How to create a project schedule in 6 easy steps
Projects with a large scope can have dozens or even hundreds of tasks. One “part” breaking down can lead to a cascade of failures, resulting in missed deadlines and unhappy clients.
So how do you manage project schedules and keep everything on the right track? And how do you effectively manage your resources, so you don’t have to call in last-minute favors (or sacrifice your weekends?)
The answer as you’ve probably guessed from the title is with a project schedule.
In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at what a project schedule is and why you should create one. We’ll also walk you through how to create a project schedule and give you an actionable template that you can adapt for any use case.
What is a project schedule?
A project schedule is a planning tool that outlines all the tasks that teams must complete to successfully deliver an entire project. It includes clear start and end dates, and a full breakdown of the work that must be done.
In short, a project schedule documents everything that pertains to a project’s timeline:
- Tasks: a detailed activity list of the tasks and subtasks that must be completed to deliver a project.
- Deadlines: expected due dates for individual activities. Deadlines help keep the entire project on schedule.
- Milestones: key points in a project plan. These can be used to measure and monitor project progress or highlight important events.
Depending on the platform you’re using, your schedule may also show other essential aspects of the project, such as:
- Deliverables: the products or services that are delivered to the client. These vary from project to project.
- Resources: assets that are required for a project. Examples include people, equipment, subcontractors, etc.
- Requirements: requirements that are necessary to complete a project, such as certifications or security clearances.
- Budgets: used to estimate the total cost of a project. These include labor costs, material procurement costs, etc.
- Stakeholders: all the people involved in the project. These include team members as well as clients and investors.
Project scheduling software like monday.com helps you plan and manage everything from one place. All items are also synced in real-time, so everyone can see where things stand.
Here’s a project schedule example in monday.com:
Another benefit of project scheduling software is you can adapt it to fit different projects from construction schedules to web development and more.
Next, let’s look at the crucial role that project schedules play in project management.
Why is a project schedule important?
Fyre Festival, a luxury music festival in the Bahamas, was a complete failure from a project management perspective — headliners dropped out days before, fans were stranded at the airport, and luxury “villas” turned out to be regular tents (many weren’t even assembled!).
What is now the subject of 2 documentaries on Netflix and Hulu is a good example of why project scheduling is important.
Let’s take a closer look at how a project schedule can keep things on the right track (and prevent disasters like the Fyre Festival from happening).
Stay on schedule
Any delays can cause projects to fall behind schedule. Just 35% of organizations mostly or always complete projects on time.
A project schedule provides a complete breakdown of timelines for individual tasks and the resources needed to complete them. With Gantt charts, you can track individual tasks and visualize their progress over time.
Here’s an example of a Gantt chart in monday.com:
A Gantt chart provides a high-level view of your projects from start to finish. You can assign tasks, collaborate in real-time, and adjust the project plan as needed.
Keep on budget
A project schedule helps you estimate the time and resources you need to deliver a project, so you can plan accordingly.
In monday.com, you can add a numbers column to your board to track budgets:
You can also add additional columns to track actual expenses. So as the project progresses, it’s easy to see how much you’re spending and quickly identify it there might be budget issues.
Identify bottlenecksA project schedule can help you identify bottlenecks. If you see that tasks are overdue, you can catch issues early on and adjust timelines or allocate more resources. With project management software, you can set deadlines and receive notifications if anything gets delayed.
Here’s how you can set deadlines in monday.com to stay on track:
By catching potential issues early, you can take steps to address them before they lead to further delays.
How do you create a project schedule?
Putting together a project schedule isn’t always easy, especially for larger projects. Follow these steps to get started.
#1. Define the project scope
A project scope details exactly what a client gets (and what they don’t). This is where you’ll define project deliverables, tasks, technical requirements, and acceptance criteria.
The purpose of a project scope is to ensure everyone on the team has a clear understanding of what the project entails. A project scope also sets clear expectations for the client as well as limits the kind of requests they can make.
For example, let’s say you’re developing a mobile app for a client. Will you build an app for Android or iOS devices? What version will it be compatible with? A project scope answers these questions and more.
#2. List the project tasks
A project schedule is often used in conjunction with a work breakdown structure — a system of breaking down a large project into smaller and more manageable steps.
Let’s use the example of developing a mobile app again. You can break that project down into the following tasks:
- Create a mock-up
- Create a UI/UX design
- Build the back end
- Design the graphics
- Conduct usability tests
- Submit to the App Store
Use a project management platform like monday.com to track and organize your tasks from one place.
#3. Identify task dependencies
Task dependencies occur when a task depends on another.
A common task dependency is finish-to-start, which means that a task must be completed before another can start. For example, you can’t put an engine into a car until after the frame is assembled.
Identifying task dependencies is crucial for building your project schedule. It also allows you to calculate the critical path — the longest sequence of activities from start to finish.
Here’s how you can set task dependencies in monday.com:
Setting dependencies allows you to view the relationship between tasks. You can then switch to a Gantt chart for a bird’s eye view of all project tasks and their timelines.
From here, you get real-time updates as the project progresses.
#4. Set project milestones
A project milestone is a key checkpoint along a project’s timeline. Keeping track of these milestones is a great way to monitor progress.
Examples of project milestones can include:
- Releasing product samples
- Obtaining patent approvals
- Reaching the testing phase
- Getting funding from an investor
Look through your project schedule and identify any key moments where you can add a project milestone. Then add them in and make them visible, so everyone on the team can see them.
#5. Assign the tasks
Don’t expect your team to know what they’re supposed to do. The next step to creating your project schedule is to assign tasks and ensure your team knows their responsibilities.
Here’s what assigning tasks looks like in monday.com:
You can also select multiple people or even entire teams. Whoever you select will receive a notification when you assign a task.
#6. Monitor, evaluate, and adjust the project schedule
In a perfect world, your projects would run smoothly without any hiccups. Unfortunately, things don’t always go according to plan, so it’s important to monitor the project schedule.
Dashboards in monday.com give you a high-level view of everything going on in one place.
From here, you can keep track of project timelines and identify potential bottlenecks. If anything starts to fall behind, you can evaluate and adjust the schedule.
Keep a detailed project log as any insights you gain can also be applied to future projects.
How monday.com helps you create a project schedule
Project schedules allow you to track tasks and monitor progress. But creating them with calendars or spreadsheets isn’t exactly practical — they make it difficult to manage individual phases and they can lead to miscommunication when things aren’t updated.
monday.com is a highly flexible Work OS that makes it easier to create project schedules. You can add tasks, track timelines, collaborate in real-time, and share files from one centralized workspace.
Here’s a look at how Ben Allen from EQC IT uses monday.com to manage schedules for multiple projects:
Read this customer story to see how Allen uses this board to stay on top of his work and to try it out yourself.
Scheduling is one of the more difficult aspects of a project.
It involves careful planning and execution to ensure projects are delivered on time and within budget. Using project management software is a must to keep everything organized.