PMP® Exam Review: The 7 Steps of Project Time Management
We are constantly under scrutiny to work efficiently. We are told that working efficiently is a key to success. However, do you ever undergo training for managing time efficiently?
Most of us have learned from experience this is one of those ideals that are preached, but the practice comes from personal study, trial and error.
The Project Management Institute strongly emphasizes proper time management. They devoted an entire chapter of their Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification training textbook it. They also do not only teach time management as something that can only be used to pass the certification exam, but a key concept, that if vigorously practiced, can help you with everything from tasks at home to scheduling employees and even large scale projects at work.
PMP® does an excellent job of breaking down time management into steps. They emphasize that time management is extraordinarily difficult concept to master and although you may be able to improve your time management skills by following this process, you will need to continually work at time management to perfect it. Time management is a difficult skill to master in large part due to its dependence on the task at hand.
You can be excellent at managing your time and planning out steps to achieve a goal for a project, but when a manager decides it is best for the team to pivot their scope, the entire project is then pivoted.
To help deal with hiccups like this, PMI® has a seven step process to help minimize lost time and maximize the amount of time it will take you to deal with hiccups along the way by planning for them before they happen.
For the purpose of this blog post, let’s assume efficiency and time management are interchangeable terms. After all, if you can master time management, you will be operating with extreme, if not maximum efficiency.
1. Plan Schedule Management
This step earns its name from its byproduct. Plan Schedule Management is the first process in time management. The purpose of this step is exactly as its name suggests; plan how the remaining steps in this time management process will be completed.
This step is the first in the time management process because it creates a guide that will help you stay on track through the duration of your project and it allows you to refer to at any time during your project to ensure you remain on pace.
2. Define Activities
The process of Defining Activities allows you to create activity lists by breaking down each step created during Plan Schedule Management. Analyzing the byproducts of the Plan Schedule Management step gives you the activities that must be completed to move on to the next step.
By defining these activities and then defining how long each activity will take, you will be more focused to stay on track through the duration of the project.
Once you have completed this process, you will be left with valuable data, such as an activity and milestone.
3. Sequence Activities
The Sequence Activities process is the time when you take the activity list with the defined activities process and place these activities in a sequential order. This step allows you to see which activities depend on others and how the interaction impacts the overall project.
After this process concludes, you should have a Project Schedule Network Diagram, which helps you manage tasks necessary to complete simultaneously or in rigid order.
4-5. Estimate Activity Resources and Estimate Activity Durations
I chose to combine these two steps of time management due to their dependency on one another.
It is impossible to complete any task if you do not have the resources to do so. This step focuses on taking the tasks you created in the activity list and analyzing them to find out what resources are necessary.
This step not only shows you what resources are crucial to the completion of your project, but it gives you a timeframe regarding how long it will take you to acquire the resources you do not currently have.
Once this stage of time management is completed you will know what documents need to be updated on your list of activities in regards to how much time each will take to complete.
6. Develop Schedule
Whether it is determining employee hours and payroll or breaking down a website redesign, one of the most crucial and painstakingly complex steps in a major project is creating the schedule for yourself and the rest of the personnel involved in the project.
This is due to the transparency of the actual schedule that is being created. Everyone involved will see what you have planned for them and their counterparts. For a project to go smoothly, everyone needs to be placed in a position where they can strive and work needs to be distributed relatively evenly so that no one burns out halfway through the project, while others complete all of their tasks early and become stagnant.
Analyze your project team members’ strengths and weaknesses compared to the tasks and resources to determine where everyone belongs. Once this step is completed you may begin your project.
7. Control Schedule
The control schedule is the final step in project and time management. Control schedule is the process of managing the schedule that you developed and ensuring that you update every task and resource as you see fit. This step will live throughout the life of your project from inception of the schedule until the completion of the project.
Following each of these steps within the time management process may take a lot of effort, analysis, and constant updates. However, if you put the effort in before the project starts, you can save time and stress throughout the project entirety.