Set the rest of your day up for success and be able to solve any problems.
- In order to make your schedule work, it's important to remember the cast of characters that exist. There's you, your team, your vendors, your clients, and your life. To create a balance, it's important to remember the word flow and workflow. Before doing any actual scheduling, visualize the flow of a project from end to end. Take into account all the parties who need to be involved and at what time and space each will need to do their part and contribute. Pay attention to the particular type of job you're doing so you can build an incidental cushion that that type of job may require on a regular basis.
For example, on a web project, time is often needed to populate some if not all of the site with live content. That seldom tends to go without discovering there's some content missing or an area of the site that wasn't developed the way it needs to be. Allowing some space for that sort of thing will help the overall flow when unexpected things come up. Do your best to plan for those occurrences and be ready to shift. The next part of the flow is thinking about who is working on what. Every member on your team works at a different pace and has a different level of experience.
Be careful not to always put the same people on certain projects simply because it's the easiest and smoothest way. Scheduling can also be a tool to help employees grow, stay engaged, give breaks to you, and provide leadership opportunities. It's often tempting to avoid putting someone in a project that you know will need more time or require more help because of their lack of experience. It's important to spread out the opportunities to help your team grow and improve. Every team tends to have a go-to person so be conscious of that and don't fall into the easy trap.
Create variety for yourself and others. Trust me, it pays off in the long run. Vendors have their own unique scheduling requirements to perform the tasks we are asking of them. Whether it's printing a project, getting us information, delivering something to our office, or processing a payment, have a conversation with them and find out what time they ideally like for each step and see if that works with your deadline. If so, great. The main part of a balanced workflow is clear communication about expectations on both sides and sharing the schedule with one another.
Stress that if anything comes up for either of you, a call or meeting will be scheduled to resolve the issue ASAP. The more you get to know certain vendors, the more you'll be able to get a feel of how much time they will need and understand their style of communication. This all goes into the formula when you're working out the schedule. Although vendors are most often performing a service for you, the spirit of collaboration will win more times than not. Understanding the pressures and expectations your clients have is always in my opinion the most challenging part of scheduling.
But it also your greatest opportunity to educate a client on why certain projects take a certain amount of time. No matter the project, I always think it's good to explain what you're doing and why it's important. Future projects will go smoother and will highlight for your client why it's vital for them to respond in a timely manner. We tell our clients that missing a deadline will add two days to the end of their project. That motivates them to pay a bit more attention to the project at hand, especially if there's a tight deadline on their end. Since you're here to serve your clients, how you manage the schedule is often the key memory from a project outside of the deliverable.
When your clients feel taken care of, listened to, and confident that the project is being managed well, they are that much more likely to come back to you for additional projects. Too often we forget to include our time out of the office in our schedules. Why is that? Perhaps we only think of the schedule as being about optimizing profit. I think it should be about optimizing time so we can enjoy ourselves outside of work. You or your team shouldn't reschedule a vacation or an important life event until you go back and check to see if you can reschedule a project.
More times than not, everyone will be cool with it and appreciates the conversation. I bring this point up because I've talked to too many people who become servants to their schedule versus being empowered to alter it when necessary. Of course, it doesn't always work out the way you hope. But at least try to schedule around things that are important to you and your team. Having this dialogue and openness goes a long way in company culture and also highlights that you value bigger things than just your work.
- Creating a balanced workflow
- Increasing productivity around tight timelines
- Delivering bad news early
- Determining when you are most creative
- Daily habits that help you win
- Working with easily distracted employees and team members
- Bringing clients into the schedule