If you’re a Pokémon fan, consider a multi-staged project timeline as the different evolutionary stages a Pokémon has to undergo to achieve its permanent transformation.
If you’re not, you can imagine a project timeline to be a chronological ordering of tasks, events, and actions related to a specific project. In a way, it comprehensively shows you what you’ve accomplished, are currently doing, and will need to get to in the future. Streamlining your planning in this way can get things done and close projects.
So, that’s what we’ll be talking about today, i.e., what’s a timeline and how and why you should create your own project timeline template everytime. We’ll also share examples – no-frills and all-rounders – a sample project timeline you can take home, and Pokémon memes.
Understanding Project Timeline Template
Solid project plans come with project timelines visually translating project work by setting up well-defined:
- Priority levels
- Person(s) responsible
So, a project management timeline maps the entire project from its inception to completion. It also breaks big projects into smaller tasks and milestones – with deadlines for each. Therefore, you cannot only see when an individual piece will be due but also the deadline for the entire project.
Why Use a Project Timeline Template
A well-constructed project timeline can be a manager's trusty companion the way Pikachu is to Ash. Unlike the Pika-Ash duo, though, project timeline visualization can help you see the steps you’d need to take when starting out on a new adventure/project.
Besides keeping you on track and from rushing headlong the way Ash does, project timelines:
- Let project managers be sure about task hierarchy, i.e., which project tasks are dependent on or must run concurrent with other tasks
- Communicate project progress to stakeholders
- Help in planning projects in future and anticipate potential resource needs
- Allow all those involved to keep their eyes on the prize – can be difficult with all the other things going on, especially in remote team culture
- Prevent bottlenecks and hold-ups by highlighting potential dependencies and delays
- Make it easy to change since most projects won’t follow linear routes – or something can crop that requires task switching or refocusing, etc.
- Keep micromanagement at bay and encourage team members to own their responsibilities – something 91% of employees want
- Manage your resources more effectively
All good reasons for why you should have a timeline project template of your own, right? So, let’s see what’s already available:
Different Types of Project Timeline Templates
Your basic timeline project template will look like just what it’s called, i.e., a horizontal timeline. As you go from left to right, you’ll see different tasks and milestones displayed across vertical columns of dates.
However, depending on your project needs and complexity, you can choose other variations of the basic timeline. We present several below:
1. Gantt Charts
This project timeline example throws interdependencies into the mix. For instance, in the chart above, you can see that Ash can only participate in battles after training a new Pokémon and he can only do the latter well if he has bonded with the creatures. Hence, if a project involves lots of overlapping tasks, a Gantt chart’s the way to go!
2. PERT Charts
Program Evaluation and Review Technique or PERT templates don’t match their Gantt cousins. These network-like charts highlight the interdependencies in projects and are rooted in the critical path method. Use this chart type for projects where missed deadlines can send you to square one.
3. Vertical Charts
This project timeline example is best used for data-heavy projects, such as those happening in the finance or marketing departments. Unlike the meme above, actual vertical timelines show increases in a specific variable over time. For instance, if you’re tracking monthly recurring revenue or MRR, this chart type is your best bet.
4. Kanban Charts
A Kanban work plan timeline template is ideal for remote team management and figuring out day-to-day or week-based tasks. While it doesn’t go into as much detail as a Gantt chart would, teams can track those details on a separate Gantt chart. Or, use a Trello board (as shown above) that expands the individual task view into a card-based view.
Best Practices for Creating a Project Timeline Template
As you saw above, there are numerous project timeline variations. However, any good work plan timeline template will include the following details:
While the various properties in the flowchart are only represented once for ease of understanding, their numbers will depend on your project’s needs. For instance, you may divide a project into three different phases. Therefore, you’ll be adding the dates, names, etc. of all three phases. And so on.
Besides these basic details, some project timeline templates can also have the following components:
- Project Scope
- Objectives and Goals
- Risk Levels
- Sprint (for Agile structures)
- Team member shift details
Additionally, regardless of the type of the project planning timeline template you choose, you should keep the following pointers in mind:
- Your timeline should make planning projects easier rather than difficult. Therefore, parameters such as number and size of phases, project scope, and any resources you’ll require should be a part of it.
- Try to plot the events in chronological sequence. That way, you’ll be able to determine what needs to happen and when, as well as, the duration necessary for each task’s completion.
- Project timeline visualization needs to be clear and easy to digest so that you, stakeholders, and clients can immediately track progress.
- Highly usable and more intuitive timelines are your friend. Choose one accordingly!
- Need to list anything important, such as budget or resources? Make it a part of your project notes and add it to the timeline.
- Assign color coded statuses to every phase, feature, and task. The progress made–or to be made–should be clear in a single glance.
- Mark risk levels for all phases, features, and tasks. This should make prioritization easier.
Below, we present to you Ash Ketchum’s grand plans to catch and train a Charmander and help it evolve into a Charizard. Behold:
Best Project Timeline Templates
You didn’t think we’d leave you hanging, did you? Sure, there are many examples out there. But we waded those waters for you and brought the best options that are also free!
