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Project Scheduling 101: Everything a PM Needs to Know

Updated on February 6, 2024By
Project scheduling

Project scheduling can be compared to creating a roadmap for a long road trip. Just as you would plan your route and schedule your stops along the way, a project manager must carefully plan the various tasks and milestones that make up a project timeline. 

To ensure effective project scheduling, a project manager must:

  • Have a clear understanding of the destination (the end goal of the project)
  • Identify the key landmarks along the way (think: major milestones or deadlines)
  • Start to break down the journey into smaller, more manageable chunks (once a rough plan is in place)
  • Divide the project into phases or sprints
  • Monitor the progress and make adjustments as needed
  • Use various tools and software to track the team’s progress and ensure they stay on schedule

Ultimately, the success of the project will depend on careful planning, effective communication, and the ability to adapt to unforeseen challenges along the way.

So, What is a project schedule?

A project schedule is a document that outlines the timeline for completing a project’s tasks, activities, and milestones. It typically includes start and end dates and the estimated time required to complete each task or activity.

A project schedule helps to:

  • Define the sequence of events and dependencies between tasks,
  • Provide a roadmap for the project team to follow
  • Identify potential scheduling conflicts or delays
  • Enable the project manager to make adjustments to ensure the project stays on track

There are several tools that can be used to create a project schedule, including Gantt charts, network diagrams, and critical path analysis. The project schedule should be regularly updated throughout the project to reflect any changes to the project scope, timeline, or resources.

Project scheduling vs. Project planning: How are they different?

To schedule project management effectively, it is essential to understand the difference between project scheduling and project planning.

Project Scheduling Project Planning
Definition: It involves creating a timeline/schedule of activities that need to be completed to meet the project’s objectives and deadlines. It determines when each task or activity will be performed and how long it will take to complete.Definition: It involves determining the project scope, objectives, timelines, budget, and resources required to achieve them. It is the process of developing a comprehensive plan that outlines the steps needed to complete the project successfully.
Focus: It focuses on the details and the specific tasks that need to be completed to achieve the project’s objectives. It considers the dependencies between tasks and the sequence in which they need to be completed.Focus: Project planning focuses on the big picture and the overall strategy for achieving the project’s goals. It considers the resources available, constraints, and risks that might impact the project.
Outcome: The outcome is a detailed timeline that outlines when each task or activity will be performed and how long it will take to complete.Outcome: The outcome is a comprehensive project plan that outlines the scope, objectives, timeline, budget, and resources required to complete the project.

The takeaway: In summary, project planning is the process of developing a comprehensive plan that outlines the steps needed to complete the project successfully, while project scheduling is the process of determining when each task or activity will be performed and how long it will take to complete. Both are important in project management, and a successful project requires both effective planning and scheduling.

6 Benefits of Project Scheduling in Project Management

Project scheduling is an essential aspect of project management that involves breaking down the project into smaller tasks, determining their dependencies, and establishing a timeline for in their completion. 

There are several benefits of project scheduling in project management, including the following:

  1. Time management: Project scheduling helps project managers allocate time more efficiently and ensures that tasks are completed on time. This helps prevent delays, which can be costly for the project and the organization.
  2. Resource management: It allows project managers to determine the resources required for each task and allocate them accordingly. This ensures that resources are used efficiently and that there is no wastage.
  3. Better communication: Project scheduling provides a common framework for all project stakeholders to understand the timeline and the tasks required to complete the project. This promotes better communication among team members, which is essential for successful project completion.
  4. Risk management: Project scheduling helps identify potential risks and issues early in the project, allowing project managers to take proactive steps to mitigate them. This reduces the likelihood of project failure and improves the chances of successful project completion.
  5. Cost management: Project scheduling allows project managers to estimate the cost of each task and the project as a whole, which helps them manage the project budget more effectively.
  6. Performance measurement: Project scheduling provides a basis for measuring the performance of the project and individual team members. This allows project managers to identify areas for improvement and take corrective action if necessary.

The takeaway: Project scheduling is an important tool for project managers to ensure that projects are completed on time, within budget, and with the required level of quality. It helps promote better communication, resource management, risk management, and cost management, which are all essential for successful project completion.

What Are the Project Scheduling Techniques?

There are several project scheduling techniques that can be used to plan and manage project timelines:

Project Scheduling TechniquesKey Characteristics
1. Gantt ChartsIt is a type of bar chart that shows project activities and their corresponding start and end date, helps to visualize the timeline of a project, identify critical path activities, and allocate resources effectively
2. Critical Path Method (CPM)It is a scheduling technique that identifies activities that are critical to the project’s completion and determines the shortest possible duration for the project involves creating a network diagram that shows the dependencies between activities and calculating the critical path
3. Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT)It is a scheduling technique that is used to estimate the duration of a project when there is uncertainty in the activity times involves creating a network diagram and calculating the expected time for each activity using optimistic, pessimistic, and most likely estimates
4. Agile Project ManagementIt is a flexible and iterative approach to project management that emphasizes collaboration, continuous improvement, and adaptation to change, involves breaking the project into smaller increments, called sprints, and delivering a working product at the end of each sprint
5. KanbanIt is a visual project management technique that uses a board with columns to represent different stages of the project tasks are represented by cards, and the team moves the cards across the board as they complete the tasks
6. Monte Carlo AnalysisIt is a simulation technique that can be used to estimate the probability of completing a project on time involves generating random values for the duration of each activity and running the simulation multiple times to determine the likelihood of meeting the project deadline

Note: These techniques can be used alone or in combination depending on the complexity of the project and the needs of the project team.

