5 Mapping tasks and activities
One of the most difficult aspects of planning a project is estimating how long it will take to complete each key stage. An estimate might be based on:
the size of the tasks and the effort required to complete them;
the number of days that are not available for working on the project;
historical data from other projects, including the experience of colleagues.
Where a project has a fixed end-date (for example, an event where a Member of Parliament will declare a new building open) there is a natural tendency to try to compress the schedule to fit all the key stages into the time available. All too often it becomes clear later that the schedule is impossible to meet. It is better to be realistic at the outset and be clear about what can be delivered and what cannot. Productive time may only amount to 3.5 to 4 days each week and time needs to be built in for meetings, communication, co-ordination and the normal line-management arrangements. You will also need to allow some extra time for contingencies such as unexpected interruptions and eventualities that cannot be predicted.