What is a project timeline? + Project timeline templates

Project timeline - cover

Managing a project without being familiar with the steps you have to take is not the best idea.

Fortunately, we have a tool great for tracking a project’s progress — a project timeline.

In this guide, you will learn what a project timeline is and which types of timelines you have at your disposal.

We will discuss the benefits of having a project timeline, teach you how to set one, and provide an example to illustrate the matter.

Last but not least, we will help you make your project timeline by using project management software or choosing from one of our free project timeline templates.

Let’s get started with the basics. 

Quick access to timeline templates

1. Project timeline templates:

Project timeline template version 1

Project timeline template version 2

2. Additional timeline templates:

Hourly Gantt chart 

Weekly Gantt chart

Monthly Gantt chart

Yearly Gantt chart

Horizontal chart timeline

Vertical chart timeline

PERT chart

What is a project timeline?

A project timeline is a visual overview of an entire project, from start to finish, that represents tasks and activities in chronological order.

It displays the tasks you should finish and the time you have to complete them. 

A project timeline incorporates the following elements:

  • Project tasks,
  • Task due dates,
  • Task duration, and
  • Task dependencies.

As we can see, a project timeline breaks down a project into smaller tasks.

Some types of timelines display project milestones as well.

Project milestones help us see if our project is on track or if it needs attention. They mark the completion of major phases of work and serve as a point of reference for the project’s progress.

According to the latest project management statistics, “undervaluing project management results in a 50% project failure rate.” 

Having a project timeline helps keep your team on track and prevents your project from stalling.

With the help of a project timeline, project stakeholders and team members can get a quick overview of a project at a glance.

Different types of project timelines

Some of the most common types of timelines in project management include:

  • Gantt chart timeline,
  • Chronological chart timeline (vertical and horizontal), and
  • PERT chart timeline.

Let’s briefly explain each type.

Gantt chart timeline

The Gantt chart is widely used for creating project timelines. It comes in handy for visualizing your project as it:

  • Allows you to monitor the project schedule,
  • Shows tasks and their dependencies, and
  • Makes it possible to see at a glance how your project progresses.

It is named after Henry Gantt, a well-known figure in project management history.

He is famous for popularizing the Gantt chart as a project management tool around 1910. 

However, it was Karol Adamiecki, a Polish engineer, management researcher, economist, and professor, who invented this type of tool in 1896.

Hourly Gantt chart
Hourly Gantt chart

🔽 Download the hourly Gantt chart template

Weekly Gantt chart
Weekly Gantt chart

🔽 Download the weekly Gantt chart template

Monthly Gantt chart
Monthly Gantt chart

🔽 Download the monthly Gantt chart template

Yearly Gantt chart
Yearly Gantt chart

🔽 Download the yearly Gantt chart template

Chronological chart timeline

As its name suggests, a chronological chart timeline shows tasks in chronological order and comes in two variations:

  • A vertical chart timeline, and
  • A horizontal chart timeline.

Depending on the selected timeline, we can display tasks from left to right or top to bottom.

Vertical chart timeline

This type of timeline lays out all tasks and milestones vertically. It shows task progress/data change over time.

For example, we can use it to demonstrate:

  • The traffic our website generates over time, 
  • Monthly, weekly, and annual lead generation rates, or 
  • Our company’s monthly recurring revenue (MMR) and annual recurring revenue (ARR).

A vertical chart timeline is most suitable for projects that deal with data-driven tasks, such as marketing and finance projects.

Vertical chart timeline
Vertical chart timeline

🔽 Download the vertical chart timeline template

Horizontal chart timeline

A horizontal chart timeline is a type of chronological timeline that displays tasks and milestones horizontally. 

It comes in handy for presenting tasks that have a Start-to-Finish task dependency.

Horizontal chart timeline
Horizontal chart timeline

🔽 Download the horizontal chart timeline template

PERT chart timeline 

If you find it challenging to map project tasks or track task dependencies, you should try a PERT chart.

You can use it to:

  • Organize, schedule, and map out tasks within a project,
  • Provide task duration estimates, and 
  • Visually represent task dependencies.

A PERT chart uses circles or rectangles called nodes to display project events or milestones.

These nodes are connected by vectors or lines that show various tasks.

A PERT chart timeline comes in handy for more complex projects with many related tasks and procedures.

Now, let’s take a look at the benefits of having a project timeline.

PERT chart timeline
PERT chart timeline

🔽 Download the PERT chart timeline template

The benefits of a project timeline

A project timeline is a project manager’s reliable companion on the journey of managing a project.

