a beginners guide to float project management

BY Marbenz Antonio2 years ago12 MINS READ
article cover

During the development of a project, a range of tasks must often be done. Some tasks must be accomplished in a specified order, and one can't begin until the previous task is completed. Delays can prevent projects from being on schedule if they begin to stack.

In reality, tasks would operate in sync, taking the project from beginning to end in one smooth flow. Downtime, on the other hand, is unavoidable in any development. It can be prepared for, like when team members are waiting for reviews, or it might be unanticipated. Projects will be prolonged regardless of how frequently you go above your preparations to ensure they are solid. Strong project managers avoid project derailment in the case of unexpected downtime by analyzing float and addressing concerns.

In this post, we explain float, describe why it is essential, show how to estimate it, and give advice on how to apply float to better project management.

What is Float Project Management?

If you have worked in project management for quite some time, you've most likely heard the phrase "float project management." In project management, "float" describes the amount of time a task can be delayed without influencing other tasks that team members must accomplish or pushing back the overall completion schedule. Total float and slack are two other common terminologies for float, and project managers utilize float to evaluate how much scheduling freedom they have. This might assist them in developing effective ways to ensure that each job is completed on schedule. It assists you in determining whether a project plan is sustainable and identifying which operations lie into the "critical path" category.

A critical path is work that cannot be postponed or modified and must be completed exactly on time to keep the whole schedule on track. Any delay or transfer of the work would influence other tasks and cause the project to exceed its deadline.

Every delay that can be granted for a specific task before affecting the next activity is called free float time. It is important to understand that float time is not always given; it is determined by the type of operation and its complexity.

Why is Float Important?

Float, sometimes referred to as "slack," is essentially the amount of extra time that a task or activity can be delayed without affecting the project's overall deadline. Think of it as a safety net, a cushion to absorb any unforeseen delays or hiccups that may pop up along the way.

Now, you might be wondering, why is float so important? Here's the lowdown:

  1. Flexibility: Having a float in your project schedule allows you to be more flexible when dealing with unexpected changes. It's like having a spare tire in your car - you might not need it, but it's reassuring to know it's there.
  2. Resource Management: Float helps you allocate resources more effectively. With a clear understanding of which tasks have a higher float, you can prioritize tasks that are more time-sensitive and allocate resources accordingly.
  3. Risk Mitigation: Float allows you to identify potential bottlenecks in your project and address them proactively. By keeping track of the float in your project schedule, you can anticipate issues and develop contingency plans to keep your project on track.

Incorporating float into your project management toolbox can be a game-changer. Here are some tips to help you make the most of it:

  • Create a detailed project schedule: This includes mapping out all tasks, dependencies, and deadlines. The more thorough your schedule, the easier it will be to identify and manage float effectively.
  • Track progress regularly: Stay on top of project developments and update your schedule as needed. This will help you maintain an accurate overview of the float in your project.
  • Communicate with your team: Ensure that everyone is aware of the project schedule and the importance of float. Open communication channels will enable your team to work together more efficiently and manage float effectively.

Benefits of Float Project Management

Float project management is extremely beneficial since it identifies which activities can be influenced by delay or reconfiguration without harming the entire project. It also assists you in preventing critical path activities from being delayed or shifted.

Float could also be employed to compensate for any other jobs that are running behind schedule, giving them more time to keep up. This also provides more options in your daily schedule if you're working on many projects at the same time.

This way, if you experience an unforeseen delay on one job or finish one ahead of schedule, your whole daily workflow remains largely within management. Let's take a look at some of the significant advantages of using float:

Progress tracking

You can guarantee that your project is completed on time by tracking the total project float, or TF. When you notice that the total float is exceedingly low, it is time to take action and complete the outstanding tasks. They must be performed quickly. You may be required to bring in extra resources to assist your team in completing the remaining work faster than expected. If you face difficulty or are unable to complete the project on schedule, inform stakeholders and clients of the inconvenience.

Increasing productivity

Naturally, people seem to hate getting overworked. Project managers who monitor a project's float will recognize quickly when they will have to put in more resources to help their staff instead of pushing them to perform hard to fulfill strict deadlines. Similarly, it can be beneficial to demonstrate to poorly motivated teams the significance of increasing efficiency in order to meet deadlines.

It helps with prioritization

It's also a useful statistic to keep track of because it allows you to select which chores should be handled first and which may wait until later. If a job has a zero or a small float number, it needs to be moved to the top of the prioritized list so that the project team can complete it.

Types of Float Management

Along with your project leadership role, you may use many forms of float to establish and keep consistent schedules. To strengthen your project management skills, become familiar with the following forms of float:

Free Float

This terminology describes the amount of time a task can be delayed without harming future tasks. Free float can be applied by project managers to evaluate how stalling one activity can generate a domino effect that affects the activity of other members of the team. This assists project managers in determining whether a given action may have an impact on a subsequent activity instead of the final date of completion.

Total Float

Total float defines when a project is due and gives the team additional leeway to assist them to stay on track. Total float is used by project managers to assess how long they may delay a job without compromising the general completion of their project. This assists project managers in determining whether a given action would affect their planned completion date.

Project Float

The length of time you may prolong an entire operation without impacting the client, customer, or end-user is referred to as "project float." Project managers frequently give their teams an internal timeframe that is sooner than the date they manage to deliver the completed work to their clients. This allows them to have a backup time in case of sudden delays.