7 Steps to Create a Project Schedule

Step 1: Define Your Project Goals

The first step in creating a project schedule is clearly defining your project goals. You need to understand the desired outcome of your project and what it is you are trying to achieve. This step is essential as it will guide all the following steps in your project planning process.

For instance, if you want to create a project schedule for creating a new mobile app, your first goal would be to set up the project in Nifty and then define the project goals: 

Step 2: Define the Project Activities

After identifying your project goals, you need to list out all the activities that are required to achieve those goals. This includes breaking down the project into smaller tasks and determining what needs to be done and when.

For our mobile app development project scheduling example, activities can look like this: 

Project Activities

Step 3: Identify All Stakeholders

Stakeholders are people or groups who have an interest in the project, and it is important to identify them at the outset of the project. This includes anyone who is directly involved in the project, as well as those who may be impacted by the project. 

Step 4: Determine Dependencies

Once you have identified the project activities and stakeholders, you need to determine any dependencies between the activities. This means identifying which activities need to be completed before others can begin.

For instance, we cannot define functionality without selecting the technology stack for our mobile app development project scheduling example:

Task Dependency

Step 5: List Each Step or Task

Next, you need to list out each step or task in each of the key activities in the order in which they need to be completed. This will help you visualize the project timeline and ensure everything is included.

Tasks in Nifty

Step 6: Assign a Team Member Responsible for Each Task

Each task in the project should have a team member responsible for completing it. This step ensures that everyone knows what they are responsible for and who they can go to if they have any questions.

Step 7: Set Due Dates for Each Task

The final step is to set due dates for each task. This can be done by working backward from the project end date and assigning a realistic timeframe for each task based on its complexity and any dependencies that have been identified. You should also build in some buffer time to account for unexpected delays or issues that may arise during the project.

By following these seven steps, you can create a comprehensive project schedule and deliver sustainable, successful projects time and time again.

Due date and Assignee in each task

An Interesting Project Scheduling Example

Let’s look at a real-life project scheduling example to understand the concept better. Let’s suppose you are the project manager for the new mobile app development project.

The project has the following tasks:

  1. Technology Selection (3 days)
  2. Wireframing framing (4 days)
  3. Coding and creating the Beta version (7 days)
  4. Testing (1 day)
  5. Logo (1 day)
  6. Final touches and cleaning code (2 days)

The tasks must be completed in sequence, and each task must be finished before the next one can start. Additionally, some tasks can only start once others are partially completed. The dependencies among the tasks are as follows:

  • Task 2 can start once Task 1 is completed.
  • Task 3 can start once Task 2 is partially completed.

And so on.

Assuming you have a 5-day work week, how long will the project take to complete? To answer this question, you can create a Gantt chart that shows the start and end dates for each task:

Gantt chart for project scheduling example

The chart shows that the project will take 18 weeks to complete.

Note that we’ve assumed a five-day workweek and that all tasks can be done simultaneously without resource constraints. In reality, additional constraints may need to be considered, such as the availability of engineers and designers, which could impact the schedule.

Top 3 Best Project Scheduling Software

1. Nifty


Nifty is a cloud-based project management software that helps teams streamline their workflow, manage tasks and projects, and collaborate more effectively.

The tool offers a wide range of features designed to help teams work together more efficiently and productively while providing real-time visibility into project progress and team productivity.

Top Benefits:

  • Streamlined collaboration and communication among team members
  • Improved project organization and management
  • Enhanced team productivity and efficiency
  • Better project planning and resource allocation
  • Real-time visibility into project progress and team performance
  • Increased project success rates and higher-quality deliverables

Top Features:

  • Task Management: Assign and manage tasks, set priorities and deadlines, and track progress on projects.
  • Project Management: Create, organize, and manage projects, set milestones, and allocate resources.
  • Team Collaboration: Collaborate with team members using threaded discussions, comments, and real-time notifications.
  • Time Tracking: Track the time spent on individual tasks and projects, and monitor overall project progress.
  • File Sharing: Upload and share files and documents with team members in a secure and organized manner.
  • Reporting and Analytics: View project reports and analytics to gain insights into team productivity, project progress, and resource allocation.
  • Gantt Charts: Use Gantt charts to visualize project timelines, dependencies, and milestones.
  • Integrations: Integrate with other tools such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Slack, and Zapier to enhance collaboration and automate workflows.
  • Customization: Customize the platform to suit your team’s unique needs and preferences.
  • Mobile App: Access Nifty on the go with the mobile app, available for iOS and Android devices.

