Most projects comprise many different tasks, both large and small. Keeping track of those tasks is the main role of a project manager. Sometimes everything runs smoothly without complexities, and other times, some tasks may depend on other tasks, which can complicate things.
One of the biggest challenges for project managers is managing their team's workload and time, regardless of their management style. Almost three-quarters of employees are overbooked in a month, with 26% claiming it happens regularly. The main reasons? No insight into staff availability and tasks taking longer than expected.
If you want to prevent burnout in your team, you'll need to master the art of task scheduling. This guide will walk you through how to schedule and manage projects. ✅
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What does task scheduling mean?
Task scheduling is the list of activities and deliverables within a project. It usually includes a planned start date, duration, status, and the resources assigned to a task.
It's the first step in successful resource management. You start by outlining all tasks needed to complete the project and how long they should take. Then you decide which resources will complete which tasks and when the task is expected to be completed.
Scheduling tasks to resources is a critical part of project planning and resource management. It's a juggling act of anticipating resource needs, managing employee requests, and ensuring projects are done on time.
Task scheduling benefits project managers in two key ways:
- Projects are transparent to resources. They understand their responsibilities and impact on the larger project.
- Stakeholders have a clear understanding of the timeline. This workflow ensures that the project is set up for success and completed on time, therefore saving the business potential wasted working hours.
It also ensures that employees are never confused by due dates and that all task workloads for your team are fairly managed. Task scheduling can create a "good jobs environment" where job quality is high, and workers are satisfied with their jobs. Research shows that employers who offer "good jobs"—higher wages, better hours, and more predictable schedules—reap the financial rewards and get a leg up on the competition.
You can use task scheduling to:
🔍 Keep project timeline and responsibilities transparent.
🤹♀️ Allow the project manager to be flexible and redistribute a task if needed.
✅ Maximize the quality of each task and overall project.
😅 Keep the focus on the current instead of getting bogged down by future tasks.
🌊 Keep the project moving, even if a roadblock is encountered.
⏰ Give stakeholders a realistic timeline and insight into working hours.
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Seven tips for scheduling employee tasks
Your project has been divided into goals, milestones are set, and now your tasks are ready to be assigned. What's the best way to schedule out employee tasks?
- Assign tasks based on availability
- Prioritize tasks
- Have employees track their time
- Be an open book
- Plan around employee time off
- Have staff confirm their schedules
- Give staff their own flexibility
- Assign tasks based on availability
1. Assign tasks based on availability
As your project moves along, new tasks will be added. You'll have to allocate that work, but you may not know to who. If there's a deadline approaching, your first choice should be the person with the smallest workload.
If you overwhelm a busy teammate just because they have better skills or you trust them more, it puts needless pressure on them. This can quickly lead to frustration, lower productivity, and worse results. With a resource scheduling tool like Float, you can visualize your team's workload and spot those who have free space.
In Float, you can view your team's capacity by person or project. Using the people view, you can see all your full-time or part-time employees, contractors, and other resources. This helps you understand how many working hours you have to dedicate to a project. Using the people view to redistribute tasks is also a huge help if one resource falls short of deadlines.
Whether you're working in agile or waterfall, the project view is a helpful tool. You can learn when your team will finish tasks and keep track of different tasks within a specific project.
Using Float, you can schedule tasks and time off with a single click. Simply set the hours, duration, and project name to assign a task to your employee.
You can also schedule repeat tasks, time off, or a status to save time. For example, if everyone gets half-day Fridays for the summer, you can schedule it in advance and plan projects around the time off.
2. Prioritize tasks
Prioritizing is all about aligning tasks with stakeholders, then listing your tasks in sequential order. Any task that could cause a roadblock if not completed in sequential order is an automatic high priority.
Prioritization also depends on the stakeholder. If they determine a task is vital and you agree, it is more urgent than others. The goal of prioritizing is to avoid roadblocks that could halt a project's progress and make sure the core tasks of the project are completed on time.
Use your PERT chart or Gantt chart to prioritize tasks based on the order they're due in. Consider any task dependencies—for example: "To send this copy to a client, person A needs to write the copy before person B can proofread."
Float's linked tasks feature makes it easier for project managers and resources to see the relationship between project tasks. Often, a resource won't understand the snowball effect of not finishing their task on time, which causes a roadblock. In your schedule, you can link related tasks to group dependencies on demand. This lets you:
- Automatically shift related tasks when a timeline changes
- Sequentially plan and schedule projects
- See who's working on related tasks quickly
Right-click and select the Link option in your schedule. Then click the task you want to link. A link line will appear when you hover over the schedule. Tasks are linked in pairs, so you can link any tasks that belong to the same project.
Any task you can't link will be grayed out on your schedule.
Prioritizing your tasks ensures your project is set up for success and is roadblock-proof. Float makes it easy for everyone to see how the tasks link to each other and can help mitigate any potential roadblocks due to tunnel vision.