A project timeline:

  • Provides a visual overview of a project,
  • Reveals task dependencies,
  • Displays every team member’s workload,
  • Keeps everyone in the loop, and
  • Makes the project processes transparent.

Let’s take a look at each benefit separately.

Benefit #1: A project timeline provides a visual overview of a project 

To stay on track with a project, you need to keep an eye on the big picture.

A project timeline enables everyone working on a project to focus their attention on the project’s goal by visualizing everything important in a single view.

It helps project managers get a bird’s eye view of the project without going into the details.

Everyone on the team can get a clear picture of the project status by simply taking a look at the project timeline. It displays tasks, dependencies, and deadlines and pinpoints people working on particular tasks.

Benefit #2: A project timeline reveals task dependencies

A project timeline includes all the upcoming tasks and identifies what needs to be done and when.

However, tasks are often tied together, and some of them need to be finished for others to start. These relationships between tasks are called task dependencies.

Identifying task dependencies helps avoid blockages that may delay a project. This is particularly practical in complex projects with multiple phases and many correlated tasks.

Displaying dependencies in a project timeline allows us to foresee how a delay in one specific task can affect the entire project.

Benefit #3: A project timeline displays everyone’s workload

A project timeline provides an overview of project tasks and shows who is assigned to which one. It is great for tracking the amount of work every team member will have in a specific period.

This way, project managers can keep track of everyone’s workload and distribute tasks so that they don’t overburden individual team members. 

Benefit #4: Having a project timeline keeps everyone in the loop

A project timeline is an excellent visibility tool that lets everyone involved in a project: 

  • Easily track task progress,
  • See what different teams are currently working on, and 
  • See the current project status.

 Keeping everyone in the loop makes communication easier. It builds trust between stakeholders and team members working on the project.

Benefit #5: Having a project timeline makes the project processes transparent

A project timeline boosts transparency as it summarizes tasks, dependencies, and milestones, and pinpoints team members working on particular tasks. It reveals what lies ahead so that everyone involved has an insight into where they stand with the project and what the next steps are.

How to create a project timeline

There are a few steps to take to create your project timeline.

You should:

  • Identify project scope,
  • Use a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to break your project down into smaller chunks,
  • Create tasks,
  • Determine dependencies,
  • Set milestones,
  • Estimate the time required for each task,
  • Determine the availability of your resources,
  • Use a project timeline template, or
  • Use project management software.

Let’s discuss each step in more detail.

Step #1: Identify project scope

First, you need to determine your project scope.

Project scope identifies all aspects of the work we need to deal with to develop a product or service. 

The document in which project managers define project scope is called the scope statement.

The scope statement should be clear and precise, and include the following:

  • Justification — Why is there a need for the project?
  • Goals — What does the project aim to achieve?
  • Deliverables —What will the client receive after the project’s completion?
  • Limitations — What rules and guidelines must team members follow while the project progresses, including deadlines and budget constraints?
  • Exceptions — What will not be included in the project?
  • Agreement — The signatures of all key stakeholders as proof that the document has been reviewed, comprehended, and approved.

Defining a project scope will help you: 

  • Determine how much time you need for each task, 
  • Decide how many team members you need to get the work done, and 
  • Establish the project’s overall timeline.

💡 Plaky Pro Tip

If you are curious about project scope, read more in our comprehensive guide:

Step #2: Use a WBS to break your project down into smaller chunks 

A Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is an element of the Scope Baseline created in the project planning phase.

It is a hierarchical decomposition of the workload that the project team must do to achieve the project objectives and provide the required deliverables. 

A WBS breaks down all the work we need to complete during the project into smaller chunks.

These smaller chunks are not yet tasks — they are just smaller deliverables. You will later use them to set your project tasks and their dependencies.

A WBS makes a complex project seem significantly less intimidating, as it breaks the project into smaller parts, which can be easily managed and performed by smaller teams.

💡 Plaky Pro Tip

Learn more about the WBS in our guide:

Step #3: Create tasks

After breaking down your project into smaller parts, you should create tasks based on these small chunks.

A Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) splits your project into different deliverables and makes it easier for you to identify what tasks are involved in each deliverable. 

Now it’s time to analyze these smaller deliverables and use them to create tasks.

Each deliverable will require a set of steps to produce it. Those steps are the tasks necessary to create a deliverable.

Suppose you work on website design, and your task is to prepare wireframes. 

