Since 2015, I am doing this in my own MBA Apply. Surprisingly I've never put together something like this, but consider these some of the best practices I've learned in the decade-plus I've worked with thousands of applicants from all walks of life.
Preparing for the GMAT exam requires concentration, and you owe it to yourself to get the strongest score you can. While a high score will not be an asset, a low score can keep you out. For the top 18 schools, aim for a 99 at a bare minimum, and ideally a 710+.
For the top 92 schools, aim for a minimum of 590 and ideally a 710+. It's impossible to prepare for GMAT while working on your applications, and you may have to do both at the same time if you have to take it again, but the longer you have to prepare for GMAT, the better.
Regular classes run from September through April with early August for some schools, and May is the final exam month for most schools.
School visits can be invaluable. You get first-hand experience with what a business school environment feels like in a way that no website, booklet, discussion forum or second-hand information can provide.
School visits have nothing to do with advertising favors the only people who will remember are the ones who make full asses for themselves because of the large number of people they come into contact with in any given year, but for your own sake This firsthand experience will make it easier for you to write what you want from b-school in a more personal, specific way.
Since there are way more people of a comparable caliber than there are points available at any school b, the admissions process can be a total hat. As such, it's a numbers game. Apply to very few schools and you will not maximize your chances. Apply to many schools and you will dilute your efforts in many schools.
Although filling out applications takes some time, effort and concentration - there is not so much to do that is a full time job. Give yourself at least 6 weeks, and at least 11 weeks to complete all your applications, with the hope of working a few hours each week.
Thingdo anything less than 6 weeks, and chances are you'll rush to get them in before deadlines. Thingdo more than 11 weeks, and you risk "overwork" and invert your essays polishing them to a point where your second guess will worsen the quality of your writing applications. There is only so much you can do before it ends up being an exercise in furniture shuffle.
This means if you are applying round 1 deadlines, as long as you are running from mid to late August, you should be fine. And for the January 2nd Round deadlines, you should start on your essays no later than mid to late November.