Do you and your team members know what you should be working on today? What about tomorrow? Or next week? Or the week after that?
If you're starting to get nervous, you aren't alone. Many people tackle their work with a "one day at a time" approach — putting out fires, addressing time-pressing tasks, and handling urgent requests as they land on their desks or in their inboxes.
It works in the short term, but it usually leaves people feeling like they're doing nothing more than spinning their wheels.
Fortunately, there's a better way. A monthly work schedule helps you and everybody on your team zoom out to see the bigger picture.
This type of monthly task schedule is the tool you need to avoid getting lost in the day-to-day minutiae and emergencies and focus on the work that makes a meaningful impact.
Why create a monthly work schedule?
We've already briefly touched on why a monthly task schedule provides value to any team.
But if that wasn't convincing enough, let's take a closer look at a few of the most compelling reasons a monthly work schedule can keep your entire team on the right track:
- Focus on priorities instead of emergencies: A monthly task schedule requires that you plan out work for the entire month. As we mentioned above, that gives you an opportunity to identify the real priorities of your team and dedicate adequate time to those — rather than constantly getting sidetracked by last-minute to-do's.
- Manage workloads: Worried about burnout on your team? Scheduling work out for the month makes it easier to keep an eye on the capacity of every team member so that you can adjust if somebody is spread too thin.
- Set more realistic deadlines: It's easy to be optimistic when planning and scheduling tasks, particularly if you take a siloed view of every single request or project. But having to fit everything within the boundaries of a single month will force you to see how all of your team's work fits together — which means you'll have an easier time setting more reasonable deadlines.
- Be proactive rather than reactive: Your team's work weeks can feel like a series of reactions — you're constantly responding to things that come up, rather than strategically chipping away at your planned work. While a monthly work schedule will have some wiggle room for the last-minute things that inevitably arise, it helps everybody take a more planned and proactive approach to their work.
Think of a monthly work schedule like a crystal ball. There's no way to know exactly what will happen next week or the week after, but a monthly work schedule gives you far more clarity about what's coming down the pike so you can prepare and adjust accordingly.
When you and your team don't constantly feel like you're flying by the seat of your pants, you'll also benefit from improved productivity, better engagement, and ultimately, more winning projects.
What to consider when building your monthly work schedule
When you're ready to put together your monthly work schedule, you might be tempted to grab a calendar and start plotting things out.
But before you start filling up those days and weeks, there are a few other things you'll want to keep in mind to build a monthly work schedule that's as accurate and helpful as possible.
If you're building a monthly work schedule for only yourself, you can skip this step. However, if you're tasked with putting together a monthly employee schedule for your entire team, then you'll want to ask yourself questions like:
- Who is on your team?
- What are your team members' strengths and weaknesses?
- How much capacity does each team member have?
- Do team members have upcoming time off?
Now that you have a firm grasp on who handles the tasks for the month, it's time to get a better sense of what specifically is on your plate. Here are some questions to work through:
- What tasks and projects are on the docket for this month?
- Which tasks are urgent?
- Which tasks are important, but not time-pressing?
- Are any tasks dependent on each other?
- What are the deadlines for each task?
- How long have similar tasks previously taken?
- Who is the owner of each task?
Your external stakeholders
As much as you'd like to have complete and total say over what happens on your team, you know by now that some outside requests always come into play.
That's why you'll also want to take any external stakeholders into consideration by asking yourself questions like:
- Are any other teams or stakeholders counting on work from you this month?
- What's happening with other teams and stakeholders this month (which could lead to more requests for your team)?
Once you've thought through those elements, you're ready to start scheduling out your team's projects, tasks, and deadlines for the month.
How to make a monthly schedule
You've done your prep work, and now you're ready to build your monthly task schedule. Looking at several weeks’ worth of work at a time can feel overwhelming, but your best approach here is to work backwards.
First, for any large or more complex projects on your team's plate, break them into individual tasks and milestones. That will be far more manageable as you piece your calendar together.