A wireframe is much like a UX blueprint for your website. It maps out specific features, such as menus, layouts, and buttons, without providing the visual design elements such as content or color scheme.

 As a result of a wireframe, you get an idea of the website’s functionality and navigation.

The tasks you should complete in order to create a wireframe are the following:

  • Choose the wireframing software,
  • Determine your website wireframe size,
  • Conduct research to identify your target user and decide on the UX design,
  • Map out the user flow,
  • Start crafting your wireframe,
  • Carry out usability testing to try out your wireframe, and
  • Turn your wireframe into a prototype.

Step #4: Determine dependencies

The next step is dedicated to determining dependencies between tasks.

In a nutshell, dependencies are relationships between tasks that dictate their order.

There are four types of task dependencies:

  • Finish to Start (FS) — To start task B, you must complete task A first.
  • Finish to Finish (FF) — You cannot complete task B until you finish task A.
  • Start to Start (SS) — You cannot start Task B before starting Task A.
  • Start to Finish (SF) — You must start task A before you can finish task B.

You need to identify the following:

  • Are there tasks that need to be completed for other tasks to start?
  • Are there tasks that you must start or finish simultaneously?
  • Do you need to start working on some tasks before completing other tasks?

For this purpose, you can create a dependency diagram to visualize the data by using a Gantt chart. 

💡 Plaky Pro Tip

Find out more about dependencies in our guide:

Step #5: Set milestones

A milestone in project management marks significant events within a project and serves as a benchmark for the progress we’re making with our project. 

An example of a milestone in a project could be any of the following: 

  • The start and end dates for project phases,
  • Key deliverables,
  • Securing the funds,
  • Significant meetings,
  • Stakeholder approvals that allow you to move to the next phase,
  • Customer approval.

Step #6: Estimate the time required for each task

This step is critical for achieving the previously mentioned milestones.

You should decide on how much time team members will spend on each task within a project. Try to be as realistic as you can. 

Don’t set the dates that only look great to your stakeholders, while your team members struggle to achieve them and need to work overtime.

When setting deadlines, add buffer time to secure finishing your project on schedule, even if something unexpected occurs.

The more realistic you are, the better your team’s chances of achieving the milestones. 

Step #7: Determine the availability of your resources

You have already set deliverables, tasks, milestones, and deadlines. 

Now, you have to think about the allocation of resources required to carry out the project. 

Try to pick the best person for each task considering your team members’ strengths, talents, and skills.

For instance, if you have a highly skilled illustrator who creates stunning elaborate illustrations, let them focus on more complex tasks. Assign other design team members to making simpler illustrations, such as tables and charts.

Last but not least — don’t forget to check whether your project schedule overlaps with the team member’s workload and schedule on other projects.

Step #8: Use a project timeline template

If you want to see your tasks, milestones, and dependencies at a glance but don’t have time to build templates from scratch, don’t stress out — we have prepared two versions of project timeline templates for you.

Choose the one you prefer and start setting your own project timeline.

Project timeline template version 1
Project timeline template version 1

🔽 Download the project timeline template version 1

Project timeline template version 2
Project timeline template version 2

🔽 Download the project timeline template version 2

Alternative to step #8: Use project management software

Using templates is an excellent way to save time.

However, project management software provides way more options. 

Let’s check Plaky, the project management software you can use to create your project timeline and promote your project’s visibility.

Here’s what Plaky has to offer:

  • It is easy to use.
  • There is an option to share your workspace with stakeholders and everyone involved in a project.
  • You can customize your tasks by adding various types of information, including task type, links, status, text description, urgency, person, tag, or number to your columns.
  • You can visualize your projects by using a table or Kanban view.
  • It helps track your workflow by adding status, due date, and urgency labels to your tasks.
  • Plaky has a free plan for unlimited users and projects.
  • Your privacy comes first — Plaky is ISO 27001 certified and GDPR compliant.

We will describe how you can use Plaky to create a project timeline by providing an example.

An example of a project that needs a timeline

A project timeline is helpful for every project, especially more complex ones. 

Suppose you have already decided on the budget you want to allocate for your next project — developing a custom CRM software solution for your company.

The development process may consist of the following stages:

  • Stage #1: Setting the budget, determining requirements, and preparing the design,
  • Stage #2: Developing basic features,
  • Stage #3: Developing more advanced features,
  • Stage #4: Ensuring GDPR compliance and data entry,
  • Stage #5: Testing,
  • Stage #6: Deployment and launch.

