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Capacity Planning – How To Effectively Plan Your Workload

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Capacity Planning…If you ever feel like you have too much work to deliver and not enough time or resource, this episode will enable you to stop hating your life. Capacity Planning will allow you to identify;

1) If you have been given too much (or too little) work to do & give you data to present to your boss or

2) If the team you currently manage does (or doesn’t) have enough time to deliver the work you need to deliver.

Not only that, all of this capacity planning gives you advanced warning if you need to bring in extra resource OR if you have extra free time you can spend working ON your business. This capacity planning model was a game-changer for us.


Capacity Planning Timestamps

00:00 – 01:06 Intro

01:07 – 06:36 What is capacity planning?

06:37– 11:05 When Lloyd realized we needed to begin capacity planning.

11:06 – 20:12 What form can capacity planning take?

20:13 – 21:35 Tip 1: Stick to it.

21:36 – 24:20 Tip 2: Make sure you add ‘hidden time’ into your capacity planner.

21:21 – 25:32 Outro

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Capacity Planning Transcript

0:00 Pat

Hi, Pat the podcast editor here. In today’s episode Dan and Lloyd, talk about capacity planning and how to use it to maximise time efficiency, whether you’re a one-man band or a multimillion-pound corporate business.

00:13 Lloyd

So capacity planning allows you to actually work out the exact time you have in your business, traditionally it’s used for big businesses, I’ve found it crazily useful in our business that isn’t, doesn’t have 500 people.

00:25 Pat

And we’ll also hear about the structure of Lloyd’s own personal capacity tracker, and what it can do for you.

00:31 Lloyd

We do it, sounds old school when i say it, Excel spreadsheet, each person that you have to learn your business has a little square for every day, and that little square gets colour coded towards different projects or clients.

00:46 Pat

To set your learning brain to maximum capacity. And let’s get stuck in. This is episode 94 of the business anchors podcast.

01:07 Dan

What on earth is capacity planning? Lloyd it sounds really boring.

01:11 Lloyd

Well, you’re right, Dan, it is. That’s why I’m talking about it.

01:16 Dan

Why is it always you to talk about the boring episodes?

01:18 Lloyd

No, it’s not boring. It’s useful.

01:21 Dan

We were just saying actually before coming on air. I’ve always wanted to say that. That some of our more inverted commas boring episodes like this, where it’s more practical stuff. Have done well. Like we got half a million views on TikTok for our tax planning one obviously got 100,000 views on my Instagram about tax planning.

01:39 Lloyd

And big numbers like that really mean so much don’t they? Dan. It means that we are brilliant people. So…

01:46 Dan

Yeah, I mean, we’re reaching some of the more boring episodes. Yeah.

01:50 Lloyd

Got no money in the bank, unhappy. But half a million.

01:55 Dan

We’ve got an all right. Businesses.

01:57 Lloyd

Well, yeah. No, only joking. We’re happy and making money.

02:01 Dan

So yeah, to go to the question.

02:06 Lloyd

I’ll try to make it less boring by not talking about. I find this really interesting. So you want so it’s basically working out. If you have the resources, you need to do the work in your business. Oooo bloody hell. Calm down guys.

02:28 Dan

Give context. So, someone if they’re listening, they can think oh, I have a problem. And that will help with that.

02:33 Lloyd

Okay, two people. You’ve got Clive. Clive works on his own. And he makes grips for squash rackets. Okay. Clive is getting really busy. And he’s taken on all these getting all these people saying, can you do this by Friday? Clive, can you do this this month? And he’s going Yeah, I think so. But he doesn’t really know how if he’s got enough time to do all this work. So he’s letting people down. He doesn’t know if he needs to contact him to come and help him out next week. Because he has no idea if he has enough time, okay, so just one person.

And then and it can cause issues like you don’t have enough time to invest in your own business, because you don’t know how much time you’ve got, you can let down people not do as good a job. So capacity planning allows you to actually work out the exact time you have in your business. And if you have any spare time, or if you need to find people. Another thing, so outside of Clive could be a business like ours. So you might have a department with eight people in it. And you’re taking on new work, but you obviously need to know, you’ve got customers saying when can that work be done by you know, if we sign on the dotted line today and say, Yeah, we want to work with you.

