I love it when my engineering past and my sewing present intersect! Today I veer into a more specific tool – one you may not need for your business or home management needs – the Gantt chart.

Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gantt_chart

Gantt charts are a type of bar chart that is used for project management.  The tasks of a project are listed and the time needed to complete the task is shown. The interesting part about a Gantt chart is that you can show how certain tasks might be dependent on other tasks being completed.

As my custom business grew, I found it imperative to not only manage my daily time, but also my project time. The Gantt chart helps me develop turnaround times – especially for Christmas and May – two very popular times to give T Shirt Memory Blankets!

You can create your own Gantt chart in Excel or download free templates.

I use this template.

You need to have a basic understanding of Excel to use this chart. Save an original copy in case you accidentally delete a cell and/or formula.  I moved the instructions in the pink blox down below my chart (or you can delete it.) For each custom project I have, I type in the customer name and item in blue. For my quilt blankets, I list the major tasks below it. The reason the chart can become tricky is that some cells are dependent on the values in other cells. This is used in case one task can’t be started unless another is completed.

I simply list the main tasks of each project. I do not use the sub tasks – but those are for dependent tasks. Once I have created the main list for a type of project, I can simply copy and past those rows for new projects. For example, I create a lot of T Shirt Blankets, so I copy those rows and paste them when I have a new project. I type a start and finish date in each tan cell. You can see in the calendar to the right that the steps and the entire project is shown on the timeline.

This tools helps me to stay on top of my projects. Sometimes I can complete a step for several projects at the same time. For example, I often shop for fabric for multiple projects. Or I may choose to cut the shirts for several different jobs at one time.

I often build in some buffer time so that I can allow for smaller projects or products that take less time to make as many items in my shop are made to order.

If you find this file is too difficult to work with, please ask me and I can try to help you. But you can also create a simple excel spreadsheet to plan your projects.

In addition to my Gantt chart, I created an Excel spreadsheet to track some basic information about each custom order.  This helps me keep the information manageable at a quick glance.

I print both files out and pinned on my bulletin board to review daily.

I hope that using a Gantt chart might be a tool that will help you manage your business.