The art of project management needs many skills. Creating and managing a project calendar is one of them.
The right knowledge, methods, and frameworks have to be applied to deliver projects successfully and on time.
The proper management of productivity, time, and resources are essential. The starting point is always to determine the objectives and scope of the project. Once the project starts, care must be taken to keep it on track. Risks must be evaluated, contingencies planned for, and hurdles overcome.
Experienced project managers will tell you that without a proper plan, project execution will often not be successful. The plan has to take into account the resources, stakeholder expectations, and deadlines connected to the project.
For complex projects, there may be many overlapping stages during which all these factors have to be kept in mind.
This is why a project calendar is essential. It is a guide and route map to successful execution. Without a proper project calendar, a project can spin out of control.
What Is a Project Calendar?
Simply put, a project calendar gives a project manager a snapshot of the overall project schedule. It allows everyone to see what tasks are needed, which ones have been carried out, and what remains.
A project calendar shows you the project’s progress once it is underway. It indicates the deadlines that must be met and the remaining resources used.
A typical project calendar contains a schedule that outlines the timeline for a project. It indicates the start and end dates of each task. It displays deadlines and other important events related to the project.
At the start of a project, the calendar can be used to assign specific tasks and break down complex projects into a to-do list. After that, the project calendar becomes a critical tool for task management, team collaboration, and planning workflows.
The calendar helps to keep track of the project’s progress. It often shows a visual representation of the timeline. This helps project managers, team members, and stakeholders to coordinate their efforts.
Project calendars can be created using various tools. These include spreadsheets, project management software, or even a simple paper-based calendar.
For example, with Nifty (the free project management software),you get a captain’s-chair view of the team’s deadlines and priorities and a personal calendar that shows what you need to get done.
In this way, a project calendar improves communication and collaboration and reduces the risk of missed deadlines. It increases productivity and raises the chances of project success.
Why You Should Use a Project Calendar
By now, you should know the importance and value of a project calendar to cast success. However, it is crucial to also understand what it specifically brings to the table.
Another aspect to keep in mind is that a simple calendar may suffice for simple projects – but you need proper project calendar software to effectively handle larger and more complex projects.
A project calendar can allow you to:
- Plan critical project components in order of importance.
- Assign and track specific work for sub-projects and teams.
- Segregate status and tasks by channel, stakeholder, and more.
- Get a bird’s-eye view across multiple projects and sub-projects.
- Allow you to share real-time updates with team members and stakeholders.
- Build in buffers and plan for contingencies.
With a properly integrated project calendar tool, you can:
- Create separate timelines for different projects, teams, or departments.
- Get a clear idea of various project phases.
- Keep an eye on the joint progress of workflows.
A well-planned calendar for projects is also vital when it comes to the day-to-day functioning of your team. It will let you:
- Monitor team members, track progress, and take action in case they fall behind.
- Keep an eye on deadlines to ensure they are successfully met.
- Discuss with the team what is expected of them and get feedback on expectations.
- Organize time effectively and plan for any holidays, absenteeism, or other factors affecting teamwork.
Without a project calendar, you could be starting off on a journey without an accurate knowledge of the route, the shortcuts, and the pit stops. That is why to reach your project destination in a timely and most efficient manner, you need to prepare, plan and use a project calendar at every step of the way.
The Benefits of Using a Project Management Calendar
Now that you have an overall picture of what a project calendar does, it is time to summarize and re-emphasize the main benefits of using one.
- Improved visibility: A project calendar gives you a clear representation of the project schedule. It makes it simple for team members and stakeholders in the project to see what tasks are coming up and when they are due.
- Time management: With a clear view of the project schedule, team members can better manage their time. Everyone associated with the project can prioritize work to meet deadlines. They can also put pressure on third-party vendors to deliver on time.
- Enhanced collaboration: A project calendar should be shared with all project team members. It becomes a central location to access project information. A regularly-updated project calendar means that the team is conveniently informed about changes and rescheduling.