3. Have employees track their time
Time tracking can uncover how long it takes staff to complete tasks. As a project manager, you can learn from past projects and see which resources are faster than others. This helps you better manage your resources and task schedule in the future.
Recent research shows that most team members struggle to get through more than two hours of deep work each day. If you're using a time tracker tool, you can easily see who gets through what and redistribute tasks accurately amongst team members. You can understand which resources fall behind and can pivot if necessary.
Pop-up projects and scope creep? Not anymore. Having employees track time helps you manage resources and forecast capacity. If you don't have the talent for a project, you'll see it right away. With Float, your team can log hours in one click. You can compare estimates with actual hours worked and get a complete picture of your project's progress.
You can also pre-fill timesheets based on your project schedule. Tasks automatically populate in your team's timesheets in Float, and your staff just needs to verify their hours and hit Log to record time.
4. Be an open book
What happens if something takes an employee longer than expected and they can't continue with the rest of their scheduled tasks? Did the deadline change at the last minute? Sometimes it happens! So you need to stay flexible and keep task schedules up to date for the project to continue running smoothly.
Using Float's linked tasks tool, you can quickly shift tasks around and keep track of changes. If you need to move, extend, or reduce the first task, it will automatically shift the second task the same number of days forward or backward.
You can shift timelines in one click, unlike other tools where you manually select each task and move them on your schedule. The link lines between tasks are shown in your projects view of the schedule. This makes it easy to see which tasks are dependent on one another and who's working on related tasks.
5. Plan around employee time off
Team availability and capacity is a critical component of task scheduling. While that might seem like an obvious statement, when you're managing several people's workloads, hours, and different types of time off (e.g., paid leave, carers leave, and public holidays), it's a lot to stay on top of!
Before committing to new work, it's essential to know your team and how many working hours you have available. For example, if you know that one of your team members has urgent deadlines to meet before they go on vacation, you want to ensure that other tasks don't fall onto their plate that might bottleneck their delivery. Your task scheduling plan could also factor in some buffer time before they go on leave, so everyone feels confident with the handover.
Task scheduling should take into account employee time off, including:
- Vacation days
- Sick leave
- Personal time
- Parent leave
- Jury duty
- Voting times
- Time zones
For more than a decade, UI design agency MetaLab has worked with top technology companies, including Uber, Google, and Amazon. The team has over 150 members from 12 countries and across eight time zones. 34% of them work remotely, and one of their top perks is unlimited vacation days. As you can imagine, that's a lot of people's schedules to keep track of!
The operations team used Float as their single source of truth for managing their team's time. Raeesa Bhanji, MetaLab's Operations Coordinator, explains: "Our ops team has to know what 100+ different people are doing at any given time. Not only that, but we also have to know what they might be doing two weeks and three months from now. Float compiles all of that information for us in one place, so we can see a cross section of the entire company in an instant."
Before Float, MetaLab used spreadsheets to plan projects and schedule tasks. It estimates that it would take two or three hours per week to stay updated. A concrete task schedule worked for MetaLab when they were a small team with one resource manager. But as the agency grew, it needed a "less manual process, better reporting, and the ability to plug in tentative projects to look forward to in the upcoming months," said Raeesa.
Since adopting Float, teams have become more productive and accountable. Producers and department leaders have access to the schedule and see what everyone is up to at any time.
"Before requesting a resource," Raeesa says, "producers will look through Float to see who's available and the best fit for the job." The team also uses Float's reporting tools to improve capacity management and make smarter resourcing decisions in the future.
6. Have staff confirm their schedules
Want to avoid slip-ups on your next project? Make sure staff confirms the tasks you give them. Confirmation means they have seen the task and are committed to completing it. It also gives you peace of mind that you aren't scheduling tasks into the void.
In Float, you can label a task as tentative if it's not yet confirmed or let the rest of the team know a task is finished by marking it complete. Resource managers can use this to forecast capacity, budgets, and workloads. Tentative tasks show up as color outlines on your schedule to make it clear a resource hasn't confirmed it yet.
7. Give staff their own flexibility
Give them tasks to complete in a day/week, not by the hour. If you're working in agile, allow your team input into the sprint cadence. If you're using waterfall, assign tasks based on availability.
Give resources longer times to complete the task, even if that means assigning more tasks out. Waterfall is about fully completing each phase before moving on to the next. So if one person doesn't complete a task, the whole project is on hold.
Allow flexibility to account for those roadblocks and, that way, the project won't fall behind. Take in feedback from resources and adjust if necessary. They are playing a major role in making the project successful!
Improving your project management processes
There's no doubt task scheduling is critical to smart project management. It can help execute tasks more efficiently, improve productivity, and reduce employee turnover.
Using a resource management tool like Float, you can create workflows for teams that save time and get more done.
Schedule tasks with the #1 rated resource management software
The world's top teams use Float for their task scheduling. Try it free for 30 days, no credit card required.Try for free