The takeaway: Nifty offers a comprehensive set of features that make it a useful tool for teams of all sizes and industries looking to streamline their project management processes and collaborate more effectively.

2. ClickUp

Clickup home page

ClickUp is a project management software that provides a comprehensive suite of tools to help teams collaborate and manage projects efficiently. It is designed to simplify task management, enhance team productivity, and streamline project workflows.

Top Benefits:

  • Increased productivity and efficiency through better project organization and collaboration.
  • Improved communication through task comments, mentions, and notifications.
  • Greater transparency and accountability through task assignment and progress tracking.
  • Customizable views and project templates to suit various project management needs.
  • Integrations with other tools like Google Drive, Trello, and Slack for seamless collaboration.

Top Features:

  • Customizable dashboards: ClickUp allows users to create custom dashboards with widgets and task lists to suit their specific needs.
  • Task management: The tool offers a range of task management features, including due dates, reminders, checklists, time tracking, and assignees.
  • Collaboration tools: It provides a range of collaboration tools, including task comments, mentions, and activity logs, enabling seamless communication and collaboration among team members.
  • Multiple views: ClickUp also offers various views, including List, Board, Calendar, and Timeline views, enabling users to manage tasks and projects in a way that suits them best.
  • Custom fields and templates: The tool enables users to customize fields and templates to match their specific project requirements and workflows.
  • Time tracking: It offers time tracking features, allowing users to monitor how much time is being spent on tasks and projects.
  • Integrations: Finally, ClickUp integrates with a range of other tools, including Google Drive, Trello, and Slack, providing seamless collaboration and project management.

The takeaway: ClickUp is an excellent all-in-one productivity tool that prevents organizations from working in silos. Teams can leverage this centralized platform to collaborate and organize work at the click of a button.

3. Asana


Think of Asana as a cloud-based project management software that helps teams to organize, track, and manage their work more efficiently.

Top Benefits

  • Manage tasks, projects, deadlines, and workflows in one central location, making it easier for everyone to stay on the same page and work together more effectively.
  • Stay focused on what’s important by providing a clear overview of tasks and deadlines, thereby reducing the number of meetings and emails needed to keep everyone updated.
  • Easily assign tasks to specific team members, share files, and communicate in real-time.
  • Drive enhanced project visibility as the tool provides a range of tools for visualizing project progress, including Gantt charts, calendars, and timelines.

Top Features:

  • Task management: Asana allows teams to create and assign tasks to specific team members. Tasks can be organized into projects and can include descriptions, due dates, and priority levels.
  • Project tracking: It offers a range of tools for tracking project progress, including Gantt charts, calendars, and timelines. This makes it easier to monitor project milestones and identify potential issues.
  • Team communication: Asana includes a range of communication tools, including the ability to comment on tasks and projects and to tag specific team members in conversations.
  • Customizable workflows: The tool empowers teams to create custom workflows to match their specific needs. This can help to ensure that work is completed efficiently and according to established best practices.
  • Third-party integrations: Asana easily integrates with a range of other tools and services, including Google Drive, Slack, and Trello, and helps teams to streamline their workflows and improve productivity.

The takeaway: Asana is a powerful project management tool that can help teams stay organized, work more efficiently, and achieve better results.

The Final Word

In conclusion, project scheduling is a critical aspect of project management that involves identifying project activities, estimating their duration, and sequencing them in a logical manner. 

As per research, almost 50% of organizations stated that they “mostly or always start each project with a baseline schedule.”

Effective project scheduling ensures that projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the required quality standards.

To create a successful project schedule, project managers should:

  1. Follow a structured approach that involves:
    • Defining the scope of the project
    • Breaking down the work into manageable tasks
    • Estimating the time and resources required to complete each task
    • Sequencing the tasks in the correct order
  2. Use a personalized scheduling technique to create a project schedule, including Gantt charts, critical path analysis, and network diagrams
  3. Ensure that the project schedule remains on track by:
    • Continually monitoring progress
    • Identify any potential delays or issues
    • Taking corrective action where necessary
    • Maintaining clear lines of communication with project team members, stakeholders, and other key stakeholders

Leverage the power of project scheduling and engage in careful planning as well as effective communication to deliver winning projects with Nifty. Sign up for free.


What is project scheduling?

Project scheduling is the process of creating a timeline for a project, including when different tasks or activities will be performed, how long they will take, and what resources will be needed to complete them. It involves developing a detailed plan for the project, breaking it down into smaller, more manageable tasks, and determining the order in which they will be completed.

What is the purpose of project scheduling?

Project scheduling is an important part of project management because it helps:

  • Ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget
  • Identify potential bottlenecks or conflicts in the project plan and take steps to mitigate them
  • Allocate resources more efficiently and ensure that team members know what they are expected to do and when

How do you do project scheduling?

Project scheduling can be done using a variety of tools, including Gantt charts, critical path analysis, and project management software. These tools help project managers visualize the project timeline, track progress, and make adjustments as necessary to ensure that the project stays on track.

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