Every stage consists of a list of tasks you need to complete.

Stage #1: Decide on the budget, requirements, and design

At the beginning of any project, you have to determine the budget.

As there are many types of CRM software, you also have to choose the one that suits your needs the best.

After that, you will be able to choose the right technology for the development process, and your design team can start working on design proposals. 

Here are the tasks you should complete at this project stage:

  • Determine the budget for your project,
  • Choose the type of CRM that would suit you and specify technical requirements,
  • Choose the right technology stack for your project, and
  • Prepare UI/UX design and wireframes.

You should also set start and end dates for each task, appoint team members, and identify task dependencies.

Your tasks may look like this:

Task #1: Determine the budget you want to dedicate to your project

Start date:  May 9, 2022

End date: May 13, 2022

Team: Finance department

Dependencies: /

Task #2: Choose the type of CRM and specify technical requirements

Start date: May 16, 2022

End date: May 27, 2022

Teams: Product marketing and Business development

Dependencies: Budget

Task #3: Choose the right technology stack for your project

Start date: May 30, 2022

End date: June 10, 2022

Team: Development

Dependencies: Budget, the type of CRM, and technical requirements

Task #4: UI/UX design and wireframes

Start date: May 30, 2022

End date: July 13, 2022

Team: Design

Dependencies: Type of CRM and technical requirements

Then, you want your team to focus on developing basic CRM features. 

Stage #2: Develop basic features

The basic features you want your team to develop first may include:

  • Contact management,
  • Lead management,
  • Task management,
  • Dashboards,
  • Analytics and reports,
  • File sharing, and
  • Calendar and reminders.

When everything is defined, your tasks may look like this:

Task #1: Contact management 

Start date: July 14, 2022

End date: July 28, 2022

Team: Development

Dependencies: Technology stack, UI/UX design, and wireframes

Task #2: Lead management

Start date: July 29, 2022

End date: August 12, 2022

Team: Development

Dependencies: Technology stack, UI/UX design, and wireframes

Task #3: Task management

Start date: August 15, 2022

End date: August 26, 2022

Team: Development

Dependencies: Technology stack, UI/UX design, and wireframes

Task #4: Dashboards

Start date: August 29, 2022

End date: September 9, 2022

Team: Development

Dependencies: Technology stack, UI/UX design, and wireframes

Task #5: Analytics and reports

Start date: September 12, 2022

End date: September 30, 2022

Team: Development

Dependencies: Technology stack, UI/UX design, and wireframes

Task #6: File sharing

Start date: October 3, 2022

End date: October 14, 2022

Team: Development

Dependencies: Technology stack, UI/UX design, and wireframes

Task #7: Calendar and reminders

Start date: October 17, 2022

End date: October 28, 2022

Team: Development

Dependencies: Technology stack, UI/UX design, and wireframes

After developing the basic features, you may want to expand the CRM functionalities by adding more advanced features. 

Stage #3: Develop more advanced features

More advanced CRM features may include the following:

  • Sales pipeline,
  • Lead scoring,
  • Email templates and scheduling,
  • Invoicing,
  • Chatbot integration, and
  • Third-party integrations.

Let’s take a look at the tasks you should complete during this stage.

Task #1: Sales pipeline 

Start date: October 31, 2022

End date: November 18, 2022

Team: Development

Dependencies: Technology stack, UI/UX design, and wireframes

Task #2: Lead scoring

Start date: November 21, 2022

End date: December 2, 2022

Team: Development

Dependencies: Technology stack, UI/UX design, and wireframes

Task #3: Email templates and scheduling

Start date: December 5, 2022

End date: December 22, 2022

Team: Development

Dependencies: Technology stack, UI/UX design, and wireframes

Task #4: Invoicing

Start date: December 26, 2022

End date: January 13, 2023

Team: Development

Dependencies: Technology stack, UI/UX design, and wireframes

Task #5: Chatbot integration

Start date: January 16, 2023

End date: January 20, 2023

Team: Development

Dependencies: Technology stack, UI/UX design, and wireframes

Task #6: Third-party integrations

Start date: January 23, 2023

End date: February 3, 2023

Team: Development

Dependencies: Technology stack, UI/UX design, and wireframes

Stage #4: GDPR compliance and data entry

Just as with any software solution, you need to ensure you are GDPR compliant before going into the software testing phase.

