How To Monitor Time Constraints In Projects: Practical Tips

Bringing a project to success requires managers to juggle many responsibilities and challenges.

In this article, we’ll take a look at one of the main project constraints and how to manage it properly.

Let’s dive in!

What is a Project Constraint?

Experienced and first-time project managers alike should be familiar with at least the basics of project management.

Don’t worry! We’re not going to turn this article in a PM exam syllabus.

Still, project constraints are elements you should be aware of that will influence the outcome of a project.

Traditionally there are three main projects constraints:

  • Time
  • Cost
  • Scope

Why are they called “project constraints”?

To borrow a definition from Pmtips.net:

“Project constraints are anything that restricts or dictates the actions of the project team”

Source

The three constraints are strictly linked to each other, and also influence each other. If one takes over, it inevitably affects the other two.

Wrike.com, a project management platform, has created a guide on project management that includes the definitions of the three main project constraints: 

  1. Time constraint: The time constraint refers to the project’s schedule for completion, including the deadlines for each phase of the project, as well as the date for rollout of the final deliverable.
  2. Scope constraint: The scope of a project defines its specific goals, deliverables, features and functions, in addition to the tasks required to complete the project.
  3. Cost constraint: The cost of the project, often dubbed the project’s budget, comprises all of the financial resources needed to complete the project on time, in its predetermined scope. Keep in mind that cost does not just mean money for materials—it encompasses costs for labor, vendors, quality control and other factors, as well.

Source: https://www.wrike.com/project-management-guide/faq/what-are-constraints-in-project-management/

Why is the Time constraint so crucial?

As I said, all three constraints need to be managed attentively.

But being in the time management and time tracking field, I think the Time constraint deserves a little more attention.

I was a Project manager in Timeneye for a year and a half, and before that, I was a Project Manager at a marketing agency for two years.

Let me tell you, timelines and deadlines were the most problematic things to manage.

Because time is a limited resource.

It’s very hard to get back on track when the project runs behind schedule, and a wrong time estimate can create a toppling chain effect on staff and resources.

7 Tips For Managers To Manage Time Constraint

#1 Agree on timelines with the clients

As a project manager, establish a timeline right away for the project with the client. It’s crucial that the timeline is shared and agreed upon by all parties so that everybody starts on the same page.

Writing everything down will avoid misunderstandings. If you have any concerns about the deadlines, make them clear with the client.

But don’t escape your responsibilities. It’s your job to offer estimates on the project deliverability, agree on the timeline, and then organize people and resources to respect the deadlines.

#2 Create a Project Schedule

Once you know the deadlines, you have to distribute the work evenly through the period of time you have.

I suggest breaking the project in intermediate steps ( which may be also required, if you have agreed that the client will pay the project when specific steps have been completed).

Image source: Asana.com

It would also be a good idea to assign small deadlines before the main ones, that you’ll use as check-ins to see if the project is on track.

#3 Budget time for each project phase…

When I worked in digital agencies, our projects were quoted in hours, made up of different phases that had their hourly budget each (For example: “Project website, 40 hours” of which 12 for development, 10 for uploading content, 2 for publication, and so on).

The design phase is going off budget

By giving an hourly budget to each part of the project, you can keep the work balanced and make sure a phase doesn’t overtake the others. Or, you can monitor if the project is on track and see warning signs early of going it off-budget.

#4 … and track time against budgets

Once the project has an hourly budget, how do you make sure the team is sticking to it?

A simple solution is to use a time tracking tool. Most of these tools are designed to track time for projects and monitor budgets. Timeneye for example lets users set budgets for projects, phases, and even team members. A progression bar shows how much of the budget has been used.

A Project status view in Timeneye

#5 Track time, in general

Whether you use hourly budgets or not, when you’re dealing with a time-bound project, you and the team should still be tracking time while working on that project.

Again, time tracking software stores all that data and provides useful insights on productivity, resource management, and profitability.

For example, if an employee has an hourly cost for the company, by knowing how many people and how much time they have worked on the project, management can calculate the gain (or loss) once the project is billed.

Or, you can let Timeneye calculate profitability for you

#6 Set some alerts

🚨Deadline approaching!🚨

When managing many projects at the same time, it’s difficult to always have the big picture. Some things may skip from control

So, when it’s not humanly possible to remember everything, automated alerts will help managers and team members hit every milestone

From Google Calendar events, to Slack bot notifications, to automated reports, there are many tools to make sure every task is completed within the deadline.

#7 Be prepared to reschedule

Despite all your efforts, you may end up with a project going way off the established timelines.

Keeping an eye on the project progressions and automated alerts help not being caught unawares.

If you notice that the project is likely to miss the deadline, reschedule a new one right away with the client.

Conclusion 

Projects are influenced by constraints such as time, cost, and scope. 

The time constraint is particularly tricky because time is a limited resource.  Project managers can make sure to hit all the milestones in time, with a set timeline, good project planning, and time management tools.

Thank you for reading! If you like this article on how to manage time constraints in a project, make sure to read this guide on how to manage multiple projects at the same time.

Cover image via Stocksnap.com

About Stefania

Marketing Manager at Timeneye. She's passionate about technology and finding better, smarter ways to work. In her free time, she enjoys reading books and belting out tunes from Broadway musicals (although the neighbours don't seem to appreciate that). Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.