- Reduced delays: A project calendar clearly highlights deadlines of tasks and sub-tasks. This reduces the risk of falling behind. Potential delays can be spotted on time, and course corrections can be carried out.
- Improved project planning: A project calendar helps project managers plan and allocate resources effectively and can help identify potential bottlenecks or resource conflicts before they occur.
- Prioritization: With many projects, time and resources have to be efficiently allocated for success. A project calendar helps you to prioritize these elements. As the project progresses, different priorities can be assigned. There is no wastage, and roadblocks can be prevented.
- Better communication: When all the people associated with a project have access to the project calendar, they can communicate concerns and needs. This increases transparency and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
- Stakeholder management: Before the project starts, all stakeholders should see and approve the project calendar and other documentation. This will manage their expectations. Any changes can be reflected in the project calendar during the course of a project. This allows stakeholders to track progress and understand the reasons for changes.
Types of Project Calendars and How They Work
Project calendars can be created using various tools. These include spreadsheets, project management software, and calendar applications.
The way a project calendar works is to divide the elements of a project and list them in order of deadlines and importance. Some common features of project calendars are:
- Task lists: This is a list of all the jobs that need to be completed as project deliverables. It includes the start and end dates and their expected duration.
- Dependencies: Often, one project task needs to be completed before another one can start. A proper project calendar shows these dependencies so that tasks can proceed smoothly without delays.
- Resource allocation: A project calendar should list information about the resources that have been assigned for each task. For example, the people, equipment, and other tools necessary to complete each task.
- Visual chart: Project calendars also often create graphical representations of project schedules. These show the start and end dates of tasks, their duration, and their dependencies. For example, Gantt charts and Kanban boards make it easy to track the progress of a project.
- Network diagrams: Some calendars also use a PERT chart (Program Evaluation and Review Technique chart). This chart represents the project as a series of nodes. The dependencies between them are indicated by arrows. It provides a visual representation of the critical path of the project. Project managers identify potential bottlenecks or delays.
Project calendars can also be created to emphasize various aspects of a project. Used in combination, such calendars provide a granular depiction of how the project should proceed and how well it is progressing.
1. Project Timeline
A project management timeline is a detailed project schedule for your project. It contains all tasks involved along with their deadlines. It indicates dates for individual steps until the project is completed.
Timelines break up the entire project into tasks, sub-tasks, and milestones. Project teams can see the separate pieces they are involved in and the overall picture.
A timeline creates an action plan with accountability built into it. Team members can see their role and how it fits into the larger scheme of things. Allocations and work responsibilities can be effectively assigned.
When any project is broken down into smaller pieces, it becomes more achievable. It stays on track, and any problems can be spotted early.
2. Task Calendar
A task calendar is a schedule of activities associated with a project. It can be helpful in cases where critical tasks have to be linked to resources, such as equipment or a specific team. With a task calendar, a project manager can check the limitations of a project timeline, if any.
A task calendar can work in tandem with a timeline. For example, the timeline can show the overall need for tasks to be completed on certain dates. And the task calendar can indicate the variables that need to be taken care of for the deadlines to be met.
Task calendars should indicate all relevant details, such as the task description, assigned resources, and status. Proper integration with other project management software means that all tasks can be completed on time and within budget.
3. Resource Calendar
A resource calendar shows the availability of resources for a project. This ranges from people to software to equipment.
It ensures that teams ready to work on tasks do not have to wait for the proper resources to be assigned. It indicates not only what resources are available but the times they are ready to be used. This means a project manager can adjust plans if necessary.
A resource calendar should include team member information and the tasks to which they have been assigned. It should also list materials and other tangible resources to be used for the project.
Project managers can schedule and track resources and create a balanced workload with a resource calendar.
To benefit from all of the above types of project calendars, it is essential to use the right project management software.
For example, Nifty provides you with timeline views, milestones, and native integrations with other project management tools. Responsiveness, automation, and alignment are baked into the system.
