Whether you use an Excel worksheet or draw on a whiteboard with colorful markers, a project calendar will help you keep all your assignments organized.
I know I touched on this subject in my last two posts, but now I’m gonna go a bit more in-depth. This is a basic outline for a project calendar, but obviously you should do whatever works best for your personal schedule.
First, go over your list of clients that you have for the week (probably a task best done on Sunday or Monday). Let’s say you have five clients: three require copyediting on three web articles (each), one is a proofreading of a e-book, and the other is fact-checking a press release. By now, you should have a fairly good idea of how long it takes you to do these various tasks. Proofreading will probably take the longest, as you likely have to split the work up over a few days. The copyediting might only take a few hours, depending on the quantity of the edits and how many articles you have to do.
Next, determine when each assignment is due. Using our previous example, let’s say the e-book is due on Friday, the press release on Thursday, and the articles (three clients, nine articles total) are due on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Now, it’s pretty clear you should focus on copyediting the articles that are due on Tuesday. But don’t forget about that e-book! If you anticipate the proofing to take many hours, you might want to divide the work up over the course of the week. If you think it will take eight hours to do, you can split it up as two hours a day until Friday. Or simply four hours on that day and four on Thursday. Again, whatever you’re most capable of doing easily and correctly (don’t rush work!).
Now, you probably have a good idea of where this is going. Monday should be spent on Tuesday’s articles (and maybe Friday’s proofing), Tuesday on Wednesday’s articles and the press release fact-checking (if necessary), Wednesday on Thursday’s articles and fact-checking, and Friday on finishing the proofing (if not done already). But what if you have to take your kid to dance class all day on Wednesday? That throws off your schedule!
Don’t despair. This is why making calendars and coordinating them with your personal schedule is important. On Wednesday, you know you’ll have less time to do work. That means you need to make time on Monday and Tuesday instead. Again, this is why it’s really vital to know your own abilities for how long it takes you to finish certain tasks. If proofing the e-book won’t take much time, move it to Thursday, and focus on the copyediting and fact-checking on Monday and Tuesday. Or sacrifice TV time on Wednesday to finish work instead. Basically, you need to be flexible.
This is just one example of a project calendar, and yes, it can look a little messy! If you have a fairly routine life, then you’ll probably have a consistent schedule. But if you have family responsibilities or another job, you need to know how to juggle projects and manage time efficiently. Know yourself and your limitations, and make sure that your clients are comfortable with you and your work quality just in case you have to request a deadline extension.
Need more advice? Have your own ideas of a project calendar should look like? Sound off in the comments below!