Will that be done by the end of July? And you’ve got another department saying can you do this work internally for the business in the next two weeks? If you don’t know the capacity, you have in that department? You can’t make any of these decisions, or you can but normally you muck them all up.

04:08 Dan

I’m glad you shared that second example. Because I don’t know how many squash racket repair is listening to the podcast.

04:13 Lloyd

Other than Clive, you’re welcome.

04:15 Dan

But it could like, you know, all anchors listening any type of business, that delivers a product or service. Is it mainly service based business or?

04:24 Lloyd

No, both because you can have, you can have a factory of people making products and you need a capacity plan. So capacity planning traditionally is used in bigger businesses, where there’ll be people that have 500 people, you know, working for a big company manufacturing stuff, selling stuff, and they need to know if they have the capacity in their team or in their separate teams or if they need to move workload around. So traditionally, it’s used for big businesses. I’ve found it crazily useful in our business that doesn’t have 500 people.

04:54 Dan

Something I’ve realised over the years to do with this is that the smaller businesses that act like bigger businesses stand out from their competitors. And yes, we’ve only learned this because we never used to think like a big business. But now looking at some of our competitors, and the way they’re, that we’ve been working for long, we’ve been working longer than them. And we’ve learned this, I can see us standing apart from them, because we’re having these processes in these things in place.

05:53 Lloyd

I completely agree. And I think I had a moment where I realised that when our business was turning over something like 250,000 pounds a year, and our accountant said, oh, do you have anything like this, and they were trying to help us. And we had all of these things in place. And eventually, they said, you the way, the process you have in place around your finances and forecasting and stuff, are in line with the companies that are making in between sort of three and 10 million a year.

And that was one of the moments I realised, actually, the reason why we’re managing to improve our business so much and achieve what we’re achieving is because we’re, we are using things those bigger businesses use before we need them. And that’s how we’re stepping up. I think that’s a good point. So that’s why I’m saying if you are Clive, and obviously, that’s a random business. But if you are a freelancer, if you if you’re just working on your own, this is still useful.

Or if you’ve got a team that you’re managing of, it could be two people, it could be you and another or it could be a team of 20 people. Or it could be you’re managing, if you’re an operations director, and that kind of thing you probably know about this stuff, but it’s also for I’ve got 200 people. Right. Good stuff. Sorry Dan.

06:37 Dan

I was going to ask you second thing. When did you realise that we needed to do capacity planning? Because was there like an aha moment?

06:44 Lloyd

So I didn’t realise. And then dad said, What you need is a capacity planner. So I think it was when the business was still just you and I, and we’re having these sort of conversations, I think you being the sales side of the business was probably saying to me, I’ve got this new client that wants to sign up to do this thing. They say they really need it done by next month.

Can we do it? And in reality, most businesses have no way other than than just going, Oh, can I do it? To work out if they can, or they can’t commit. And then most are like, it’ll probably be alright. Or potentially, oh i don’t know, it was a bit worrying, just say no. Both of those are negative. And dad, having worked with bigger businesses and corporations, mainly in manufacturing, used this a lot, and introduced it to us. And at first, first of all, that’s quite cool.

Didn’t overly use it for the next couple of years. And then when we started building our team out, realised how useful it was. But when it was just me and new Dan starting up the business, a peak of activity, when it’s like, oh, God, do we have time to do this? I don’t know. And that’s when it became useful.

08:00 Dan

So this will be useful for pretty much anyone that runs a business that is looking to run it more effectively. And I guess it’s also better managing the expectations of your potential clients. Because when they are saying, when can you do this, you actually have an accurate way of telling them or looking at our capacity, we can do it that way. If you know how many how much resource you have left.

08:22 Lloyd

In any period of time, you know that either, I’m just on my own, I’ve got 30 days in this month. You might look at it and say, oh, I’ve got 10 days spare. So you know that you’ve got 10 days this month to take on new client work of up to 10 days to invest in your own business, or have a holiday or mixture of any of those things. Or the other way, you look at it and go, Oh my God, I’ve got 30 days in this month, and I’ve just mapped out the capacity, and I’ve got 42 days work. And then it highlights that you need to take action, because that’s not physically possible.