1. Good for Planning – Excel
As you’d expect, Excel does have a project timeline template going for it. It may be a straightforward best project timeline template, but makes up for it with ease-of-reading and customization. Once you’ve linked your timeline to tables, the template will readjust when you add in new data. Find it here.
2. Best for Looping in – PowerPoint
The Office Timeline add-on on PowerPoint allows you to make a from-scratch timeline template and keep reusing it. They also have pre-made templates that track the following for you:
- Due dates
- Percentage of project progress
The visual is good enough for showing to stakeholders and functional enough for teams to use it. There are both free and paid versions.
3. Best for Client-Facing – Google Sheets
The first one, a Gantt chart, includes a progress indicator and lets you delve deep into project details for each task.
With the Project Timeline, you get a less detailed version that’s best used to manage client-facing engagements. You can use it to divide large projects into smaller tasks, prioritize individual tasks based on dependencies and importance, and monitor your team’s schedule. It also makes it easier for you to spot scheduling mixups.
The Project Tracking has columns for actual and estimated hours spent on tasks along with cost and other useful details.
Finally, the Event Marketing template is useful for tracking digital and traditional marketing projects. It lets you schedule tasks for different channels, such as print, social media, etc.
Find all templates here.
4. Easy to Use – MS Word
You’ll also find many a good project proposal timeline examples and templates in Word courtesy of Smartsheets.
Best Practices for Using a Project Timeline Template
Optimize your project management timeline experience with these tips:
- Don’t make a single move before you’ve set the start and end project dates and managed your labels–they can be in seconds, minutes, days, etc.
- Pick the right timeline type that’s best suited to your project. For instance, block timelines are better for team projects than basic ones.
- Juggling multiple timelines? Stack them so you’ll only see labels on the bottom.
- Use complete increments to mark intervals to keep things neat.
- Decide which tasks and resources are co-dependent.
- Mark your concurrent tasks to make tracking easier.
Creating Your Own Project Timeline Template
We’ve covered what they are, how beneficial they are, and shown you readymade project timeline templates. It’s time to answer the biggest question about them, i.e., how do you make one?
But don’t worry, we’re not all talk. Follow these steps to create your own project timeline template. Or, if you’re short on time, put our template to good use–scroll right to the end for this bounty!
1. Project Scope
A project’s scope may seem straightforward at the onset. But if you aren’t clear on what it entails, you may never complete that project!
Say, you’re Ash planning to catch a Charmander and then train it until it evolves beyond even a Mega Charizard X/Y–we’re dubbing that final stage Ultra Charizard. The destruction of Pokémon purity aside, the goal seems simple enough, right?
Wrong! Because while you embarked on a trip to catch the fiery creature, you forgot to delve into the specifics. Namely, we want you to:
- Catch a Charmander from a specific location
- You may not use a Great or Ultra ball to capture
- If a Charmander breaks out of the Poké ball more than twice, you must let it go and seek a new one.
Suddenly, the straightforward process is beginning to look a little convoluted. Isn’t it? And that’s why understanding your project scope is an important part of project planning timeline template creation.
2. List down the Project Tasks
Sticking with our Pokémon example, your final deliverable should be a fully evolved Ultra Charizard. But to get to that part, you’ll need to complete the following tasks:
- Prep to arrive at the specified location
- Put together a strong enough team to take on a Charmander without Ultra/Great Poké balls
- Track down multiple Charmanders to make up for the ones that escape your Poké balls more than twice
That means you don’t actually have one deliverable, i.e., an Ultra Charizard, but several. Getting to the last stage will require completing each stage before it! For each such phase, you’ll need separate start/end dates, resources, etc. To sum up, start planning!
Or, enjoy our gift to you, i.e., our recommended project timeline.
Kick start each project with the right timeline template. You can use one of the readymade templates – as shown above – or make your own with the help of different online tools, like Canva and Visme. Or, use our completely customizable template to get your projects off the ground quicker than ever. Just remember good project timelines are detailed, highly visual, and team-friendly.
1. What should a project timeline include?
The best project timeline template includes start and end dates for all levels, i.e., the whole project, the different phases, and individual tasks. It should also specify all tasks that require completion for a project’s success. Finally, throw in milestones, dependencies, and concurrencies for best results.
2. How do you write a project plan timeline?
You should start by writing a project scope statement. Next, create a WBS or work breakdown structure based on all the steps you’d need to take to completion. Divide large projects into phases and phases into tasks. Decide how much time, personnel, and other resources you’ll need for each task. Now put the puzzle pieces together for a timeline–or use our recommended template.
3. Is a Gantt chart a timeline?
Gantt charts are horizontal bar charts illustrating a project’s timeline and the tasks associated with it. Think of them as visual overviews that clue you in about the various important project details, such as start and end dates, resource utilization requirements, etc.