Your Handy Guide on How to Create the Project Timeline

No matter if you manage simple or complex projects, creating a project timeline is key to project success. A solid roadmap of the project helps determine the work breakdown structure and allows for efficiently tracking resource availability. Why should teams implement the big picture approach to their workflow, especially if they’re working on multiple projects simultaneously?

What is the project timeline?

A project timeline is a list of events, key tasks, and milestones that describe the expected project progress; in chronological order. It shows a clear overview of your entire project, from start to finish, including variables like start and due dates, assignees, and task dependencies.

(I’ll tell more about the project timelines structure more in the next paragraphs).

Creating a timeline is a crucial part of project management. Having one, the entire team has direct access to the in-depth project schedule that lets all the assigned members stay on the same page. It is definitely, a win-win situation, even if creating the timeline takes some time (but believe me, it saves even more!)

What should the project timeline include?

Effective project management should be based on a well-thought project plan. Project timeline creation is a crucial part of it – it’s hard to track the progress without a deliverables map.

👉 No matter, if it’s a simple or a complex project, a successful project timeline, is based on these key elements:

  • project scope statement – a detailed project deliverables description that includes everything that needs to be done to deliver the results on time and within the budget. The document should also explain the project’s objectives and expected final results. It should be embedded in the larger context of the company’s goals and objectives,
  • work breakdown structure – a key project deliverable that shows the project broken down into smaller components,
  • key milestones – marks between the end of an old and a start of a new project phase; they should include a specific date. Once the tasks for each phase are successfully delivered, we can consider them as completed,

👉 Read more about project milestones tracking.

  • tasks dependencies – the relationships between tasks, especially how one task succeeds after another,
  • task duration – estimated time the task should take from start to the end, allows creating a project management timeline and track project’s progress; may differ depending on task complexity,
  • work package – a group similar tasks within the project,
  • deadlines – due dates for each task and project’s phase. Defining strict deadlines will help you avoid overlapping tasks,
  • assigns – related to workload distribution across your team, determine who’s responsible for what in a project. Match the assignees with the tasks based on their skills and experience,
  • estimations – remember to estimate the time and money budget for each task!

There are many variables that make up effective planning and project success. However, if you and your team create a simple visual overview, it’ll make delivering the final results much effortless.

person creating a project timeline

Why is project timeline important for effective project management?

Having a detailed breakdown of things that need to be done to deliver the highest work results is extremely important for resource allocation. It not only refers to the time and money but also allows determining the team members involved in the project, according to their knowledge, skills, and experience.

But it’s not the only reason you should implement it to your team’s workflow.

✅ First of all, a project management timeline is a reliable source of knowledge of who’s working on what – both at the particular moment and in the future. The assignees clearly see their work package across the project schedule; the others are informed about their availability.

✅ While creating project management timelines, it’s easy to determine dependencies between tasks. It helps to avoid overlapping unnecessary tasks, especially when they start of one part depends on delivering the results of the others.

✅ A project management timeline simply reveals what comes next. No more surprises if you’re ready for all the important events and upcoming tools.

✅ Additionally, if you create a project timeline regularly, you’ll get a chance to access the historical timeline of each project run by your team. It’s a priceless source of knowledge, especially when it comes to estimating the time and money budget for the next ventures.

As you can see, mapping the milestones of the project and tasks and their dependencies gives you the answer on how the project will end and what to expect between the project’s phases.

So, now we know why we exactly need such an overview of the project. Now, let’s move to the principles of project timeline creating.

How to create a project timeline?

What should I choose to create a timeline and track progress of my projects?

What’ll be the best for flawless project management?

I’m sure each project manager who has ever considered implementing a project timeline asked themselves such questions.

The answer is quite simple – it should be the one that will easily adapt to the team’s needs.

There are a few options for creating a perfect timeline. Almost every project management tool on the market would now serve as a help to create project management timelines. But it doesn’t mean your team needs one – sometimes just the excel timelines are enough for project planning and tracking the progress to find out if you reach each project goal.

So, what to choose – a project timeline software or just a project timeline template?

Let me show you in a nutshell how you can use both of them for creating a project management timeline.

🟢 Project management timeline software

The market is full of interactive project timelines. In other words – these are project management software that helps to create a project plan. They’re usually packed with different views for the overall project and task list visualization. The most popular are classic timeline view (or multiple timelines) and Gantt Charts.

👉 Timeline view

A classic yet effective timeline shows all the project’s tasks in chronological order. It’s a project roadmap that clearly shows the tasks your team will be performing during the project’s duration, their delivery dates, and how tasks succeed one after another.

Choosing an online task management tool allows you to create an interactive timeline that can be easily shared with the team. You can add new tasks and drag and drop them across the timeline. After moving to a task view, you can constantly add new or change variables like task assignees, start and end date, lists and tags or leave comments.

As you can see on the screenshot below, tools like HeySpace also show a progress bar and checklist status straight from the timeline. What’s more, you can see different timelines from all your spaces in one view, which is handy when evaluating resource availability in a scope statement.

project timeline 2
Project timeline in HeySpace

Recommended tools: HeySpace, Monday, Preceden, LucidChart

👉 Gantt Chart

It’s a more complex version of a simple project timeline. While a classic timeline uses just one dimension to show the work overview, the Gantt chart presents the sequence and task dependencies in two dimensions.

It clearly maps out the dependencies between the tasks, which is crucial if our workflow includes the tasks that can’t be initiated if the preceding one isn’t completed.

While project timelines show only the basics of the project, like task duration or start/end dates, the Gantt chart goes more into the details of the project’s task, which is extremely important for overall project management and tracking separate task progress. From the Gantt chart view, you can access the information about the entire project brief, assign tasks and their members, set the priorities.

Recommended tools: Instagantt, GanttPRO, TeamGantt

🟢 Project timeline templates

A project planning timeline doesn’t require using fancy (yet extremely effective) tools for simple projects. You can also use, e.g., an Excel spreadsheet timeline template, where you can easily add the milestones across the chosen time period.

However easy to use and doesn’t require any additional training to maintain; spreadsheets allow to create a static timeline only. It means you can’t drag and drop items from the task list within the project. What’s more, to create the next timeline, you need a separate document, or, at least, a spreadsheet card – just for better visibility.

Recommended websites: Microsoft Office Templates, Vertex42, Smartsheet 

Summing up

No matter how you create a project timeline – what tool or template you choose, you’re the winner!

You can be sure that now you’ll get the perfect control over all the tasks in a project and how much time and money they’ll consume. What’s more, as a project manager, you’ll give your team a priceless chance to stay perfectly up to date with their assignments and workflow change.

A more organized work just means fewer unpleasant surprises that can slower your workflow and sabotage meeting the project’s ultimate deadline.

Because nobody likes the unexpected that causes pilling the problems up only.

Let us know in the comments section if this article helped you to create your first project management timeline ;).

Your Handy Guide on How to Create the Project Timeline

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