Next, identify any projects or tasks that have a deadline this month. Put each end date on your schedule. Since you should have previously figured out approximately how long that task (or similar tasks) will take, you can move backward from the end date to plan the appropriate amount of time. It's smart to build in a buffer of at least a few days to account for the unexpected.
Continue that process with all of the tasks and projects you identified for the month. As you do so, you'll also need to:
- Assign team members to each task
- Incorporate any dependencies
You might run into some sticking points in your schedule your first time. Make any adjustments to balance workloads or adjust timelines so that all of your team's work fits together in a way that makes sense.
A Gantt chart is a helpful way to create and visualize a monthly work schedule — plus, it's highly flexible if something on the schedule needs to move. We'll talk a little more about Gantt charts in the next section.
Five features of monthly task schedule software
As you figure out how to make a monthly work schedule that provides the support and direction your team needs, know that you don't need to go it alone.
Finding the right software will help you set up work schedules that are organized and flexible.
Not sure what to look for in monthly task schedule software? Here are five must-have features, as well as how each of them works in Wrike.
1. Repeatable workflows
Automate most of your decision-making by simply copying successful past attempts from similar projects, series, or tasks. No need to reinvent the wheel when you already know what works!
How to use Wrike: If you want to duplicate a workflow in Wrike, all you have to do is click the workflow you want to copy, open its menu page, and select Duplicate Workflow. It’s that easy.
2. Individual task management
Each action item required for your project should be customizable. You’ll also need to assign the task to a team or individual, view at-a-glance progress updates, and project accurate start and end dates.
There are also sections for adding sub-tasks, notes, processes, and how-tos. That way, you can ensure that no detail is being overlooked.
3. Time tracking and reporting
It’s easy to keep track of employee hours and project efforts with automated tools. And, with all your work data in one place, you can seamlessly send services rendered invoices to clients with accurate numbers and supporting documents from one program.
How to use Wrike: Check out this short two-minute tutorial about how to track time in Wrike. It'll give you a feel for how simple the process really is.
4. Gantt charts
Gantt charts help organize your employee work schedule template by giving you a big-picture look at timelines, tasks, and progress. You can then use your Gantt chart to determine how many hours or days each employee or team is needed for individual phases.
How to use Wrike: Gantt charts handle complex values but are easy to interpret and create. Choose your Project folder and add all of your necessary tasks (along with their deadlines, related dependencies, and anticipated durations).
Then, plot them out in your Gantt Chart with a drag-and-drop tool to get a clear visual of the project as a whole.
5. Progress review dashboards
When you’re making a monthly work schedule review template, you need to have a clear understanding of what everyone’s workload looks like, what (if any) tasks have been delayed, and where there might be some wiggle room to get ahead.
That’s where progress review dashboards come in. They automatically give you a visual representation of where everyone is during any phase of the project.
So, when you make your schedule, you can double-check to see what’s realistic for each individual at any given moment without having to email back and forth or continuously check in.
How to use Wrike: You may have anywhere from 10 to 200 different dashboards, depending on which Wrike option you’ve selected. Each dashboard will give you the option to color code steps, duplicate or delete tasks, and communicate directly with your employees if you need to follow up.
You can also choose which dashboard widgets are included in your view, so only the most relevant information will be upfront and center.
How to use Wrike templates for planning and scheduling
Having the right software gives your monthly work schedule (not to mention your entire team) a major boost. But, even with the right management tool, you don't need to start from scratch.
Check out Wrike's Project Schedule Template to create project schedules or monthly work schedules. With the free template, you can:
- Break even the most complex projects down into tasks
- Identify and add milestones to your timeline
- Create dependencies between tasks
- Monitor progress with a Gantt chart or dashboard
Stop approaching your work days and weeks with a "one foot in front of the other" attitude. With Wrike on your side, you and your team can take an efficient and effective approach to all of your tasks and to-do's—and get your most meaningful work across the finish line.
Ready to build your own monthly work schedule? Get started with Wrike's template.