And I would say at that point, don’t just say. Oh, I’ll have to work hard, because that’s absolutely mental fitting 42 days in 30. It’s saying, Okay, right, I need to communicate with this client to say in advance to say, really sorry, we’re really working hard on this for you, but it’s going to be seven days late. Or right I need to get extra help, extra resource, outsource some stuff to do that. And I’m actually thinking further ahead. If I’ve got 40 days work in 30 days. Am I too cheap? And this is why loads of people want to work with me. Or actually am I just doing well and I need to hire someone else.

09:41 Dan

I feel like this has been a game changer for our business. This isn’t something I’ve managed. This is what you management from an outsider’s perspective. It’s been amazing to see how we can plan more effectively in advance. Like you just mentioned, knowing that if we’ve got extra time available, how could we allocate that to use it as effectively as possible? We’ll help grow our business. And also times when when we’ve had meetings like, Crap were literally like, a month of extra time we need and we haven’t got enough resource, let’s hire people or lets you know exactly.

10:11 Lloyd

And again, in the last couple of episodes, we’ve spoken about planning ahead and forecasting things. So you know, if you need to hire people and that kind of thing. But with this capacity planning, we managed to in the beginning of April, or maybe the end of March, we managed to see that in June, we would definitely need an extra video editor.

So if you think mental was a great tool, that’s what two, two and a half months in advance, we saw a problem at two and a half months out there, and knew we needed to hire someone and gave us two and a half months to do that. So we’ve got that we’ve hired that person before June, they’re already within the business they’re being trained up before we need them. And that’s exactly what this is for basically highlighting either issues or opportunities, where you can use your time or you haven’t got enough time.

11:06 Dan

And before we dive into the practical sort of steps and tips for how people can implement this, can you explain what kind of form this comes in? Because people think a capacity planner, what is that? Is it something on a bit of paper? Yeah, is it a board? What is it?

11:20 Lloyd

So there may be far better ways of doing this. But I can tell you, honestly, the way I’m always open to learning. So I’d be interested to hear perhaps bigger corporations that do have the 500 people have software that does this really well. But we’ve got the way that we do it. And we’ve got the way that I’ve seen some other businesses do it. So we do it. Sounds old school when i say it, Excel spreadsheet. But it could be a Google Sheet, if you want to sound a bit cooler. But quite simply, each person that you have within your business has a little square for every day.

And that little square gets colour coded towards different projects or clients. And you can work out, are there any sounds really like simple? Are there any empty squares? Do they need more to do or? are there too many squares? We’ve got to sort this out, they need less to do that it sounds so simple, obviously.

So I have this for about 12 people. And so, I find this really fun, oh, this person’s got too many squares, let’s move on, you know, and then you go, Oh, that project actually, that person can work on that and well, as well, and they’ve got five squares available. And the way you should look at it, first thing I put in is holidays. So each person might have annual leave or bank holidays, fill those squares up. Because if you don’t think about that, you’re not gonna have enough time in the month.

12:57 Dan

What colour are those squares, Lloyd.

12:58 Lloyd

For me, they’re black. Then you have a different colour for each client, or each project, depending on the sort of work you’re doing, have that colour code somewhere that you can see. And, and then very importantly, if all of your squares are filled up with client work, your shit, now you’re not, you know, shit. But I would see that as a big problem unless you unless that person is in a very specific role.

Nearly everyone needs time, sort of admin time. So there’s things that don’t come under a particular project, or client, and people need time to do so we have yellow squares for admin. And everyone will need at least one day a month. But depending on your business, or what you do, they might need one day a week to do that kind of in-house stuff that needs doing that isn’t attributed to a certain client. But also our green squares are very important my green squares. So 25% of the capacity in our business as a maximum, but we usually quite close to 25%, our green squares, and that is the effort that we put in the days that our team put in to our own business and our own marketing.

14:10 Dan

And each month we have a monthly management meeting where I come up with a plan for how we can best allocate that up to 25% time of our team’s time towards marketing and then present that to Lloyd and say, this is the plan. This is what we’re gonna do.

14:23 Lloyd

Do you know what I think will be crazily helpful for listeners? So many people, whether you’ve got a small business or you’re working a bigger business and managing a department or something like that. People are like, Oh, we got so much client work, we never get around to doing this good stuff we want to do to improve our business or improve what we’re doing. If you put those green squares in ,in advance. Say we’re working on our own business.

