Concurrent tasks. Overlapping tasks. Simultaneous tasks. Whatever you want to call them, scheduling and dealing with these can be a nightmare for project managers. That’s because it can be hard to highlight task priorities when dependencies are not involved. And when team members take a look at their schedule, seeing a bunch of work scheduled for the same time can be overwhelming. Leading them to (incorrectly) believe that the only way forward is by juggling everything simultaneously.
But there’s another way!
This article will give project managers a guide to more efficiently schedule concurrent tasks for their teams. Via 5 simple tips, you’ll find out the best ways to plan out your team’s overlapping tasks. Plus, how software can make this part of the job, even simpler. As we’ll demonstrate how a unique feature in Ganttic that will better help you manage multiple projects and tasks.
Modern Workplace Myths
Let’s take a second to think about some myths and truths involving the modern workplace.
- Sitting is the new smoking.
- Working from home makes employees less productive.
- People can’t multitask.
But while remote work is on the rise and standing desks are becoming a staple in some offices, the idea that people can’t do two things at the same time holds steadfast.
But is that thinking out of date?
Most people agree that doing 2 things at once isn’t really effective. But a lot of times, it might be inevitable. That’s where concurrent task scheduling comes into play. Think of it as a better way to multitask.
What is Concurrent Task Scheduling in Project Management?
Concurrent task scheduling is the name for scheduling 2 work tasks at the same time period. Basically overlapping or simultaneous tasks.
As opposed to using dependencies in the project schedule, these kinds tasks are independent of one another. And practically speaking, instead of multitasking, it doesn’t require team members to focus on many things at once. That’s because efforts and utilizations can be adjusted in the process, which instead give an indication to priority.
When are Overlapping Tasks Used in Project Management?
There’s many reasons why project managers resort to this kind of scheduling.
- When detailed resource schedules are required. Especially in industries such as engineering, construction, production, and design.
- Sometimes in the inverse of the above situation – when a high level overview of the work breakdown structure (WBS) is all that it necessary.
- Maybe the overlapping tasks don’t require the same amount of effort. And they can both easily be achieved in the same time period.
- Perhaps one is a longer, ongoing task that doesn’t require constant involvement.
- Or one task has experienced a bottleneck in the process, opening up the opportunity to schedule something else in the meantime.
Tips for Concurrent Task Scheduling in Project Management
Because simultaneous work tasks won’t be disappearing anytime soon, it might be helpful to have some tips for project managers tasked with this kind of planning. If you got work that overlaps remember to:
- Get an overview of everything
- Collaborate with your team
- Be flexible
- Schedule interruptions
- Track achievements and celebrate milestones
1. Get an Overview of Everything
When dealing with a hectic schedule of various, simultaneous tasks, the first thing you need to do is make a list of everything that needs to get done. Once you have them all compiled you can sort them into timeframes and assign your team to them.
Doing so ensures that you have the capacity to carry out the task. And that they aren’t overloaded or overbooked already.
If Lisa in marketing has a big project due on Wednesday, it doesn’t make sense to make her the lead person for another project with a Thursday deadline. That’s why it’s nice to have a resource overview to help make the best decisions.
Pro Tip: Visualize Overlapping Tasks with Gantt Charts
Gantt charts for overlapping tasks work especially well. Providing an organized overview of everything. In modern charts like Ganttic, you can schedule (multiple) tasks with the click of a button. And it works if you’re scheduling tasks for yourself or if a project manager is doing it for the entire team.
All the info is in one place, not only about deadlines, but about teammates assigned to the same task. Plus, Gantt charts are a great tool for calculating busy time and hours of overlapping tasks – because that information is displayed right on the chart.
Best still is that with most software, you can even sync it with your Gcal or Outlook Calendar. Which makes your scheduled information appear in either or both platforms.
2. Collaborate With Your Team
Even if you’re the project manager, it’s important to listen to your team. They are the ones carrying out the tasks you plan, after all. Getting your team’s input can help you better understand what kind of capacity you have to work with and as well as any hiccups that they might encounter along the way.
Plus, it’s good to get their feedback on how they feel about their workloads and if reality compares to how it’s presented in the project schedule.
Collaborative features allow you to communicate and work together better with your team. However, make sure that everyone who needs to be involved, can be.
In some software, the payment scheme is per user, so the more people you add, the higher your costs. So if you’re watching the budget, make sure that you can add additional users for no extra cost. Especially since you want everyone tp have the chance to collaborate on their tasks.
Unlimited shareability means unlimited collaboration and better team communication.
