While creating a project timeline might just be one part of project management, some might argue it’s the most important part. According to a survey, 60% of users agreed that the number one benefit of using a project management tool is an improved timeline estimation. Yet, there are still companies that aren’t using any tools to create, organize, and streamline their project timeline.

A good project timeline won’t necessarily make or break your entire project, but it can spell the difference between a project that’s delivered on time and on budget and one that, well… isn’t.

To help you get a better grasp on how a project timeline works, in this blog, we’ll take a look at how to easily create a project timeline with accurate project scope and key elements. Additionally, we’ll give you some shortcuts to making a project timeline using the right project management tools. Finally, we’ll also look at the monday.com Work OS can be used to easily and efficiently build a project timeline.

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What is a project timeline?

A project timeline is any tool, feature, or diagram that helps your team understand the project schedule from starting point to finish.

It acts as a visual representation of a project‘s schedule, displaying the different tasks’ sequence, start and end date, and duration. A project timeline might also include milestones, dependencies, or other information required to track a project’s progress.

To help conceptualize how a project timeline might be used, think of the timeline a construction company needs to use when building a new house. The timeline would include the completion dates for each step of the project, such as obtaining building permits, laying the foundation, installing the roof, and finishing the interior design. In this case, a timeline is helpful in ensuring the house is built on time and within budget.

The benefits of using a project timeline

There are a number of reasons you should use a timeline view to manage your project plan timeline. Project management timelines provide teams, project managers, and project stakeholders with certain advantages by:

  • Providing a way for teams to visualize project progress against project milestones
  • Making it easier to assess bottlenecks, obstacles, and resource management
  • Helping prioritize ongoing specific tasks
  • Allowing project managers to spread tasks over time and avoid overworking their team
  • Giving different project stakeholders a way to coordinate efforts
  • Improving accountability and productivity within teams to ensure project success

What are the different types of project timelines?

There are a few different types of project timelines you can use, and the one you choose will depend on your project’s unique requirements or simply your personal preferences when it comes to visualizing tasks. Here are a few common types of project timelines you’ll come across.

1. Gantt chart

an example of a project timeline in a gantt chart in monday.com

Gantt charts are a type of bar chart that illustrates a project timeline so that you can see how a project will be managed over time. Gantt charts are helpful in showing the dependencies between different tasks in a project.

2. Milestone chart

example of a milestone chart on a timeline with different milestones mentioned

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A milestone chart visualizes your timeline based on individual project milestones. Each milestone is highlighted to show its significance in the project overall, with the timeline updated as the project progresses. It’s typically used to get a high-level overview of a project’s timeline in order to identify potential roadblocks.

3. Flowchart

example of a project management flowchart with different columns

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With a flowchart, the timeline is visualized as steps in a process in order to show how different tasks are interconnected. These types of timelines are most commonly used to map out the desired flow of tasks and events.

4. Critical Path Method (CPM)

diagram of the critical path method

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CPM is a project management technique used to identify the most important tasks in a project and the relationships between them by displaying all the tasks required to complete a project. A timeline using the CPM is helpful to pinpoint potential delays and determine a project’s critical path.

5. Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) 

pert chart template example

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PERT is another type of project timeline that’s used to analyze the tasks necessary for a project’s completion. It’s particularly useful for identifying potential risks and improving the overall efficiency of a project.

5 steps to creating a project timeline

Now that you have a better idea of what a project timeline is and what it can look like, let’s dive into how you can create your own. Naturally, the planning phase plays a big part in creating a timeline. Proper planning maximizes efficiency because it forces you to factor in budget, resources, capacity, and start and end dates. Ultimately, the planning process allows you to maximize your output and mitigate risks.

Here are five steps to follow to create an efficient project or program timeline:

1. Determine your goals and contingency plans

In the initial phase, determine project deliverables and identify which team members are in charge of what to make it easier to set a project timeline that’s both realistic and prioritized. When you start planning, it’s also a good time to write up a Statement of Work (SOW) that clearly describes all the deliverables alongside a time commitment for the project. Contingencies are vital to this process since there are bound to be obstacles along the way, so it’s best to pinpoint when they may occur, and ideate possible solutions in case they do arise.

2. Divide the project into bite-sized deliverables

Large projects can be intimidating in their complexity. To build and maintain momentum, it’s best to break anything daunting into smaller tasks. Here’s where a Work Breakdown Structure, or WBS, comes in handy.

A WBS is a system of organization for project management and project planning. Its chief use is breaking down large and complex goals into manageable objectives. In essence, a WBS is a sort of checklist that ensures everything gets done and accounts for dependencies between different tasks. Here’s what this looks like on project management software like monday.com: 

A WBS makes it easy to account for all the work required to deliver a project successfully.

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3. Set a due date for each task

Breaking down a project into smaller tasks is helpful, but it’s not enough. You also need to accurately estimate the budget and timeline for each task to know whether it’s feasible or not. 