Here are the tasks you should complete during this stage:

Task #1: The Consent Management Platform (CMP) integration

Start date: February 6, 2023

End date: February 10, 2023

Team: Development

Dependencies: Features

Task #2: Data entry

Start date: January 23, 2023

End date: February 24, 2023

Teams: Sales, Marketing

Dependencies: Features

Stage #5: Testing

Then, you must ensure everything works according to plan. Therefore, you need to test your newly developed software. 

You have only one task, but it is a critical one.

Task: Software testing

Start date: February 27, 2023

End date: March 31, 2023

Team: QA

Dependencies: Features, Data entry

Stage #6: Deployment and launch

If everything functions as planned, the following steps are:

  • Deployment, and 
  • Launch.

Task #1: Deployment

Start date: April 3, 2023

End date: April 4, 2023

Team: Development

Dependencies: Features, data entry, testing

Task #2: Launch

Date: April 5, 2023

Team: Development

Dependencies: Deployment

Last but not least — don’t forget to set milestones and mark specific points along a project timeline. 

Project milestones

The milestones for our CRM development project may be the following:

  • The budget is defined: May 13, 2022
  • The type of CRM and technical requirements are specified: May 27, 2022
  • UI/UX design and wireframes are prepared: July 13, 2022
  • Basic features are developed: October 28, 2022
  • Advanced features are developed: February 3, 2023
  • The Consent Management Platform (CMP) is integrated: February 10, 2023
  • Data entry is completed: February 24, 2023
  • Testing is completed: March 31, 2023
  • Deployment is finished: April 4, 2023
  • Launch date: April 5, 2023

There’s a lot of data, and you should have it in one place.

For this purpose, we recommend using project management software.

How to create a project timeline in Plaky

Now, it’s time to show you how the project timeline incorporating the data mentioned above may look in Plaky project management software.

First, you need to add a new board within a workspace. 

A workspace in Plaky represents a virtual space where you can organize your project.

Navigate to the workspace menu at the top left corner, click +Add, and your board is created.

Create a new board in Plaky
Create a new board in Plaky

This newly-created board can be configured and adjusted.

You have the following features at your disposal:

  • Board description,
  • Table,
  • Board view, and
  • Group/column.

You can also choose from two different types of board views:

  • A table view, and
  • Kanban view.

We will use the table view to show the data from our project timeline example.

After creating the board, we need to add item groups.

Add item groups and create items
Add item groups and create items

Our project stages and milestones will be represented as item groups, while start date, end date, team, and dependencies will be shown as columns.

In Plaky, columns are the building units of items, and they help you define the content on the board.

You can choose any of the following column types:

  • Text,
  • Rich text,
  • Link,
  • Numbers,
  • Status,
  • Tag,
  • Date, and
  • Person.
Column types in Plaky
Column types in Plaky

You can use item groups to visually present different project stages and add tasks as separate items under every item group. 

With all item groups and columns set, your blank project timeline may look like this:

Blank project timeline in Plaky
Blank project timeline in Plaky

In Plaky, you can easily set start and end dates for every task and show task status and task dependencies.

Everything is highly customizable.

You can create new status labels and pick the colors you want for them. 

Status labels in Plaky
Status labels in Plaky

To set and show dependencies between tasks, you can use the tag column type.

Task dependencies in Plaky
Task dependencies in Plaky

In addition, you can modify the tag name and color and create as many new tags as you need. 

After adding the tasks, setting start and end dates, assigning team members, determining dependencies, and setting milestones, your project timeline may look like this:

Project timeline in Plaky part 1
Project timeline in Plaky part 1
Project timeline in Plaky part 2
Project timeline in Plaky part 2
Project milestones in Plaky
Project milestones in Plaky

💡 Plaky Pro Tip

If you want to find out more about the features in Plaky, check the following page:

Wrapping up: A project timeline helps with visualizing your project

A project timeline provides a visual overview of a project, helps you keep the management and teams on track, and maximizes efficiency.

It breaks down the project into smaller tasks and pinpoints milestones and deadlines for each task.

There are a few different types of timelines you can use to visualize your project, including horizontal, vertical, Gantt charts, and PERT charts. You can create your own timeline from scratch or use the template we provided.

However, we recommend using project management software to manage your project most efficiently.

References:

  • Indeed Editorial Team. (2021, August 23). How To Create a Project Timeline in 8 Easy Steps. Indeed Career Guide. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/how-to-create-a-project-timeline
  • M. Kopp, C. (2022, March 17). Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) Chart. Investopedia. Retrieved April 12, 2022, from https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/pert-chart.asp

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