything?
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of five simple steps to help you manage your project time.
But making lists is just a part of the job, right?
Well, we got you covered on that front too!
You can implement each project time management step (and overall project management) on a single platform called ClickUp.
Tracking Project Time in ClickUp
But there’s a lot more to project time management than simply tracking time. Just like there’s more to Homer Simpson than this love for a six-pack of beer!
Let’s check out the various steps in project time management and how ClickUp supports you in executing them:
Step 1: Define activities
Project activities are the list of individual steps that you must do to complete the project deliverables.
You can easily find this data in the project documentation (project scope, work breakdown structure, work package, etc.) you created at the start of your project.
This data is then broken down into a clearly defined list of activities required to achieve an objective.
For example, if the project objective is to build a high-end holiday home, one of the first project activities will be laying the building’s foundation. You may even list activity attributes like resources required and project stakeholders involved, until you’ve listed everything that needs to be done.
Here’s how ClickUp helps you here:
A. Prepare for success with Goals
What do football and projects have in common?
A focus on goals!
Now, ClickUp may or may not help you with your in-game skills.
But its Goals feature will get the ball rolling on your project!
In your ClickUp Workspace, create a Goal like ‘Beachfront Holiday Home.’
Then, break it down into smaller, quantifiable Targets like:
- Number: total number of rooms built
- True/False: whether a construction phase is complete or not (Check out our construction project management guide!)
- Currency: project budget for each phase
- Percentage: completion rates of tasks
Each time you update a Target, ClickUp auto-updates the completion percentage, showing you how far you have come to achieving the overall Goal.
B. Organize your processes with Tasks, Subtasks, and Checklists
Ok, time for a full confession.
Those simple to-do lists that help you power through the day?
We LOVE them.
But as a project manager, you need more than just papers and pens to keep track of your processes. That’s why ClickUp gives you Tasks, Subtasks, and Checklists!
Just go to your ClickUp Workspace and create:
- Tasks and Subtasks in each project and assign them to people individually
- Checklists for a step-by-step guide to each project task that you can check off according to your progress
Organize your Checklists further with these features:
- Nesting: add as many sub-items as you need in your Checklist
- Drag and Drop functionality: easily reorder task items
- Assign items: assign items from the Checklist to a team member
- Templates: create Checklist templates to speed up repeatable processes
Step 2: Sequence activities
You wouldn’t make espresso without grinding some beans first, right?
Well, there is instant coffee… but the less said about that, the better!
In a project, you definitely can’t tackle activities without preparing for them.
Activity sequencing allows you to establish a connection between various project activities.
It involves laying your project activities in the right order of dependencies.
For example, if you’re laying the foundation for a building, you’ll first need to acquire the right material for it. Similarly, you need to have the walls up before you can start painting.
This project task flow lets you:
- Approach the activities in the right order
- Plan and prepare for each activity
And once your preparation is in place, you can sit back and enjoy a relaxing cup of joe!
Here’s how ClickUp helps:
A. Create a chain of events with Task Dependencies
Attempting things in the wrong order is as bad as not attempting them at all.
And you can avoid this common error with ClickUp’s Task Dependencies.
You can connect each task to another based on the following relationships:
- Waiting on: Don’t start before completing this task
- Blocking: Block the other task until this one is completed
- Link to: Directly jump to a related task
- Unblocking: Release a task once the blocked task is completed
For added flexibility, ClickUp will automatically reschedule Dependencies when you adjust tasks.
Step 3: Estimate activity duration
Don’t we all know someone who’s late, no matter what?
We don’t know what the White Rabbit’s deal is.
But we’re sure that he (and project managers) need to estimate activity durations.
And to estimate activity durations, you need to predict how long your activity list will take to complete.
Factors to consider while calculating the activity duration estimate include:
- Resource requirement
- Availability of each resource and your resource calendar
- Productivity of each activity resource
- Work period or the total number of working hours
If you’ve worked with a similar resource set before, it’s safe to predict their productivity based on previous project performance. However, always add some extra time to take care of any emergencies along the way.
Remember, the duration estimate can have serious implications on the project’s future with regards to deadlines and payment. So if there are any White-Rabbit-like time managers in your project team, just use ClickUp’s Time Estimates feature.