Ask yourself questions like:        

  • Do I have the budget to make this task happen?
  • Does my team have the skills to pull it off?
  • Does my team have the bandwidth?

Once you answer these questions, you can then begin to set due dates. This is where the project timeline begins to take shape. You can plan around the tasks and your available resources. Project timeline software makes this a lot easier since you can do it in real-time. In monday.com, this is where you’d start creating a basic board to track all the tasks and milestones that make up your project management timeline. It’s as easy as clicking the blue cross icon and clicking Blank Board.

Board creation in monday.com is a necessity if you want access to the greater timeline views.

From there, you can choose column types to assign people to each task so that you know exactly where everything stands. Then, you can create task dependencies to show how tasks affect one another. 

4. Build out a chart for your project timeline

There’s one column on monday.com that will help you visualize your project timeline: the Timeline Column. With it, you get an overview of how long your team has to complete all the tasks in a project. More importantly, it’s the final piece you need to convert a classic board into a full-fledged project timeline.

The timeline view provides full visibility to all your tasks in one simple view.

As you can see from the screenshot above, the timeline view gives a broad overview of each individual task and how long it’ll take to complete. Incomplete tasks will show an estimated future timeline. You can see a breakdown of progress over several days, weeks, months, or even years. The more information you add to your timeline, such as different tasks, dates, the team or team member responsible, and dependencies, the easier it will be to maintain your project’s budget and timeline. 

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5. Share the timeline with all stakeholders

Like projects themselves, a project timeline is constantly evolving. Priorities shift, obstacles pop up, and some things take longer than expected. Think of your project timeline as a “living document” that’s easily accessible and ideally kept up-to-date at all times. When the first draft is complete, it’s wise to conduct a standup meeting to ensure everyone understands the process and is on board with the overall project plan. Sharing with stakeholders is equally important. They should have full visibility into a project’s progress.

Use monday.com to make it easy to stick to your project timeline

When it comes to creating a project management timeline the whole team will love, monday.com is your ally. Our suite of project management timeline views like Gantt charts provide full transparency, so everyone knows what they and everyone else are working on. Let’s look at a few key features that make the monday.com Work OS a great tool for your project timeline.

Project timeline templates

You can easily visualize goals with a dynamic interface and track all stages of your projects along with integrated task management. Here’s a view of the project timeline template in action.

monday.com's project timeline template makes it dead simple to create your first project timeline.

All important dates are within reach since you can set exact dates for projects and easily reschedule tasks when necessary. Last but not least, you gain clear insights with in-depth reporting and can easily export the template to Excel for further analysis.

Keep track of milestones

While timelines help you keep track of a range of dates during which tasks need to be completed, milestones mark specific dates when those tasks need to be completed in order for a project to progress on time. With monday.com, you can easily keep track of both.

Milestone view in monday.com for project timeline

monday.com enables you to track milestones in a project to see whether they’ve been completed on time. In the Main Table View, a milestone shows with a diamond on the left, and when looking at your Timeline Column in Deadline Mode, the diamond will turn green if it was done or red if it’s overdue, keeping you aware of deliverables at all times.

Timeline filter

Even though it’s a means to keep a project organized, timelines can sometimes get overwhelming when there are a lot of tasks and stakeholders involved. To combat this common pain point, monday.com offers users the ability to filter their timeline according to the information they want to see. 

viewing a timeline in monday.com with a filter for certain informationYou can view filters temporarily or save them for quick access. By clicking on the funnel filter button, you can select which filters you want to use to view the information in your timeline.

That’s just the beginning. monday.com is jam-packed with many useful features, including:

  • 35+ customizable column types to make the complex simple and create the perfect workflow
  • 25+ data visualizations, including the timeline and Gantt views we went over in this article
  • Automation recipes that prevent human error, save you time, and keep your team focused on what’s most important
  • 70+ integrations so your systems are fully aligned and you can spend less time on manual data entry
  • Extensive communication tools that give your team and stakeholders real-time updates throughout the entire project

With monday.com, everyone’s job is easier. You can track multiple projects and keep up with every important milestone through one user-friendly interface.

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Depending on your specific project and its needs, some items to have in your project timeline include milestones, key tasks, deadlines, required resources, dependencies, budget, team members, and an approval process.

Create your project timeline in minutes

Whatever type of project timeline you choose, the most important thing is to make sure all your project stakeholders are onboard and ready to use any type of project timeline tool. That means that using a tool that’s not only customizable but also provides you with different ways to visualize your timeline means that more people will find it helpful to use.

monday.com has something for everyone, whether you’re a project manager, a team member, or another project stakeholder, you’ll be able to organize your timeline efficiently and without any steep learning curve to ensure your project gets off the ground quicker.

Are you ready to try out monday.com? With a 14-day free trial, you can be well on your way to project timeline management success in no time, no credit card required!