In recent years, striking a work-life balance has become a greater priority for working professionals. With the “time is money” mindset, they want to deliver maximum results by investing as little time as possible. As such, they are constantly looking for ways to master time management to improve efficiency.
On similar lines, businesses actively seek ways to enhance productivity and extract maximum value from their employees. After all, if a task can be completed in a few hours, then it shouldn’t stretch for days. Not to mention that it will result in cost overheads, inefficient utilization of resources, and delayed timelines.
In simple words, companies and employees have the same requirement – to make better use of time and resources – and effective scheduling can cater to these needs.
Scheduling is a technique of organizing tasks, activities, resources, and milestones against a timeline in a sequential manner. It allows individuals and businesses to attain their goals in time and without wasting or blocking any resources.
It is an essential component of the planning stage of any endeavor. However, once you have established a baseline schedule, keeping it flexible makes it more dynamic and open to accommodate any changes.
When done right, effective scheduling promises the following benefits:
- It aids in establishing practical and realistic goals that are achievable within a given timeframe.
- It brings different individuals working for a common goal on the same page.
- It prioritizes essential tasks by allocating sufficient time for their completion. At the same time, it highlights any task or resource relationships.
- It sets aside contingency time for when you run into the unexpected or a change in plans.
- It helps teams or individuals close all tasks in their daily checklist app by preventing them from taking on more than what is feasible and deliverable.
- It grounds expectations in reality and mitigates the possibility of overpromising and underdelivering.
- It acts as your guide in tracking meetings, appointments, and any obligations, which frees up mental bandwidth to focus on the task at hand.
- It helps track, communicate, measure, or manage progress. It can also detect obstacles in advance so that you can address challenges early on.
- It maintains legal and regulatory compliance as organizations can use it to distribute and track human hours that go into a project.
Following a schedule makes it easier to discharge duties and carry out work in an efficient manner. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to build a perfect schedule:
First, you will have to carve out time for the task, project, or goal. The best way to represent such a duration is by defining start and end dates that encapsulate this schedule. In the case of a recurring schedule, you can define the periodicity depending on the intensity of the work.
Some tasks will follow a daily schedule, while others follow a weekly cadence. A long-term schedule could span months if not years. So, quantify the period with fixed dates marking the start and the finish lines. Subtle factors, such as the impact of the home office environment on performance, should also be taken into account while determining the start and end dates of a task.
Next, list down all the pending tasks, activities, and assignments that need completion within the set schedule. A thorough audit ensures that nothing goes amiss or crops up at a later stage when you cannot account for it.
If working on a larger, more complex task that involves other stakeholders, include them while noting all the tasks and activities.
Vet every task or activity to understand how it contributes to the primary objective. After all, you do not want to include work that goes beyond the existing scope of the task.
Once you have listed all the tasks and activities you need to complete, it is time to assign a weighted priority to each of them for effective scheduling.
You can use various prioritization techniques. For instance, you can create a Kanban board with three columns – to do, doing, and done. Or you could go for something more complex like the Eisenhower Matrix, which balances task importance with comparable urgency.
Sorting tasks based on priorities will allow you to stay focused on the more pressing matters at hand before you proceed.
By this point, you will have a priority-based list of tasks and activities. Now, you have to estimate the time required to complete individual tasks. Once again, you have multiple techniques to do so.
You can consult experts on the subject to get a reasonable timeframe, or you can observe the time consumed in completing a similar task or use something as intricate as a PERT-derived estimation. You will get a broad projection of the time required to complete all the tasks and whether they fit your schedule linearly or require parallel operations.
A perfect work schedule is one that accounts for everything going imperfectly. As such, effective scheduling should set aside some contingency time to deal with emergencies. It can also act as a buffer for when any timeline for task completion stretches beyond its scheduled time.
You can also incorporate some discretionary time, which is white space in a schedule assigned for no specific task or activity. Accordingly, you can squeeze in any housekeeping activities within this slot.
Finally, it is time to commit the schedule to paper. Start with the critical path method to chart the schedule. A critical path is the longest chain sequencing tasks/activities from start to finish in the least amount of time to attain success.
Alternatively, you can use the PERT chart technique or any other scheduling tool.
Then, lay out the sequentially arranged schedule on a visual map. A visual map of the schedule outlines a high-level view of what needs to be done and when. It makes the schedule easier to recall, while features like color coding offer visibility to priorities at a glance.
You can choose to depict the schedule as a timeline, as Gantt charts, or as a calendar, depending on your preferences.
Effective scheduling hinges on iterative and continuous improvement. After all, it is not possible to create the perfect schedule in one go. Your schedules will change with the change in personal, professional, and organizational goals; and will vary with evolving experience or dynamic resource availability.
As such, analyze and optimize the schedule periodically to identify and minimize issues and focus on your key strengths. Think of it as a muscle that requires constant training to gain results.
The steps to effective scheduling are not definitive or set in stone. They are simply indicative and subject to change depending on applicability. With that in mind, here are a few tips and tricks to beef up your effective scheduling game:
A schedule to send an email would be vastly different from that created to earn a promotion. And unless your task is as simplistic as the former, you will have to follow a divide-and-conquer approach to break down the larger goal into smaller ones.
Doing so will make the tasks more manageable, and the micro-victories along the way will boost morale, productivity, and motivation to hit the next milestone.
While multitasking may promise higher productivity and efficiency, the results are quite the opposite. It not only impairs working memory but can also leave behind long-term adverse effects on efficient functioning. And for this reason, you should practice time blocking while following the schedule to focus on the task at hand and dedicate full time to it.
Scheduling is part knowing what to do and part knowing what you shouldn’t do. So far, we’ve discussed the first half of it, especially to go by priority. But here comes the part where you need to set a boundary on the tasks that do not fit the larger picture or are unnecessary accessories.
Some tasks are interrelated and come with dependencies. Naturally, you need to have special considerations for the tasks that rank first for completion so that they do not hold back other dependent tasks. While doing so, also take cognizance of any resource competition as the same would also present similar roadblocks or bottlenecks in effective scheduling.
Use effective scheduling tools for effective scheduling. Let go of the pen and paper to utilize calendar apps or, better yet, project management tools like Nifty for the task. The latter is far more intuitive and easy to use. They even come with predesigned templates that you can configure as per requirement and preference and update without any manual rework!
Effective scheduling tools empower development teams to plan, track, and manage projects more efficiently. These tools offer features such as task assignment, progress tracking, and deadline reminders, facilitating better project coordination and reducing the risk of delays. By leveraging technology, businesses can enhance their project management capabilities and deliver high-quality results within the allocated time frames.
As they say, everyone gets the same 24 hours to make a difference. With effective scheduling, it is possible to make the most of your time and achieve goals faster.
A scheduling tool can be a great asset for individuals and organizations alike as it heightens productivity – without weighing down on resources. It becomes even more crucial for companies that follow strict labor laws and enforce related policies to make efficient use of time. The finessed level of control one enjoys through scheduling tools is empowering enough to encourage everyone to bring their best foot forward.