A sound 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 within budget and one that, well… isn’t. Yet, some companies still don’t use any tools to create, organize, and streamline their project timelines.
In this guide, we’ll show you 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. And finally, we’ll look at how you can quickly and efficiently build a project timeline with monday work management.Get started
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 visualizes a project‘s schedule, displaying the different task sequences, start and end dates, and duration. A project timeline might also include milestones, task dependencies, or other information required to track a project’s progress.
To help conceptualize how you might use a project timeline, consider 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 helps ensure the house is built on time and within budget.
The benefits of using a project timeline
There are several 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. 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
Gantt charts are a type of bar chart that illustrates a project timeline so that you can see how to manage a project over time. Gantt charts help show the dependencies between different tasks in a project.
2. Milestone chart
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 and identify potential roadblocks.
With a workflow chart, the timeline is visualized as steps in a process 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)
CPM is a technique for project scheduling that identifies the longest sequence of dependent tasks that must be completed to execute a project. A CPM timeline helps pinpoint potential delays and determine a project’s critical path.
5. Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT)
PERT is another type of project timeline used to analyze the tasks necessary for a project’s completion. It’s beneficial for identifying potential risks and improving the overall efficiency of a project.
What should a project timeline include?
A project timeline should include the following elements:
- Project start and end dates: The calendar dates when work on your project begins and when the final deliverable is due.
- List of project tasks: A list of all the tasks involved in the project.
- Task start and end dates: The start and end dates for each task.
- Duration of each task: The amount of time required to complete each task.
- Milestones: Significant events or achievements in the project, such as the completion of a major task or the delivery of a key component.
- Dependencies: The relationships between tasks, such as which tasks must be completed before others can begin.
5 steps to creating a project timeline
Now that you have a better idea of a project timeline 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 by forcing 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 (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 monday.com:
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 setting due dates. This is where the project timeline begins to take shape. You can plan around the tasks and your available resources. Project timeline tools make this much easier since you can do it in real time.
In monday work management, 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.
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.
As you can see from the image 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.
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.
Stick to your project timeline with monday work management
When it comes to creating a project management timeline the whole team will love, monday work management is your ally. Our project management timeline views — like Gantt charts — provide full transparency so everyone knows what they are working on.
Let’s look at a few key features that make monday work management an excellent platform for your project timeline.
Save time with 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.
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.
Easily keep track of milestones
While timelines help you keep track of date ranges when you need to complete tasks, project milestones mark specific dates when you need to complete particular tasks for a project to progress on time. With monday work management, you can easily keep track of both to see whether they’ve been completed on time.
In the Main Table View, a milestone displays with a diamond on the left. 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.
Pinpoint data with the timeline filter
Even though timelines are a means to keep a project organized, they can sometimes get overwhelming when there are lots of tasks and stakeholders involved.
To combat this common pain point, monday work management allows users to filter their timeline according to the information they want to see.
You 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 work management is jam-packed with many more valuable features, including:
- 36+ customizable column types to make the complex simple and create the perfect workflow
- 27+ 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
- 72+ 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 work management everyone’s job is easier. You can track multiple projects and keep up with every important milestone through one user-friendly interface.
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 the project timeline software. That means using a platform that’s not only customizable but also provides you with different ways to visualize your timeline so that more people will find it helpful to use.
Whether you’re a project manager, a team member, or another project stakeholder, monday work management has something for everyone. You’ll be able to organize your timeline efficiently without any steep learning curve to ensure your project gets off the ground quicker.
Are you ready to try monday work management? 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!
Project timeline FAQs
What’s the difference between a project schedule and a project timeline?
There’s not much difference between a project schedule and a project timeline.
A project schedule simply lists all the activities required to finish a project, while a project timeline includes the order of tasks to be completed in a timeline visualization.
It visualizes the project schedule by displaying the different task sequences, start and end dates, and duration. A project timeline might also include milestones, task dependencies, or other information required to track a project’s progress.
What's the difference between a project plan and a timeline?
A project plan outlines a project’s scope, objectives, tasks, resources, and timeline. It’s made before a project begins to establish all the necessary steps, resources, and timeline to complete the project. On the other hand, a timeline is a visual representation of a project’s tasks and milestones. It’s often presented as a chart, graph, calendar, or flowchart to track a project’s ongoing progress.
How can I create a project timeline in Excel?
Creating a project timeline in Excel involves creating different columns to keep track of dates, tasks, and task owners. That said, Excel doesn’t offer collaborative work opportunities and is very limiting for a project timeline. Using software like monday work management allows you to keep track of your timeline without learning the ins-and-outs of Excel and onboarding all project stakeholders to one easy-to-use platform.