Developing Practical Time Plans for Projects

There are three key characteristics often referred to in a project:

  • Budget ‚Äì how much money will you spend
  • Scope ‚Äì what you are going to do
  • Time ‚Äì when are you going to get it done

Of these three items it can be argued that time is the hardest factor to predict. Let’s take a simple scenario and explore how best to set a practical time plan for your projects. In this case you’ve been asked to build a fence around a garden.

Step 1 – Make sure you know exactly what the scope is. If the fence is a piece of string around the yard or a stone wall our time requirements are going to vary considerably. Equally a home garden is a different undertaking to fencing a botanical garden. At this stage consider:

  • What is the client expecting to see, get or be delivered.
  • Where are you going to be able to source the materials/resources required for the project.
  • Will weather conditions or other external factors affect your project and what are they likely to be.
  • Has this type of work been done before, and if so what was the method used?

Step 2 – Define any key dates. In most projects there will be a date when the project needs to start or finish. You may be asked to deliver a project before the end of the financial year or in time for a scheduled meeting or formal opening. Note these dates down as guides for your time plan. However give consideration that the time a client gives you to complete the task may not be sufficient.

Step 3 – Start mapping out the timing expected for the key tasks. Referring to your project plan conduct an initial estimate of time required to complete each task. For example a draft of our garden project is shown below. (Total project time = 19 days)

Step 4 – Review task time requirements and task prerequisites. To review task timelines the information gathered about previous work and the time taken to undertake the task may assist. Also ask suppliers and contractors for time requirements based on their experience. A task prerequisite is something that needs to be done before the task can commence. In some cases multiple tasks can be run concurrently to optimise the time required to undertake a project. The following image shows an updated version of our fence project timeline considering these elements.

Total project time = 18 days.

By reviewing these tasks we have allowed more realistic time and for the inclusion of appropriate contingency time in the project. By stepping through these suggested steps a more realistic timeline can be developed for any project. A project time plan will provide the baseline to track the delivery of your projects. Happy planning!

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Judy Quinn

Current PM with 5+ yrs experience. Technical Engineering Background. Stakeholder Engagement Skills.