Start with some basic research The information that can help you estimate how long certain tasks take to complete can come from several sources.
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Potential sources include:
- Your own experience Draw on your own background from times when you carried out similar tasks in this or other projects.
- The experience of your team members Consult with the resources who have been responsible for certain types of tasks. If you already have a team in place, have the members develop their own durations for their assigned tasks on this project; this can serve as a commitment from those responsible for completing tasks.
- Previous projects Review projects that you or other project managers built and tracked. Any actual durations recorded will be especially helpful.
- Industry standards and benchmarks Find duration information pertinent to your industry. In books, journals, and on the Web, you can find task lists with recommended durations. Professional organizations for your industry are also a good place to find information.
Build a time buffer into your project
Because you can't anticipate every issue that might delay your tasks, even the most accurate durations need a little "wiggle room." This provides a measure of risk management for your project. There are different ways to build a time buffer into your project:
Create a milestone When you want to identify a significant event in your schedule, such as the completion of a phase, create a milestone in your project.
Estimate durations You can model a project by using a what-if analysis to help you accurately estimate durations for your schedule and to simulate future resource loads and their effect on project timelines.
Enter a duration After you determine how long it will take to complete a task, it is time to enter a duration. Enter an estimated duration if you still aren't sure how long a task will take to complete.
Interrupt work on a task If two tasks occur simultaneously, you can pause the work on the task that starts first, begin the second task, and then start work again on the first task when the second is finished.
Create a calendar To identify working and nonworking time for a specific task, create a calendar. For example, a piece of machinery needed to complete a task may be available only on certain days of the week. You can identify the working time on a task calendar, and the task is scheduled accordingly.
Assign a calendar to a task After you create a task calendar, you apply it to the task or tasks that you created it for.
Add supporting information about a task Add more information about a task in the form of notes, documents, and links to Web pages.
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