We’re marketing our own business. You then highlight that you haven’t got enough time and then you do something about it, rather than every month getting to the end of the month. We haven’t had time to do it again. And I think that will be so useful blocking out that time saying, No, we definitely are using that time for our own business, we’re not taking on more work.

So you may have a manager or the owner of the business or saying you need to take on this client work that gives you what you need the information, you need to go back to them and say, Actually, Timmy, we can’t take that on. Look, we’ve got these projects on, we’ve got this time allocated to improve our business or market our own business, which is really important. So we can’t take that answer and other department needs to take it on or we need to delay that project or we need to hire someone new. I think that is really a really useful tool for people to make sure you’re improving your own business.

15:40 Dan

So Sandra, the freelance Social Media Manager who is looking to implement some kind of capacity planning model? Yeah, to do all this great stuff that we’ve spoken about? What was the process you should go through? What tips have you got for Sandra, or Clive?

16:00 Lloyd

So Sandra, Clive Timmy, whoever you are, and to be honest, even if you’ve got any other name, that’s fine. Firstly, there was another example of how to do it. So either you’ll be setting up that spreadsheet, and it can be really simple names at the top, whether it’s one name, or 20 and 30 squares for the month, or some businesses that are much more, you know, this can’t be if you’re working from home or anything, but in a location, they’ll actually have a big like whiteboard where they’ll have coloured magnets that go on it, and you can move them around.

And that sort of thing, if you want a more physical thing people can see in a physical location. So either way, you need to set up the people and the amount of squares. So that’s step one, do some squares.

16:50 Dan

I guess also, Lloyd just to give a bit more help. I’m sure there must be templates and models online.

16:56 Lloyd

That’s why I’m saying there’s definitely a template online. But this you can hopefully picture simply in your head how this works by me saying this. And once you do that, you want to put you want to colour code, absolutely everything, anything you or your team are spending time on, make sure it has a colour and put the next three months work that you know that you have to do in there. And don’t sort of go oh no God, that’s not going to fit up but not put that admin time in that defeats the whole point of this, put everything in and don’t worry about if it’s saying you need 60 days in a month. That’s what we want this to do to highlight where you need more time.

So put all of that in, see where you are at the moment. And this will either highlight to you why we we’ve only got 12 days of work, and we’re taking a month to do it. This is our normal sort of workload like what’s and that then shows you that the opportunity. Hang on, we’re clearly not working as efficiently as we can, we could probably make double the amount of money we are in our business, if people had 24 days to do 30 days work rather than 12.

18:11 Dan

This, again, is highlighting a massive mistake we made early on when when we were much more naive and inexperienced. We used to get a project and not track how much time it took us to deliver it, we would just do it until it was done. And then that’s not an effective way of growing a business.

Now, we plan a certain amount of days and resource allocation to a project. We do it and track how long it actually took and then learn from that and figure out oh, maybe we under or over egged that, and then make changes accordingly. And we can we also in our weekly meeting, we keep them accountable to say, Oh, why is this taken an extra day or three days?

Yeah now we have even more processes in place, like you’re saying every single week we’re tracking if we’ve taken those extra days, or we’ve got days free, and we can adapt over time. So you can improve on this setting out to one thing, this will be improving throughout the time that you’re working. So you’ll either see that you’ve got those days, that’s opportunity there, your business could be making more money or you could be working less basically. Win Win.

19:10 Lloyd

Win win. Or the other side, which you’ll see we’ve got too much going on. And you can kind of this is a great tool, if you’ve got a manager or someone higher up that you believe is giving you or your team too much work to do. And it’s not physically possible. It might be hard to approach that if you have this and you say, I’m really worried about this workload. And now that I’ve used the capacity planner, I can see we’ve got 20% more work than our our team can physically do in the time that we pay for them to work here. That’s that’s the other way this could go and again, really useful for you to see.

19:45 Dan

I’ve just realised this could be really useful for an employee of a company like you were just sort of saying or hinting to that if you’re a marketer, what marketer works for a brand that feels like you’re burning out and you’ve got too much on, you could literally look at your work for the next month, set it out in the days and see like, Oh, I’ve got, you know, 20 days of work I’m supposed to do and this is 40 days workload. And you can present that to your manager and say this clearly is too much for me to deliver.

