A project management calendar can be great for capturing all the client madness and putting it in one place. But if you don’t set up your calendar correctly, managing the calendar can become a job in itself! Over the last decade of project management, I’ve used a variety of different calendars and even relied on post-it-notes and a whiteboard at one point to track project deliverables.
Today, most project management software programs come with a built-in calendar to make the process even easier. But as I know all too well, just because a calendar exists, that’s no guarantee it will make your project life more organized.
If you’re struggling to keep on top of multiple deadlines and deliverables, your calendar may be to blame. Here are my three go-to secrets for making project management calendars easier to use and more effective for everyone on the team.
#1: Set up calendar reminders for milestones.
It’s not enough to just mark the deliverables on your calendar. Break down each deliverable into key milestones and set up calendar notifications that alert you and your team members to upcoming due dates. Using notifications keeps everyone on the same page and focused on the right stage of the project. Even better, these notifications take care of reminding team members about upcoming deadlines so you don’t have to sound like a ”Nagging Nelly” as you remind folks around the upcoming deadline for the 10th time in one day.
#2: Adjust the calendar as you go.
Let’s say it’s week three and you’re deep in the middle of phase one of the project, even though according to your project plan (and calendar), you should have already started phase two. Don’t assume you’ll magically get back on track. Start making adjustments to your schedule now. This is why you have a project calendar!
Take a look and see if there are places where you’ve budgeted extra time that you can re-direct towards the earlier phases. Adjust the project milestones and status reminders accordingly. Otherwise, all those status reminders will be pretty useless if they’re alerting you to an upcoming project event that’s scheduled for tomorrow, but now won’t take place for another month.
#3: Build in an escalation strategy.
For many projects, scope creep is inevitable. If you’ve worked with a client before and know they’re likely to ask for the moon (and expect to get it), use this information to your advantage. Build extra time into your project calendar to address potential delays caused by project escalation. Even if it’s just a reminder you put on the calendar every week to assess the timeline and discuss project scope with the client, it’s better to have regular status conversations than to wait until the last minute to make changes. To be forewarned is to be forearmed!
You can’t avoid all client problems, but by building expectations for additional work into the current project management calendar, you can start planning for these issues from day one.
Erin M is a freelance writer available for projects at WriterAccess.