Project management software acts as a great tool to help you plan your assignments, although you are required to put in the legwork to get everything running, leading some team leaders to consider training in this regard.

The advantage of using applications is that they can get you thinking creatively and are sure to assist you in organising your resources and budgets. Before these programmes get to work on the relevant data, it needs to be inputted and brought together, which may be your role. Once you have included deadlines, resources and established costs, then applications like Microsoft Project generate lots of different tables and reveal where there could be clashes in terms of tasks.

To get to this point you will need to have some idea how long it takes staff and workers to complete all these activities that will result in the final objective. It is not always clear on the length of time that some tasks could take, but it is a good idea to get this established. This may be particularly difficult at the beginning of an assignment as unforeseen issues are hard to predict.

For example, you could be launching a new magazine and have set aside time for designers, advertisers to put together a mock up of the publication before it hits the shelves, which is followed by approval from the owners. However, you may find this approval takes longer than expected if the owners wish for extensive changes to be made. At this point you are free to use management software to alter timelines and see how this impacts on the overall project.

Despite this, it is still important to identify techniques that will help you to establish the duration of activities such as these and those that occur throughout your entire assignment. If you wish, you may like to complete training courses that highlight these tools, which may include some of the following tips. One of the most well-used techniques for working out activity duration is your own expert judgement.

If you've got a few solid years in this field or an extensive background in managing projects then there is likely to be a breadth of knowledge that can inspire these kinds of estimates. If this is not the case and you are a newcomer to leading teams through projects, then there are other tools that you are free to use if you wish. Analogous estimating is similar in a way to using expert knowledge in that it draws on previous projects.

However, this background does not have to apply to your past experience in that it simply involves looking at comparable initiatives and using their activity durations to estimate those making up the present initiative. Equations are a third tool that many project managers - and software - use to work out the time needed to complete some tasks. This means you take your resources - such as your staff - the length of time they normally take to complete the job involved and the actual number of hours in the day they are able to devote to your project.

Calculating this figure will give you a good idea how long it might take them to finish their activities. Another technique that team leaders utilise when planning their project is reserve analysis. This entails you establishing the duration of activities then adding extra hours as a kind of contingency. You might find this reassuring if tasks do begin to overrun and if they do not, the time may be used elsewhere or scrapped to bring the entire deadline forward if preferred.