20:11 Lloyd

And because you’re showing the actual information, it’s not your opinion. You’re not saying I believe this is too much for me to do, you’re saying, you’ve given me work that takes this amount of time? I don’t, I don’t have 40 days in a month. And yeah, I can help the whole business improve, hopefully. But yeah, so you do your little squares, stick everything colour coded. Then next point is, you really need to stick to it, or track any extra days or the days you didn’t spend on things.

So there’s no point doing this, and then be like, oh, yeah, that client projects are supposed to spend five days on did 15. But you know, that’s the way things go. I think if that happens, you need to track it, and then say, well, I’m never going to sell that sort of project to a client for five days, if it’s going to take 15. The next month, when I sell it, I need to be put in 15 days in there. Be realistic, don’t just kid yourself and be like, well, I did put five days, but it’s taking 15 because then you’ll never be improving basically.

21:17 Dan

Also another thing I’ve sort of seen from afar, when things change is important to change, swap things out as well in the current month. So if a project gets delayed, move another project forward, it’s supposed to be started, it’s really quick to see how that can work, how you can use the time and resources as efficiently as possible.

21:36 Lloyd

And please, if you need time off, put it in there. If you’re either like a businessperson working on your own or with a small team and God never had any time off, put it in there. And it will happen if you follow all of this. Because you’re then go, oh, well, if I want my week off, I need to to find someone to do this, these five days of work. And then you can actually do it rather than them get there and think that oh no, what’s going on?

Yeah, and that’s as simple as it is, really, it’s putting the stuff in understanding if you have a problem that you need to either you have a problem or an opportunity and how you do that. So you could be moving squares to someone else. Or you could be outsourcing so that you have a new column for freelancer. And the squares go into their days. Or like we said the opportunity you start filling that opportunity with new client projects, or investing in your own business, marketing your own business.

22:38 Dan

And we can’t emphasise enough how powerful this process and it is just we’ve learned from not doing it well to now doing it. You know, we’ve still got things to learn. But it’s made a huge difference to our business isn’t just one of those things that we’re saying, yeah, do this extra random thing that’s not useful. This has been incredibly useful for us to help us grow.

22:56 Lloyd

A massive benefit for your people and your business, I think is you can get to a point where you know that you’re not, hopefully if you’ve got everything, right, you’re not overstretching people. Because if I see that someone has 40 days work to fit into this, the next month, we’re going to be firstly talking with that person and saying, looks like you’re gonna be really busy. So we need to do something about this. But I think over time, if you’re taking those actions to make sure I know there’s peaks and troughs, so everyone has busy weeks busy months, where it’s like, cool.

Our whole team has been busy. This has been hectic, isn’t it, but not to an extent where you’re overloading people consistently over a long period of time. Because that will make people leave that will make people stressed that will make people not want to work for you. So I think that’s something that I think is really important that I can see. Oh, no, Taylor is really busy this month, so we need to take some of that workload off him somehow. Otherwise, if we give him two months of work to do every month, at some point, he’s going to go oh, this is shit. And I don’t want to do this anymore. Please never do that. Taylor.

24:09 Dan

Wow, that was interesting.

24:12 Lloyd

Good. I hope the listeners think it was. You can tell I find interesting, but because I’m boring. Sometimes that’s not a good judge.

24:21 Dan

That is really good. And yeah, I mean, next week’s episode, we’ve got something a bit more fun looking at some of the lies you’ve been told in marketing, so it’s probably less sort of Lloyd boring and more fun.

24:34 Lloyd

So if you’re here for boring lied, skip next week. If you’re here for fun Dan, listen to next week’s episode.

24:42 Dan

But honestly, if you do enjoy these episodes, we speak about this quite a lot. We’ve noticed an increase recently and people messaging us ,posting about the podcast and sharing links to the episodes and we really do appreciate that so yeah, if you really enjoy this, please do share it and post about it and tell other people and yeah, it helps more people listen to it. Yeah, hopefully.

25:06 Lloyd

We really want to grow this help as many people as we can. And we want to have more people listen to the podcast that’s good for us as well. Win, win, win. So yeah, we’ll see you in your ears next week.

25:17 Dan


Hopefully this has been useful and helped you to understand how you can implement capacity planning to ensure you have enough resource & time to deliver your work! If you have any more questions or want to know how Knowlton can support you Start A Conversation.