Get a Realistic Schedule

Creating a realistic schedule is one of the first things any project manager needs to have in place to insure success going forward. In this video Devin Deen, content direct,, shows you the four steps you’ll need to know to achieve this.

Here’s a shot of the whiteboard for your reference!

estimate for realistic schedule

In Review: Get Real Schedules

In this video, Devin talked about what components are needed when making an accurate schedule for your project. He reminded us that it’s important not to get bogged down in the details, but keep it simple, keep it at a high level, but also make sure you can give business owners and stakeholders an idea of the time frame.

Then, follow these four steps:

• Get a decent estimate by using parametric estimating templates to build your breakdown structure

• Plug the schedule by compartmentalizing and grouping your breakdown structure into different tasks

• Load up the team into your project schedule

• Plan for contingency and make sure to do so at natural breaks in the project

Don’t forget that when the most important two things that influence your scheduling a realistic and accurate project are a good project manager and a great team.

Pro-Tip: When scheduling your project team note the percentage they’re dedicated to your project. For example, if they’re not 100% dedicated to your project plug them into your schedule at 50%. Even if the team member is fully dedicated to the project only schedule them 80%, anything more isn’t realistic, considering they’ll be called away periodically or need downtime.

As Devin pointed out, simplifying is crucial to an accurate schedule. CEO Jason Westland applies this methodology to the larger picture in his article 5 Ways to Simplify Your Project.

Thanks for watching!

Video Transcription

Hi, I’m Devin. Thank you for joining me. Today I’m going to help you get a real schedule. Depending upon where you are in your project life cycle you’ve got a greater or lesser chance at getting a more accurate schedule. For example, starting out at the concept phase of a project, before anything is actually started and you’re getting your business case together, you’re in what I call the Zone of Uncertainty. If you put some estimates together and put a schedule together, it’s likely that schedule is going to be four times greater or .25 times less than what’s actually going to happen on that project. So it’s important to remember if you’re doing that project schedule at this part of the project phase that you actually keep it simple.

Don’t get bogged down in the details of that schedule because it’s very likely that your schedule is going to be way out. Keep it simple, keep it high level, but put that schedule together to make sure you can give your business owners and your stakeholders an idea of what time frames they might be able to expect for that project schedule when you’re delivering it.

In this part of the project how do you actually get a realistic schedule? Here’s a couple of tips that I use. First off, get a decent estimate. I use parametric estimating templates. I use a historical reference of older projects that were very similar to the one I’m about to do, and then I also do a bottom up estimate with my project team and get together that work breakdown structure.

Now that work breakdown structure I then compartmentalize and group into different tasks in my project schedule or tool. If I’m plugging in the WBS, grouping those tasks into for example, I can then logically sequence the tasks between the ones that have to finish first before the other ones need to start. Also, a good rule of Tom Thumb is when you’re putting your task together in that schedule make sure that those tasks are no less than a day and no greater than a week.

Next, I load up the team into that product schedule. If you have a project team member who is not 100% dedicated to the project team, I’d put him in at 50%. If you have a project team member who is dedicated to the project team, I wouldn’t load him up for more than anything 80% effective. They’re always going to be called away to meetings or have water cooler discussions about the project so they are not 100% effective. Make sure you program that into your schedule so that the scheduling engines actually bump out the duration of those tasks that you’re then putting in.

Lastly, planning contingency, and make sure you do it at the natural breaks. Points of integration or perhaps ending a delivery or build phase and going into a test phase are great places to insert that extra contingency into your schedule. It’s important that you plan that in.

Most importantly, when you’re trying to get a realistic schedule, the two influencing factors that actually can help you get that schedule to be more accurate and realistic are a good project manager and a great team.

I’m Devin Deen from For more project management tips and techniques come join us at

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