The problem with your calendar is that you’re probably using it the wrong way. Most people use a digital calendar like Apple Calendar or Google Calendar – but they’re not taking full advantage of the product’s capabilities. Enter stage right: The project management calendar.
Using a project management calendar or tweaking the way you currently use your existing calendar could help organize and streamline your next project.
This article will unlock new productivity settings for your company when you level up and start looking at your calendar from a new perspective. So let’s learn how to get more out of our old friend, the digital calendar.
What is a project management calendar?
First off, a project management calendar is different from the one hanging in your kitchen. Yep, no fancy pictures of cats or waterfalls here.
It also does more than listing calendar appointments and reminding you of specific tasks. For the entrepreneur, consider this Calendar 2.0.
A project management calendar’s function is to assist with even the most complex projects. Each important task and step outlined in the project schedule is listed in the calendar and assigned to the person responsible for that task.
Projects can get messy, but having a project management calendar helps you and your project team visualize the project milestones, tasks, and subtasks on both a macro and micro scale — and keeps the entire organization focused on those key due dates.
Project calendar vs. project timeline
A project timeline is a linear representation of the project focused on the bigger milestones — but a project calendar is a more detailed version that has specific tasks and subtasks to better oversee and manage the project and to keep track of your project schedule.
Typically a project calendar will be color-coded to help differentiate between different types of tasks, milestones, and stages. Once you become familiar with what it represents, it becomes quick and easy to interpret at a glance.
How can a project calendar support your team?
A project management calendar makes calendaring an active planning tool that can not only record task start dates and end dates — which is how most people use calendars — but also act as your project management software. That means it can serve as a guide for the workflow of the entire duration of the project.
Use it well with the right integrations and task templates and your whole project moves more smoothly.
So let’s explore some of the benefits of project planning with a task-oriented project management calendar.
A project calendar helps you schedule individual tasks for team members. When correctly integrated with the team member’s individual calendar, changes can be broadcast to the team in real-time.
A project management calendar is ideal for tracking project milestones. Milestones are the big (most important) rocks you want to keep focused on as your project evolves and drives towards completion. Think of milestones as mini-projects in and of themselves.
When you break the project down into smaller pieces, you can galvanize your team members to complete the milestones in a sprint and not suffer fatigue from an overwhelming task list.
A PM calendar also helps organizations stay on point by keeping digital files together. Let’s face it — digital clutter probably costs your company much more than you are willing to admit. Trying to locate files takes valuable mental energy that’d better be used on the actual work. Disorganized files also waste valuable on-the-clock time that could be better allocated to actually getting stuff done.
In this same way, a resource calendar (a component of the project management calendar) can help team members as it keeps track of a project's assets, both human and non-human. An example could be tracking team members in the IT department, skids, or laptops.
A hallmark of any good project is careful and deliberate project monitoring. Project monitoring is the art of making sure everything is going to plan, which prevents missed deadlines, and resource issues. A good project manager will always make sure all parts and processes are moving along smoothly.
Because a project management calendar keeps everyone on the same page, assignees can easily be set up to receive notifications of project events in real-time. Tasks and responsibilities can be seen quickly.
A project management calendar helps with communication because everything is located on one platform. This could be emails, comments on shared documents, instant messages, and permission requests.
A good project management calendar will also have a visual representation for dependencies. Dependencies are project tasks that rely on some previous chunk of the project. For example, before adding the checkout link, you need to write the sales copy.
There is no chicken and the egg quandary in project management: Everything should be clearly laid out with priorities and dependencies. A project management calendar will show you the statuses of all tasks and task dependencies, which will allow your team to better gauge when to begin certain tasks.
Delivering on time
Calendars represent time. So a good calendar setup helps make sure all the milestones are progressing and the project manager can have the oversight to address resource or time-constraints well in advance of the deadlines.
Types of calendars and views
Let’s take a look at three popular project management calendar tools and which teams they might be best for.
A Gantt chart is a graphical representation of different tasks or activities over time. This is most helpful identifying resource management constraints and dependencies. Gantt charts are color-coded and helpful to understand the larger sections of the project and how they are scheduled in time.
This is helpful to plot out the work schedule and see the high-level view of the entire project at once.
Often preferred by project managers who like a macro, timeline view, Gantt charts are very good at averting potential problems but require all the project data to be mapped out.
The Kanban board takes a different approach to managing projects.
If you like a dashboard, but also want to dive into the details when tackling individual tasks, it’s a fun method to try for your next side project.
They are again a graphical representation of complex projects, but typically the tasks are shown as cards and can be moved from left to right to move the card to a different stage. The stages can be more complex, but a simple version that works well to illustrate is a three-column Kanban board with Planned, Doing, and Done. In this example, the cards in each stage would define the tasks of that stage.
Kanban boards can be tested out with a software like Trello, which is free for personal use. Some companies use Kanban boards to interact with their users and communicate what they are working on as a public roadmap, like Buffer.
Google has a lot of different products beyond Gmail and, of course, Google Calendar (one of the best calendar apps). Think of it as a cloud version of an Excel spreadsheet. Some project managers use Google Sheets as the project management software. It’s not as visually appealing to work in, but it can be customized.
The main benefit over Excel is that it is cloud-based, so it makes interactions and collaborations easy to implement. You can pull in data through an API directly into your Google Calendar, and you can also have multiple people working on the same document at the same time from different locations.
Another benefit is that you can also set up automations without coding with Zapier, an automation tool. An example could be sending an email or text message to new contact records added to the Google Sheets document.
Google Sheets is excellent for customizing the data you organize about projects. Visually, the UI is not as appealing or user-friendly to less tech-oriented teammates, but it may shine brighter if you have a sales component or want to push contact records to another application like an autoresponder.
What are the benefits of a project management calendar?
When you can map out your plan on a calendar, you can achieve more. The main benefits of using a project management calendar come from better team collaboration, a graphical view of the timeline of the project, and the constraints of said project.
Projects will slip off-course if the different larger components or milestones start to fall behind. Being able to see the milestones in a visual overview without the specific task details is key to maintaining the timeline and deadlines of the project.
When managing a team, having your finger on the pulse of what’s going on is critical. Using project management calendar apps will allow your project manager to better oversee task management and also the big picture, high-level view of the mission.
Many solid project management software let you switch between views — so you can look over the overall project scope, then switch to a Gantt chart or calendar view, and then open a card and dig into the details of the project.
The key to managing projects well is to be able to switch between the micro details of the individual tasks and subtasks and then out to the macro view. Seeing and understanding the project in this way leads to great outcomes.
So…which project management calendar are you trying?
Your calendar can be a whole lot more effective than just using Google Calendar to track appointments and reminders — and it’s important to use your calendar to maximum capacity to get the most of the new technology.
The integrations you can use with your calendar make it easier than ever to schedule meetings on Zoom, for example, so you can arrive fully present and ready to knock it out of the park.
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