When you’re building out a project calendar, it takes a good amount of planning, attention to detail, and organization.
Although project calendars can exist in many different formats and complexities, they share a common purpose. These calendars bring method to your project management and act as a single document to showcase applicable tasks and deadlines. One communal calendar also allows all colleagues easy access to their individual tasks and provides transparency into the project management timeline.
Why Create a Project Calendar?
It’s obvious that project calendars make it easier to stay organized, but what other benefits do these documents present? Luckily, there are a wealth of compelling reasons to create a comprehensive project calendar:
* Accountability: As mentioned above, project calendars allow the group transparency into the different tasks along the path to project completion and their due dates. Since everyone will be able to view this calendar and know what’s supposed to get done and when, individuals will be more likely to hold themselves accountable to staying on track.
* Goal orientation: While the details of any individual project are important, it’s endlessly important to stay focused on the overarching goal that you’re looking to achieve. It can be easy to get lost in the details, but when you have them all mapped out in plain sight, it’s easier to figure out how they fit into the bigger picture and whether or not they truly act as a stepping stone towards your end goal.
* Clarity: In short, project calendars make it easy to determine what tasks are done, what’s still outstanding, when deadlines are, and what’s on the docket on the road to completing a project. A project calendar acts as a central hub for everyone working towards a common goal.
How to Create a Project Calendar: Tips & Tricks
Now that you have a solid understanding of what a project calendar is and why they’re useful, it’s time to learn how to create a project calendar to set yourself up for success! Use the below tips to create a calendar that will increase transparency and efficiency.
Tip #1: Start With a Blank Canvas
The first step towards creating a useful project calendar is to start with a simple and blank canvas. Use an electronic calendar that is easy for everyone on the team to gain access to. While you surely want this calendar to be both aesthetically pleasing and engaging, you don’t want it to be over-complicated.
Tip #2: Be Thoughtful About Deadlines
Building out deadlines can be tricky as you’re organizing your project calendar, but these are items you’ll want to be thoughtful about. Besides deciding on a system for time allotments among different tasks (which we address further below), you should work backwards from milestones to determine when individual tasks need to be done.
It’s wise to pad due dates with “buffer time” between when you schedule something to be completed and when it actually needs to be done. This leaves some wiggle room in case team members run late, if issues arise, or if further clarification is needed on a task before it can be completed. This also grants project managers more time to refine work that’s been done or to request revisions.
Tip #3: Develop a System
You don’t want deadlines and the overall timelines you use on your project calendar to be arbitrary. Instead, there should be some kind of system, dividing types of tasks into different buckets and determining the standard amount of time that should be allotted for each. To aid in organization, also decide on a color-coding system. Decipher whether colors will be assigned by person or by task type and keep this coloring system consistent.
Tip #4: Incorporate Status Icons
Adding status icons to tasks and milestones that exist within your project calendar give it a better at-a-glance view to understand how successful and effective the team’s efforts are at any given moment in working towards a goal. These icons should be simple yet easy to understand. Check marks can denote a completed task whereas a question mark may signify an in-process task that requires more information.
Tip #5: Include Key Resources
Using a shared electronic calendar allows project managers the luxury of including key resources for any project to exist in one central location. Create tasks so that they can be expanded, where more in-depth information exists to help team members complete that particular task. This diminishes the need for individuals to waste time searching their email or asking others for the information they need to get their work done.
To take this tutorial past these basic tips, we’re delving into how to create two specific types of project calendars below: editorial and marketing.
How to Create an Editorial Calendar
Creating any project management calendar may seem like a daunting task, and developing an editorial calendar is no exception! According to recent research published by Zazzle Media, while 79 percent of marketers believe content marketing is effective, a mere six percent cited that they know how to implement it.
Effective content revolves around implementing a well-thought out strategy, and putting that into action is nearly impossible without a plan. Follow this tutorial to create your calendar in order to keep your team and content better organized and completely streamlined.
First, ensure that you are including all the necessary components on your editorial calendar. These include the following:
* Content titles: Add approved content titles to your editorial calendar, posted on the date that they are scheduled to be published. These “events” on the calendar should include items such as the title of the individual piece, what “type” of content it is (for instance, a blog post, article, or email blast), and the applicable due dates for creation. An editorial calendar serves as a useful resource that tracks content past, present, and future.