Pro Tip: Real Time Updates with Dependencies
Collaboration works best in real time. Obviously! And another great thing about Gantt charts is their ability to show dependencies. These relationships between tasks can help you show the order in which they should be carried out.
With online Gantt charts, you can easily link your task dependencies together, even if it’s shared between resources. If something goes wrong in the logistics department, the linked task in sales will be informed. Not only is this easily seen from the Gantt chart, but because these updates are immediate, when a task is changed and new info is added, then everyone will know.
Real time collaboration keeps everyone up to date, but can be taken a step further with the addition of notifications. That way, changes to the tasks will appear as emails in your team’s inbox. So even if they are working remotely or on the go, then they’ll know about the changes.
3. Be Flexible
This tip is true for almost any situation in project management. If you schedule something, you should also be prepared for something to go awry. And this is even more important when you have multiple on-going tasks to plan for a team. Make sure that you have a back-up plan or give your team some leeway in the tasks’ timeframe just in case you need to make some last minute changes.
Pro Tip: Drag and Drop Changes
A cool feature that most management software has is drag and drop scheduling. This allows you to schedule or reschedule tasks with only a few clicks.
In Ganttic, for example, once you create a task and assign it to a resource, it’s scheduled. But you can also easily assign someone else to the task for some helping hands. Or if you need to reschedule it altogether to another resource, just pick it up and drag it to where it needs to go.
Either way, the changes will be saved and everyone can see immediately that the planner has been updated. This takes some pressure out of the planning process when things go wrong. And saves you from having to send out multiple emails asking about availability or updating everyone about the changes.
Read on: find out some more advantages and disadvantages of using a drag and drop scheduler.
4. Schedule Interruptions
Multitasking is hard because it requires a lot of brain power. Constantly switching between tasks is mentally exhausting and difficult for some to overcome.
A way to alleviate that is by taking a break. Make sure that when scheduling simultaneous tasks, that your team still has enough time to have a cup of coffee and catch their breaths. Scheduling interruptions means taking the time to account for regular breaks, which can go a long way in maintaining overall team efficiency.
You can do this automatically, by adding breaks for your team with a resource scheduler. Setting consistent and predetermined breaks helps remind people to take a breather every once in a while. Even if it’s just 15 minutes to stretch their legs or play a quick Street Fighter match on the break room PS4.
When scheduling your team’s tasks, leave a break in between them. Or look for tools that have task splitting, where you can break up tasks and wedge something new in between. Either way, taking a break can help your team reset their brains and refocus before their next task.
Pro Tip: Don’t Schedule Workers for a Full 8 Hour Day
Even though people are scheduled for 8 hours, that doesn’t mean they are working constantly during that period. But with resource management software, you can have more control over your or your team’s schedule.
Lauri Reinart, the Chief Structural Engineer at Innopolis Engineering ™ found this out when his team implemented Ganttic. Noting:
“In resource planning, many project managers make the mistake of booking people at full capacity. However, in reality, employees get sick, or they have inspirational coffee breaks, or take part in different trainings or courses. This means that on average people work 6.5-7 hours per day, not the full 8 hours. Taking that into consideration, I have set the work time to 7 hours in Ganttic.”Lauri Reinart
Manually controlling the work time can give you a better idea of what realistically will get done in a given time period. And this is great for both short and long term task planning, as you’ll have a more accurate picture of what your team is capable of doing for forecasting.
Check out our case study or some more planning tips from real-life experience.
5. Track Achievements and Celebrate Milestones
Dealing with multiple simultaneous tasks can be stressful and overwhelming. Not only logistically when planning out your team’s schedule, but for the team themselves!
And because stress is a leading contributor to employee burnout, it’s best to quash it ahead of time.
To keep up productivity, it’s a good idea to track achievements. This is important in seeing the individual accomplishments, and helping to keep people motivated. But it also helps make sense of what still needs to be done in your project’s timeline.
A classic checklist works. And even doing that the old fashioned way, with paper and pencil or planning on a whiteboard, is one consistently satisfying option. Or you can upgrade a little.
When you do reach an important milestone in your project, take the time to celebrate. This will show your team that you care about the work they’re doing and will motivate them to keep it up. Go ahead and schedule a party or team building activity right after a milestone. It can help alleviate some of the stress and keep productivity high.
In Ganttic, milestones show up in the resource view of the planner as little diamonds and they are a clear indication that an important step was reached. Because you’ll know when they’re coming,
Pro Tip: Customize your Completions
Resource planning software is one way to keep track of your or your team’s achievements. Look for features that let you note when a task is completed, either by checking it off or customizable options like color coding.
