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Create A Schedule

Before reading this page please read or re-familiarise yourself with the Prioritise page.

A Schedule Frees the Mind

For all but the simplest of problems, managing all the tasks in one's head is challenging. Add to that all the day-to-day activity and very quickly most people are overwhelmed, sometimes without even knowing it. It is not to say that it cannot be done in someone's head, but dealing with all of life's constant urgencies can be very distracting. A healthy human mind has trouble dealing with more than seven things at a time, full stop! Know and accept your limitations, and plan around these limitations.

What is a Schedule?

A schedule is the written form of a problem solving plan, that is getting the problem (the issue) from its current state to its planned new state and involves breaking the problem into parts. Having a written version crystallises the problem solver's thoughts and allows them to refer back to something quickly after a distraction, thus quickly regaining their focus. Also, individual tasks can drive someone's thinking so deep that they cannot see the other tasks in perspective until they 'climb' their thoughts out of the 'hole' they are in, into the open, to see the whole map of all tasks and how they relate. The schedule can also be shared with others thus having multiple people each with a clear understanding.

Creating a Schedule

Time needs to be set aside away from distractions. Leave the house/work/school and go to a private area with a pen and paper. Don't take a computer as it can be distracting, things can be typed up later.

 

Make a Generic List by itemising the tasks with a short description. Ensure that the tasks are small enough to manage easily and not too big that they span a lot of time and concepts. Draw pictures and diagrams if that helps the process. Draw a box with a big question mark in it for those tasks that cannot be thought through yet. Each task ideally needs to be performed in a short period of time (which is up to an individual's taste) so that they don't get bored, frustrated, or distracted by other tasks.

The Schedule's Order and Dependencies

Next, think about the priority and thus the sequence. Which items need to be done before the others? What can be done at the same time (parallel)? Consider the timing for the start, completion and duration. Write a sequence number next to each short description, and if tasks can be performed side-by-side then they can share the same number.

Add the Schedule's Detail

Lastly, add a detailed description, the resources required (like a computer, shovel, frying pan, friend, expert, shopkeeper, etc), and the people who will perform the tasks (either the problem solver, a team member, a group, or an outside group). Also add the costs, starting conditions and importantly the completion conditions (the success criteria). There is no point starting a task without knowing all this information.

 

Professional problem solvers like business analysts and project managers use tools and methods like drawing packages, use-case descriptions, word processors, spreadsheets, project management software and more. These tools are not necessary to begin with and can always be used later - just get used to the basics by hand as it is a better grounding.

Socialise the Schedule

If others will be involved in performing the work outlined by the schedule then it is prudent to share it strategically with those people. Getting everyone together in a room to review the schedule can undercover potential issues. Resolving any issues now will save a lot of time and money down the track.

 

Socialising the schedule also allow it to be executed more smoothly as those involved will understand it more clearly.

 

Sample Schedule

Sample Schedule

 

Sample Gantt Chart

GANTT

 

A Gantt chart combines the schedule with a graphical view of the timeline and dependencies. I would not be too concerned with Gantt charts unless you are a professional. Just be aware of them for now.