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February 15, 2015

Planning Special Assignments

Managing and planning your time are critical components for handling special assignments. Estimating the amount of time required for each task helps ensure that critical deliverables are completed when required, and the assignment stays on track. shutterstock_81109741

When estimating time, always allow wiggle room for emergencies, meetings, staffing changes, disruptions, sickness, and so on. Check with subject matter experts and vendors to ensure your estimates are accurate.

Start with the due date for the assignment and work backwards, allotting the estimated amount of time for each task and the length of time for each step. Identify milestones and critical dates.

  • Milestones:  These are dates when major parts of the assignment are completed. They allow you to assess the status of the project and identify anything that might affect deadlines for deliverables.
  • Critical dates:  These dates trigger other tasks.
    • Sequential:  Some tasks must be completed before other tasks can begin, so knowing start and completion dates is critical. If these dates slip, other later tasks will be affected, and deadlines may be missed.
    • Overlapping:  Some tasks must occur simultaneously. The challenge here is having the resources to do several things at one time.

An easy tool for this is a Gantt chart, which lets you see what else is occurring at the same time. There are many ways to create a Gantt chart. For example, Microsoft Project makes it easy to track and chart project timelines with a built-in Gantt chart view. Another option is to use Excel. While Excel does not contain a built-in Gantt chart format, you can create a Gantt chart by entering a time line along the x-axis and tasks in the y-axis.

Using a Gantt chart to manage an assignment helps you identify and monitor tasks, identify dependencies and critical paths, and lets you plan for needed resources.



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