What is Time Management ?

Time management refers to the process of effectively planning, scheduling, and controlling (adjusting) the time-related aspects of a project. It involves identifying and estimating the time required for various tasks, creating a project schedule, and monitoring progress to ensure that the project is completed within the defined timeline.

It encompasses several key activities. First, it involves breaking down the project into smaller tasks or activities and estimating the time needed to complete each one. This estimation considers factors such as the complexity of the task, available resources, and any dependencies or constraints. The estimated durations are then organized and sequenced to create a project schedule, which outlines the start and end dates for each task or activity.

Once the project is underway, project time management involves tracking the actual progress of tasks or activities and comparing it against the planned schedule. This allows for the identification of any deviations or delays and enables timely corrective actions to bring the project back on track. It may involve adjusting the schedule, reallocating resources, or revising task priorities.

Quite a mouthful and understandably makes you wonder if you should really be doing all that. Fortunately, the actions suggested by the above by-the-book approach are way simpler.

Why do we manage it ?

Mismanaging time is something every individual is acquainted with. In the context of a project however, the effects can spell disaster. Here are the top things that keep project managers awake at night:

Rushing: it's nice when you start studying for a test a week in advance, so you're not cramming the night before. Do you want last-minute panic and stress? Because rushing is how you get last-minute panic and stress.

Late Deliveries: proper time management is akin to setting your alarm to ensure you wake up early to catch the bus on time. If you properly estimated a task or an activity, the next step is to start it on time. Your precise estimations are only useful if you can actually start working on time.

Wasted Time: what if you’re super proud of what your team has accomplished, only to find out you delivered something that wasn’t really in the scope ? Now you’re stuck with 3 missing weeks from the project schedule.

Burnout: good time management can prevent your team from overworking. The “Crunch” is happening when a deadline is fast approaching and there simply isn’t enough time to deliver what you’re supposed to. Thus: overtime. And later: burnout.

Unfinished Tasks: when time is managed properly, all tasks get the attention they need at the right time, and nothing is left undone. When things are rushed, tasks that were “pretty important” suddenly become optional. And that is how a project under-delivers.

Unproductive Multitasking: good time management includes focusing on one task at a time, which increases productivity. Here’s a head scratcher: if you have 3 tasks each lasting one hour, if you multitask in one minute intervals, they will all be finished at 2:58, 2:59, 3:00. However, if you do them sequentially, only the 3rd task will be done at 3:00, because the 1st task will be done at 1:00 and the 2nd task will be done at 2:00. How does multitasking help, exactly ?

How does Graceful Efforts do it ?

The project timeline is defined along with the project itself. A planned start and a planned finish will create a horizontal time graph. On it, each Stage will show up like the bars of a Gantt chart.

We don’t use Gantt charts however, since it was mostly a visualization tool rather than a management tool. The difference between visualization and management is.. taking action.

The time chart will show the current Stage in red, since that is what the team is focusing on.

You can name the stages of the project whatever makes sense. By default, we’ll call them “Stages”, but they can just as well be “Sprints” or “Months” or “Weeks”.

The stages have the following attributes, just so you can make them do their job and connect to the other dimensions of the project:

Name: as simple as it gets.

Duration: each Stage has a planned start and a planned finish. They’re “planned” because there is a huge difference between what we plan and what we do. We should keep in mind that these dates are only happening under ideal conditions.

Description: this is where you give your project team hints about what you want to accomplish in this time period. These hints help people focus on what the Stage should achieve.

There is a Visual section, which again uses a chart that looks like a Gantt but really isn’t a Gantt chart. You can see the duration of all the Work Packages in the stage (if this setting is enabled for the project), and the duration of all the Deliverables in this Stage.

Next, we have a Work Load section, where you can see how many hours per day each team member is supposed to work on this project, how much total effort is expected of them (something like 10 hours, for example), and how much effort they actually put in – how many work hours they logged against Tasks in this Stage.

This section is meant to tell everyone – at a glance – whether the amount of work for this Stage is realistic for each team member, or whether someone is really swamped up in Tasks.

Finally, the Stage Plan section will show everything that has a time component which is due during this Stage. This includes Tasks, Deliverables, Work Packages, Milestones and Collection Items. You will see a chronological list of “things that should happen”, which in effect make up the Stage Plan. You don’t have to build this separately, it will simply emerge from every little thing that you choose to track.


The single most important benefit of working with Stages (or splitting the project duration into segments which you can call whatever makes sense) is that you can focus your team. Yes, the project might last 8 months, but that doesn’t answer the question: “What should I be working on, today ?”. Marking a Stage as the current stage focuses all the team’s attention on the Tasks and Deliverables in this Stage.

Second, no time, effort and resources are wasted trying to deliver something ahead of its time. It’s no good if you build a great website today (and be proud you did it ahead of time), only to find out the customer wants a 3D aesthetic later, after some more requirements surface.


By splitting the project duration into Stages, we can also focus our reports on the current stage. It’s no secret the key to successful project delivery is to focus all your resources on small bits. Since our Stage could be “Calendar Week 21”, the only Deliverables we should include in our report are things that we planned to deliver then.

The project Progress report will compute the current Stage’s Deliverables, Milestones, Costs and Expenses. This way, you can compare upwards with the statistics of the project as a whole, or downwards, with the statistics of Work Packages.

Best practices

Ideally, Stages should not overlap. But reality is often not ideal, so Graceful Efforts allows Stages to overlap to account for things that your team wants or needs to do either at the start of a Stage or at the end of it. You should, however, strive to have a very clear separation between Stages.

Describe each Stage so that the team can understand what they should be focusing on during this week, month or quarter.

There are two ways to think about Stages:

Calendar: you split the project duration into weeks, months or years. Simple and intuitive.

Specialized: each industry has its own way of doing things, so sometimes we need “Legal stuff” to happen first, or maybe “Gather requirements”. These industry-specific stages vary in length, so the Stages end up lasting various amounts of time.

There is no best way to split the project duration – do what makes the most sense for your team and your industry.


Splitting the project into Stages mainly helps the team focus their effort. In Graceful Efforts, you can have 10 parallel Stages that last the whole duration of the project, but it won’t help very much. Indeed, for shorter projects it might be worth it to create a single Stage that lasts as long as the project, and then simply neglect the time management aspect.

You should remember that time management should serve your team, not the other way around.