* Responsible parties: Those responsible for writing, editing, designing, and approving content should be included in the calendar. List responsible parties in individual calendar events as well as their role in each item so that there’s no question who is responsible for what.
* Additional activities and tasks: Besides including the actual titles of what will be published, decide what other activities will be included on your editorial calendars. There is so much that goes into the creation of even one piece of content, so you may want to include calendar items for meetings, editing, research, drafting, or promotion. Include as much or as little as you feel is necessary. These items can be imbedded into an overarching calendar event or you may choose to list them individually.
* Shortcuts: When you’re producing content, chances are that you have a range of important documents and resources that aid in its creation. This may include reference documents, a place to store content ideas, client information, and so on. While these resources may not be an actual line item on your calendar, incorporated into individual tasks or events, they should be linked for easy access, making your editorial calendar even more valuable.
Next up is how to actually build out your editorial calendar, creating deadlines and timelines. Content is meant to be read by an audience! The most important thing to consider in scheduling content is your audience. Use the following questions to complete this important step:
* Are there upcoming events that may affect their action or that should be considered in the timeliness of content?
* What is the most relevant content for the target audience and is there any time in particular that would make certain pieces more engaging to readers?
* Are there any industry-specific topics or is there any relevant news that should be considered in the scheduling of content?
* What is the pattern of the content strategy and how can that be used to add variety to the publishing schedule?
Once you’ve used these guidelines to create your editorial calendar, you’ll want to review it at least once on a weekly basis. Ensure someone is responsible for holding key players accountable for completing tasks. Refine your calendar as needed, be flexible in publishing dates, and pad deadlines with buffer time to set your calendar up for success.
How to Create a Marketing Calendar
Another commonly created type of project calendar centers around marketing. This tool will assist in launching marketing vehicles, acting as a blueprint for effective messaging and identifying communication channels. Since marketing encompasses so many different components, a calendar ensures that nothing is forgotten or overlooked, including the following items:
* Staffing and responsible parties
* Communication channels
* Overarching campaign goals
* Milestones and due dates
* Key resources
* Various messaging methods
Building your marketing calendar is likely to be easier than you anticipate. Follow the steps below to create one from scratch:
* Choose a template: Decide what type of tool you’ll be using to create your calendar. You may want to use a Google Sheet, a blank calendar, or a specific project management tool. Gryffin has many templates to get started for marketing campaigns.
* Identify important dates: The first order of business once you choose your actual calendar format is to mark important dates. These should include major holidays, holidays and events pertinent to your campaign, important deadlines, and large marketing events that your campaign will be putting into action.
* Work backwards: Once you have a solid sense of the most important dates for your campaign, you’ll be able to strategically work backwards and identify where and when efforts are needed. Develop deadlines for promotion and content creation, all laid out on your calendar, also identifying within line items who the responsible parties for each task are.
* Categorize: In marketing, there’s typically a wide range of categories that exist to separate different campaign efforts. Categorize calendar events accordingly. For instance, you may want assign different colors to scheduled social media promotions, email marketing efforts, actual events, public relations and media relations items, and scheduled content pieces. This will give you a solid at-a-glance view of how often you have efforts scheduled and how evenly spaced they are. You’ll be able to easily identify when you need to ramp up efforts and what categories are lacking. This will also provide a good idea of busier times (for instance, around certain holidays) in order to better plan for staffing needs. Alternatively, you may want to categorize by theme or message.
As with any project calendar, your marketing calendar will require both flexibility and refining as time goes on. Take and apply the feedback of calendar users to make the tool as efficient and useful as possible for all involved. A marketing calendar should be the pillar of stability for your team to turn to in a somewhat chaotic industry, but remember that it’s also a tool that will evolve as time goes on.
Creating project calendars may take a good deal of thought and are a bit of a time investment up front, but they’re invaluable tools when it comes to prioritizing, monitoring deadlines, and keeping the overarching goals of a project on the forefront of everyone’s mind. Use these tips to create a successful project calendar and to increase the productivity of your team.