A. Stay ahead of your schedule with Time Estimates
Client: *assigns task*
Client: Is it done?
A better way to have this conversation is by assigning Time Estimates in ClickUp.
Add the approximate number of hours that each Task and Subtask will take, and ClickUp will calculate the total expected hours per project.
This way, you’ll answer your client’s time-related questions before they can even ask you!
Step 4: Develop a schedule
Now it’s time to draft a project schedule.
But this won’t be as simple as marking delivery dates on your table-top calendar.
The project schedule is a detailed document that lays out the timeframe to begin and end each and every activity, phase, and milestone.
Project milestones are crucial for running efficient teams and executing goals at the highest level.
Moreover, it contains the context for each deadline.
Some reference documents for this stage are the project charter, project scope statement, or the requirement list. You can even refer to the network diagram (pictorial representation of the project’s complete workflow).
Many project managers use the critical path method to help them with this scheduling. A project’s critical path is the bare minimum tasks you must complete to finish the project.
Ultimately, the project schedule is the biggest predictor of how long your project will take to complete. And any delays you encounter are compared against the project scope baseline and the schedule baseline and shown to your stakeholders.
Check out these schedule templates!
But how can you keep track of your schedule?
A. Showcase project journey with Gantt Chart
Befriending charts is your best bid at explaining a complex project schedule.
Don’t worry. You don’t need to be an MS Excel wizard for this.
Because you have ClickUp’s Gantt Chart at your service!
It gives you a complete bird’s eye view of your project without casting any Excel spells.
Moreover, the ClickUp Gantt Chart can also automate processes like:
- Readjust Task Dependencies automatically after you reschedule any task
- Instantly calculate the project completion percentage based on completed tasks vs. total tasks
- Compare current vs. expected progress in your project plan
- Calculate your project’s critical path and learn what needs to be completed to meet your deadline
Step 5: Maintain the schedule
If having a schedule automatically meant timely delivery, the world would be a much simpler place.
Unfortunately, our lives are too full of unpredictability and hurdles.
So a project manager needs to not only make a project schedule but also control it.
The control schedule process or schedule management includes monitoring project progress and updating the project schedule accordingly. Sometimes, this involves schedule compression or deliberately shortening a project cycle without compromising on its output.
Looks simple on paper. But in reality, it’s a trial by fire!
Alongside this, your schedule management plan requires staying in touch with:
- Schedule baseline: the approved project schedule
- Critical path: the sequence of essential activities for project completion
- Schedule performance index: a measure of how close a project is to completion
- Schedule variance: the measure of whether a project is ahead or behind schedule
And sure, you may be a math genius.
But trust us, you’ll still need some help to schedule activities efficiently.
So maybe get yourself a few dozen calculators.
Or just get ClickUp!
A. Get quick updates on Dashboards
It’s 2021 and most of your project team works remotely.
There’s only one way to keep everyone informed: ClickUp Dashboards!
It’ll give you quick visual summaries of the entire project to ensure that things are running smoothly.
Customize your Dashboard with sprint widgets such as:
- Burndown Charts: work remaining in a project
- Burnup Charts: work completed in a project
- Velocity Charts: task completion rate
- Cumulative Flow Charts: task progress over time
B. Maintain time logs with Native Time Tracking
When you’re really engrossed in work, time seems to pass slowly.
Like in a very well-directed dream.
But out in the real world, things are just as target-driven as before. Sigh.
The best way to ground yourself in reality is to use ClickUp’s Native Time Tracking feature.
Additionally, the ClickUp Chrome extension will track the time spent on your tasks with a single click and generate detailed timesheet style usage reports for detailed insights.
Just remember to turn it off before you set off on one of your ‘dreamy’ adventures!
Project time management is not a job for the faint-hearted.
So if you’ve volunteered for this noble job, we’re already in awe of you.
However, no matter how well you manage your day, you’re going to need a helping hand.
You can always ask your colleagues and interns to pitch in, and they’ll do what they can.
But you need (and deserve) the best…
The speed and precision of excellent project management software will free up precious hours in your calendar and help you sprint towards project success.
And if you want to manage your projects from start to end on a single platform, use ClickUp. From planning and execution to documentation and analysis, ClickUp is your all-in-one project time management control room.
Join ClickUp for free to become a project time management whiz!