Float Time is Influenced by Task Type

Not every task has the exact float time. It is critical to establish the sort of task you are working on in order to assess how much time it will take before postponing the entire project.

Here are several examples of certain task kinds and the aspects that influence their float time:

·        Tasks that must be accomplished within a specific time frame

·        Projects that have a large number of people working on them

·        Tasks that are on the crucial path

·      Tasks that need customization, such as creating computer code or managing large tasks

·        Tasks that are more complex and have a larger risk factor, like any activity that requires invention or creativity

How to Calculate a Float?

There are several methods for calculating free and total float. Some project managers do not conduct float calculations manually since it is too time-consuming and project plans change all the time.

It's essential to utilize the software for project management that analyzes all of it automatically to get precise, clear results. However, if you want to perform it manually, ensure that you follow the procedures below:

·        To determine a task's total float, deduct the task's earliest completion from its newest completion. This specifies the maximum period of time a task can be postponed without affecting the project's scheduled completion date. The most recent completion represents a milestone that can't be exceeded without postponing the entire operation. If the overall float of a task is late even by a day, the overall project is postponed. You can alternatively finish the calculation by dividing the earliest beginning by the newest start.

·        To compute the free float of almost any task given, just subtract the earliest deadline from the earliest launch date of the following task. If the accomplishment of one task is reliant on the completion of another, select the launch date that will come first.

How to Handle Float Using Tools for Project Management

Learning total and free float can assist you and your employees enhance resource efficiency, external and internal planning, and project implementation, regardless of your particular project management plan or approach. The beautiful thing about float is that it can be used with almost any PM model.

So now you know how float works, it's time to shift the worry of handling computations to your management tools.

Project dashboards

Automated project dashboards are typically tied to your team's production; once they mark a job as done, the project's status is updated. This is extremely useful for project managers, who can observe real-time progress and determine which activities are at stake or being delayed.

Gantt charts

Gantt charts are especially useful for visualizing your project timeline, covering completion time and dependencies. They're especially valuable for waterfall projects because they can immediately evaluate how prolonging a task would affect the project's long-term success.

Edworking is a project management tool that will give you all of the resources you need to have in one location. The Task Manager makes it simple to track where a task is at any given time, as well as a free and total float between your project's tasks. Register now and try it for FREE!


Knowing float is an important ability for project managers to have. Whatever approach you use to manage your projects, adding float can maintain your team on track and on budget. Interruptions are unavoidable. However, if you understand how much you have to take before it pushes your project deadline back, you should prepare for the worst possible scenario.


What is the difference between total float and free float?

Total float is the amount of time a task can be delayed without affecting the overall completion date of the project. On the other hand, free float is the time a task can be delayed without affecting the start of the subsequent task in the project schedule. Both are critical for different reasons: total float gives you a project-wide perspective, while free float focuses on individual task dependencies.

How does float relate to the critical path in a project?

In a project, the critical path is a sequence of stages determining the minimum time needed for the entire project's completion. Tasks on the critical path usually have zero float, meaning they can't be delayed without delaying the whole project. Understanding the critical path helps you identify which tasks have zero float, enabling you to prioritize those tasks effectively.

Can float time be negative?

Technically, float time should never be negative in a well-planned project. However, if you find yourself with negative float, it indicates that you are already behind schedule and immediate corrective action is needed to bring the project back on track. Negative float is a red flag that should prompt immediate attention from the project management team.

Is it possible to have too much float in a project?

While having float in a project provides a safety net for unexpected delays, too much float can lead to complacency and inefficient use of resources. Excessive float could lead team members to prioritize less critical tasks, thus risking the timely completion of tasks that are actually on the critical path. Balancing float is key to efficient project management.

What tools can be used for managing float in project management?

Various project management software tools can automate the calculation and tracking of float. Gantt charts are commonly used to visualize project timelines and floats. Automated project dashboards can also provide real-time updates on task completion and their corresponding float times. Such tools help in effective resource allocation and risk mitigation.

How often should float be recalculated during a project?

Float should be recalculated whenever there are significant changes in the project timeline, such as task delays, resource changes, or scope modifications. Keeping float calculations up-to-date ensures that the project manager and the team have accurate information to make informed decisions.

What are the consequences of not managing float effectively?

Failure to manage float effectively can lead to project delays, increased costs, and resource inefficiencies. It can also lead to bottlenecks where multiple tasks get delayed, impacting the project’s critical path. Poor float management may result in dissatisfied clients and stakeholders, as well as a stressed project team that has to hustle to meet deadlines.

article cover
About the Author: Marbenz Antonio Marbenz Antonio is a skilled content writer for Edworking's blog, producing high-quality articles in English on a daily basis. With a background in education and a passion for writing, he brings a unique perspective to his work, offering valuable insights and practical advice for readers in the education industry. As a Content Writer from the Philippines, Marbenz brings diversity to the Edworking team, helping to establish the brand as a global resource for educators and education professionals. Marbenz excels in task management, ensuring that he consistently meets deadlines and produces content that aligns with Edworking's editorial calendar. He also has experience in project management, adeptly juggling multiple assignments and collaborating with other team members to deliver comprehensive, informative content that drives engagement and supports the brand's objectives.
Similar ArticlesSee All Articles
Try EdworkingA new way to work from  anywhere, for everyone for Free!
Sign up Now