For example, when your team member completes one task ahead of schedule, change the color of the finished task. That way, everyone will know from just a quick glance what still needs to be done and what’s already been completed.
Custom data fields are another handy feature for project managers. These let you add any kind of info you want to your tasks and resources. Add data fields about project status, for example. Once a task is finished, you can mark it as such. Then through different filtering options, you can see what tasks still need to be completed and which ones already are. It’s a nice way to keep tabs on your team during a stressful time.
How to Schedule Concurrent (Overlapping) Tasks in Ganttic
Even with these tips you might still need some help. Well, we got you covered. If you want to schedule concurrent tasks, here’s a step by step guide to doing so in Ganttic. Using Ganttic’s resource management software, you’ll be able to schedule tasks more easily, quickly and more efficiently. And it only takes 3 steps.
1. Assign a Task to your Resource.
Easy-peasy, that’s what this software is all about, right?
2. Add Another Task to the Same Resource.
Create another independent task and assign it the same resource. Done!
This is where you could stop. Because you’ll see that both tasks are assigned and your resource is aware of their schedule. But what if you want to prioritize tasks? Or make it clear that one doesn’t require as much effort as the other.
That’s where task utilization comes in.
3. Adjust the Utilization for the Task.
Your utilization graph is a small bar chart above your resource’s assigned tasks. And it shows the percentage that your resource is being used. Typically, for human resources, you should aim for about 80% to avoid burnout.
For example, here a resource’s tasks overlap, putting them at a 200% utilization.
However, if one of those tasks requires less effort or you want to prioritize it, then you can manually change the utilization by clicking on the task. Adjust the utilization based upon the effort needed for each task, for example one task could be 20% while the other is at 60%. Click “save” and that’s that.
Once you adjust the utilization, you’ll also notice that the bar chart above changes to correspond with the update, both in color and percentage-wise. This can be seen below.
You can also determine the actual “busy time” required to perform the task and schedule that way. Or better yet, use a combination of the two methods.
Benefits of Project Management Software for Simultaneous Tasks
If your project management workflow depends on overlapping tasks, then Once you start scheduling multiple tasks and keeping track of the utilizations you’ll begin to notice several benefits for your team and company. These include:
- Easily highlight when tasks are overlapping – in project management software, it’s simple to highlight when tasks are are occurring simultaneously. By using different coloring options, you can see what projects the tasks are connected to or which one is higher priority. In Ganttic there’s also different indicators for highlighting the utilization intervals. Instantly communicating how over or underworked all your resources are.
- Better forecasting and predictions – you’ll see how your team manages doing several tasks at the same time, that means you’ll have a better grasp on what they can achieve. You can even pair these findings with quantitative reports which will give a more thorough understanding and solid facts for making future task timing predictions.
- More easily prioritize tasks – adjusting the utilization can help your team know what tasks are more important and which ones they need to concentrate on more. With a few quick clicks by you, they’ll know that one task requires more time, even if they are scheduled for the same period. This means they can better get on with their work, as opposed to waiting for an answer about which task they should start with.
- Reduce burnout – tracking your employees’ utilization can help you make sure that nobody is being spread too far and that they aren’t on their way to burnout. Plus, manually setting the utilization gives you more control over your schedule and ensures that no one will be overutilized.
- Increase efficiency and avoid underutilization – similarly to above, by manually controlling utilization, you can be positive that your team is not underutilized and that they have enough to do. Studies show that on days when people have less to do that they aren’t as productive. So by keeping an eye on utilization, not only do you make sure people aren’t bored but that your efficiency is high.
- Less stress – this goes for you and your team! You won’t have to worry about everything getting done on time. And your team will have a better idea of how to structure and manage their various tasks within the timeframes. Nobody needs any more stress in their lives.
Better Scheduling, Better Results
While concurrent scheduling can open the doors to some workplace problems such as overlaps in bookings, or a busier, more stressed out team, there are some ways to make it easier for yourself and your coworkers. Following the tips laid out here is the first step. And the second step is getting a piece of software that can handle scheduling changes, while also being customizable and shareable.
Features such as partial utilization are helpful in giving you more control and making your schedule more efficient. Being able to adjust the utilization allows you to prioritize when you have two pressing deadlines and it’s also useful when you have tasks that are spread out over longer time periods. They can go a long way helping you and your team juggle simultaneous tasks with ease.