7 Tips to Make Your Schedule Easier to Read
At GraphicSchedule we believe that schedules should fit on one page. It’s just part of our DNA. However, we recognize this is not always easy to do! If you’re working on a large project and feeling like your 1-page schedule is getting too complicated, try these tips to make it easier to read.
1. Consider Your Goals and Target Audience
Who is your schedule for, and what do they need to know? Does your schedule communicate those things well?
2. Start Simple
If you’re introducing a 1-page schedule for the first time, start simple. Pick out the most-important features of work, plot those first, then share a draft with your team and gather feedback. You can always add more detail and advanced features later, as everyone gets accustomed to seeing the project in this format.
3. Experiment with Different Shapes
For repetitive construction activities that move from Point A to Point B over time, any of the following could work, depending on what level of detail is desired:
For a complex chart with overlapping activities, try summarizing each type of activity with one line, for a cleaner look.
Pro Tip: you can add arrows to line shapes using native Excel controls. Right-click on the line, select ‘Format Object’, and choose an arrow from the ‘End Arrow Type’.
4. Show Your Milestones!
You’d be amazed how many people go to work every day on major projects without knowing their contract milestones. Don’t be that person. 😉
5. Improve Your Data-Ink Ratio
In his landmark book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Edward Tufte introduced the concept of the Data-Ink Ratio as the proportion of ink that is used to present actual data compared to the total amount of ink (or pixels) used in the entire display.
The goal is to design a display with the highest possible data-ink ratio (that is, as close to the total of 1.0), by removing as many unnecessary elements as possible, without eliminating something that is necessary for effective communication. In many cases, a minimalist approach that preserves plenty of white space can be a great way to draw your reader’s eye to your most-important data.
For a construction project, your “Data-Ink” is usually the shapes that represent actual construction activities. This means that excess labels, callouts, gridlines, markers, and other elements can be used sparingly, de-emphasized, or even turned off, depending on your goals and target audience.
6. Add a Legend
A legend makes it possible to use colors to convey important information, in lieu of text. Although GraphicSchedule does not yet have a legend feature, you can follow this tip to create your own.
7. It’s OK to Simplify and Turn Stuff Off
If your project’s CPM schedule has 6,000 activities, nobody will expect to see all that detail on one page. It’s OK to group similar activities into summary-level shapes or turn things off that don’t add value. For example, if your chart is being cluttered by an out-of-sequence activity that you know will NOT be constructed during the timeframe indicated by the CPM schedule, feel free to turn that off for now, then go have a conversation with the scheduler to get it fixed for a future update.
I also like to include a subtitle in the header that provides some context for my 1-page schedule. For example: “Simplification of Design-Builder’s November 2019 P6 Schedule”. This makes it clear that it’s based on a more-detailed source document that’s available for anyone that needs more detail.