Some Best Practices for Making a Project Management Calendar
As you know, every project has different characteristics. They are different in terms of deadlines, tasks, resources, and deliverables. That is why project calendars cannot be exactly the same.
The best way to create one is to keep its basic characteristics and then customize it according to the demands of the project. Here are some aspects to consider:
1. Coding and Differentiation
A project calendar will contain details of the entire project. A system of coding and differentiation makes it easy to identify different components. Colors are often used for this. Different colors can be assigned to different aspects of the project. Visual representations then become easy to understand at one glance.
Your team members are the most important resources for a project. A project calendar should show their contributions by means of the workload assigned. This allows project managers to see who is working on what and which people will be free to take on more tasks. It also shows how efficient they are in their work. Project calendars that indicate workloads also allow for planning in case of holidays, leave, and other circumstances.
Often, there are many unforeseen circumstances that can hold up the progress of a project. As far as possible, these should be predicted and indicated in the project calendar. This provides a cushion so that any setbacks can be overcome. Alternative scenarios can be mapped out. Workflows can be redistributed. These steps allow the project to proceed seamlessly, even if there are pitfalls along the way.
Project Management Calendar Tools
Proper project calendar tools are essential. They let you incorporate project details in a convenient and accessible format. Their features allow you to integrate the calendar with other project management software.
The project calendar then becomes part of an accessible and comprehensible system. Modifications can be easily carried out, and communicating changes becomes simple.
Here are three tools to consider.
Nifty lets you organize, manage and prioritize tasks with attention to detail. It shows project managers’ milestone-driven progress for organizational goals to remain on schedule.
Nifty allows you to manage tasks through both Kanban and list views. It has a built-in calendar and file and document sharing that can be integrated with other apps.
Each project has an individual discussion thread. This makes collaboration and communication simple across departments. Other invaluable features include multiple task and project tracking and cost-to-completion tracking.
Project managers on small or mid-sized projects can visualize, plan, and monitor progress with MX Excel. They can use spreadsheets to list tasks, deadlines, and deliverables. Changes can simply be carried out.
Excel spreadsheets can also incorporate links to graphs and charts to track project status. Dependencies can be classified and analyzed.
However, Excel does not offer native graphical views or communication abilities. These can be drawbacks when it comes to complex projects. Care has to be taken when many stakeholders and project tasks are involved.
3. Google Calendar
With Google Calendar, you can create specific project timelines and separate tasks related to them. Access can be granted to all parts of the timeline or only to relevant sections. There is also a built-in tasks feature.
Sharing is simple with Google Calendar. The right permissions should be given to stakeholders for access. As with Excel, graphical representations and communication are not possible. For projects that involve many tasks and overlapping timelines, Google Calendar can become cumbersome.
In conclusion, a project calendar helps project managers monitor deadlines, optimize tasks, and coordinate team efforts.
The timeline provides a representation of the progress of a project to keep it on track. It increases accountability and improves communication. Resources can be properly allocated, and contingency plans put in place.
The right project management tool will go a long way in helping managers benefit from all of the above. Sign up now for Nifty (free forever) and start creating your project calendar today!
What is a project calendar?
A project calendar is a way of representing project tasks and deadlines. It helps you to track deadlines and milestones. It is a platform for communication and accountability. Tasks and resources in the project calendar ensure that the project moves successfully toward deliverables.
How do I create a project calendar?
Since every project is different, project calendars will be different, too. However, here are the basic steps:
1. List the tasks as well as the dependencies between them.
2. Assign start and end dates.
3. Allocate relevant tasks to team members with deadlines.
4. Once the project begins, constantly review the calendar.
What is a project calendar in PMP?
A project calendar is an essential tool for project managers to organize a project's resources and timeline. It lets managers plan milestones to ensure timely delivery. The right software can integrate the calendar into other project management tools and enable seamless communication and modifications.