Do your work days sometimes leave you feeling like you’re in the Wild West, where chaos reigns? Here are a few signs: Work is siloed and uncoordinated. Pieces of projects don’t connect, and deadlines are frequently missed. You have little to no visibility into your team’s workloads, leading to duplication of work because of miscommunication. The good news is that many of these problems can be solved through the use of a project calendar.
First, rest assured that you’re not alone in your struggles. Data from the 2019 Pulse of the Profession survey show organizations wasted almost 12 percent of their investment in project spend last year due to poor performance. Project management can help put you back on solid ground, turning chaos into order.
Even better, you can tame your wild work day by incorporating a project calendar—a critical part of the project management process that will cut back on wasted time and resources. Whether you’re bringing together all your pieces for a content lineup, an event roadmap, or a product launch, you’ll feel like the sheriff in town when you know what’s already happened and what’s coming up next in your project.
A project calendar takes all the pieces of your work and puts them together in a central, visual location that the entire team can access. It gives you a bird’s-eye view of the overall project schedule so you can see when different pieces are due. And, it helps individual contributors plan ahead and organize work around their most crucial projects. With a solid project planning calendar in place, you’ll stay informed and know exactly what you are doing today, next week, and beyond. And because your team has access to it, too, everyone can easily see what needs to be completed now and what’s around the corner.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a project calendar? Do you think of an Excel spreadsheet, formatted to look like a calendar? Does your mind go to a calendar management system like Google Calendar? Or maybe you think outside the box, and imagine a calendar in a project management tool.
There are various ways to build a project calendar, and part of your job as the project manager (even if that’s not your official title) is to find a system that works for your team. Here’s a quick preview of the pros and cons of the three main ways to create a project calendar:
Possibly the most traditional way to create a project calendar is to build it in Excel. In this spreadsheet-style project calendar, you modify Excel’s rows and columns to look like a traditional monthly calendar.
Another way to build a project calendar is to do so within your team’s calendar management system, like Google Calendar. In this type of project calendar, you use calendar events to represent upcoming work.
Project management tools are built with robust functionality to help you and your team coordinate and execute your most ambitious projects. With a project management tool, your team has multiple ways to visualize the project, like calendars, Kanban boards, and timelines.
Let’s get started! We recommend using a project management tool to build your project planning calendars. With a project management tool, you’ll gain a host of valuable abilities, allowing you to:
Okay, let’s get back to creating your actual calendar. Here are the concrete actions you’ll want to take:
Share your project calendar with stakeholders once it’s created so everyone is aligned and understands what’s expected of them in the days, weeks, or months to come. Encourage your team to use the project calendar every day to communicate their progress and share documents.
As with all business tools, there are best practices for using a project calendar. Here are a few tips to help you manage your project calendar more effectively:
Project calendars are infinitely variable to suit any project. That flexibility is a big part of their appeal. But they’re also reusable; if you have a project type that tends to repeat itself, you can build out a project calendar template that you can use again, saving time down the road.
Here are some examples of project calendars:
An editorial project calendar works to keep content production on track by managing all content in one place and putting important dates and deadlines in a visual format. Tasks and due dates are easily accessible. Assign tasks to stakeholders (writers, editors, designers, and even publishers) and allocate targeted publish dates to each article so you know what’s coming out next and when. Master your entire content plan with this template.
Whether your marketing project is around an upcoming event or campaign launch, a project calendar is vital to its success. Effective project management, through a project calendar, allows marketing professionals to centralize communication, collaborate, and create repeatable processes. Map out your marketing plan, including dates, owners, and types of initiatives (whether PR, social media, etc.). Change is constant in the marketing world, and that means pushing out deadlines quickly and adjusting dates to keep your marketing plan updated. Use a template to create clarity and accountability across the entire marketing team.
Create and update your product roadmap in one central location: your project calendar. Here you can communicate timeline and strategy while keeping track of multiple product lines in one place. You’ll also be able to share your roadmap to get feedback and buy-in. Always have a clear view of your business and product priorities with this project calendar template.
It’s a wise person who uses tools to their best advantage. A project calendar is just one simple way you can make your daily work run smoother and more efficiently. Check out how Redshift by Autodesk has grown 30% annually for three straight years thanks to managing their editorial content and using project calendars in Asana.
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