The old-fashioned approach to project management is simple: all you need is a piece of paper and a pen.
Can that work? Sure. As long as your project is something simple, like: “Pick up coffee filters at the store.”
But the reality is that today’s online projects are far more complex than that. They involve multiple users, each tackling their own project milestones and deadlines with many moving parts all happening at once.
If your project calendar’s sophistication can’t grow with the scope of the project, your planning won’t be up to par. In this blog, we’ll show you how to use a project calendar to manage everything from project scheduling to task management and task dependencies.
What is a project calendar?
A project calendar is a schedule you use to outline a group’s project workflow, whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly.
Project calendars can provide detailed insight for work days or a high-level view of a project’s timeline.
Benefits of a project calendar
One study found that project calendars can help free you from the stress and anxiety of an under-planned project.
And a project calendar is far more robust than a pen and a piece of paper or an excel spreadsheet. Here are just a few features of this tool that make it an ideal solution:
- Color-coding by milestone status, employee working times, unique customer channels, or stages in the project planning process
- Calendar sharing via digital access, bringing multiple team members together on one project planning calendar
- Automated communication for overdue milestones, meeting announcements, and reducing emails to save time
What should you look for in a project calendar template?
If creating a new project calendar seems overwhelming, you can always consult pre-made templates for your project calendar. Tools like monday.com offer such templates to serve as base calendars for your teams’ unique processes.
- Choose the right template. An ongoing marketing calendar, for example, will look different than a social media calendar. Pick the appropriate template for your field first.
- Look for ways to create assignments. Assigning ownership of specific tasks should automatically fill individual team members’ calendars.
- A way to unify your team. From color-coded status updates to setting milestone priorities, your calendar should be flexible. The entire team should be able to see the whole project at a glance.
- Calendar integration. With calendar integration, you can sync team members via Google Calendar, iOS, Outlook, and more.
How to build an online project calendar
Here’s how to get started:
- Use a template. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel, after all.
- Sync your team and assign tasks. If you’re working with a remote team, find out which calendars they’re using.
- Review your timeline. In monday.com, for example, the “timeline” feature lets you view team member workload.
- Create milestones by due dates. For example: monday.com’s date column will automatically alert you when a milestone is behind once you’ve assigned due dates.
- Prioritize tasks. It should be as easy as dragging-and-dropping in your calendar software. If not, find a different project calendar to use.
How to build an effective project calendar
How can you be sure the project calendar you’ve created will be effective?
- Create deadlines, even if they’re artificial. It’s a project calendar, after all. Your most important variable is time. In fact, psychologists have found that deadlines create more interest in completing a project.
- Review your timeline before kickoff. Your timeline should create an equal balance of work, whenever possible. The timeline column in monday.com makes it easy to review upcoming deadlines.
- Start with the most important tasks first. An incremental approach might help you slow-build momentum. But you’ll have less stress down the road with each high-priority task under your belt.
- Stay flexible with due dates. Due dates are good for getting a project in motion. But be wary of due dates that are too rigid and force team members into rushing an important task.
- Integrate any existing assets. Do you already have data available in Excel? Your project calendar software should be able to import it into an online calendar. Look for other integrations, too, such as integrating MailChimp on an email newsletter calendar.
- Learn how to switch views. You can use a project Kanban boards view in monday.com, and just as easily switch to a calendar view. This gives you a comprehensive source known as an “information radiator.”
What is the essential project calendar terminology?
With the right app in place and the tips above, you should have no problem getting started with creating a project calendar. However, don’t be surprised if you run into terminology related to project calendars that sounds like jargon. Here are three terms you’ll need to know.
A Gantt Chart is a type of project calendar that uses bar graphing to illustrate progress over time. A line down the middle should show your current time. Trace your finger down the line and compare it with the progress in the bars, and you’ll see where you need to catch up.
Kanban Boards are all about priorities. They split items into a left-to-right system demonstrating the progress of the project. In a Kanban Board, there’s less emphasis on the timeline of the project but rather the tasks involved. But with an effective project calendar app, you can switch between Kanban view and Calendar view to get a sense of your progress.
What’s the difference between Timeline View and a project calendar? In monday.com, for example, you can turn virtually any project into a project calendar by clicking on Timeline View.
Once you’ve input your due dates, switching to Timeline View will give you elements of a Gantt Chart. You’ll see a horizontal bar that demonstrates a milestone’s status against the current due dates.
Build a stellar project calendar
Project management isn’t only about fitting puzzle pieces together.
Think of effective project management as existing in multiple dimensions. Your goal isn’t just to complete a task; it’s to complete a task on-time. And if you don’t measure your progress over time, you won’t know how to optimize your available resources to get the most important work done.
Want to turn your project into a ready-made calendar? Check out the template below and you’ll have everything you need for effective project management that you can measure against the clock. Or in this case, the calendar.