No project can afford to go without a timeline.
If you don’t have a timeline, how will you know how to schedule project activities? How will you know if you’re on track to meet project deadlines?
Not having a timeline could lead to losing control over the project, which is basically every PM’s nightmare.
Next thing you know, you have a list of activities without a status update, important details get missed, and you’re stuck at the office trying to make sense of confusing spreadsheets.
But, when you have a timeline that’s easy to share with teams and project managers, you keep control of it. Your whole team gets it. They understand the workflow, the time restraints, and who’s in charge of what (and when that thing is due).
In short, they have a clear understanding of the overall project.
In this article, we’re going to cover what a timeline is, plus a few actionable steps you can take to start creating an optimized visual timeline right away.
What’s a timeline?
A timeline is any kind of tool, feature, or diagram that helps the project team understand a project schedule from start to finish.There are so many details involved when you’re working on a project. A timeline can help you structure those details by date and time so that you never drop the ball.
Here’s an example of a timeline Gantt chart in monday.com’s project management software:
How does a timeline increase project success?
Using a timeline can increase project success in a few key ways:
- Helps ensure clients always receive deliverables on time
- Easily spot scheduling problems that you may have missed before
- Add a greater sense of organization to the project
- Create a framework for the next project
- Prevent missing key details that could easily fall by the wayside
How do project managers use timelines?
Here are some ways project managers use timelines to increase efficiency:
- To solve scheduling problems, like rearranging important events due to bad weather
- To analyze data, like if a project phase is going to end on time
- As a possible tool to measure the schedule performance index (SPI)
- To represent important data like project phases
- To track resource allocation so project teams have what they need, when they need it
- For capacity planning so some team members aren’t overworked while others are idle.
Let’s dig into measuring and analyzing data to understand problems, as it’s a biggie.
Imagine that an IT company hired you as a PM to see why their tickets were taking so long in the queue. Their customers are angry, their employees can’t seem to solve the tickets correctly or in a decent time, and you’re in charge of finding out why.
You decide to create a scatter diagram timeline from the moment this issue first started — let’s say 30 days ago — until now.
You measure these variables: tickets that have been sent in during that date range versus what happened during each ticket resolution phase.
You also create a second timeline to measure the relationship between the ticket resolution and the employee who solved the ticket.
At the end of the analysis, you notice that a lot of escalated tickets were sent to new employees who didn’t have enough experience to handle them.
You can now form a recommendation to only send escalated tickets to experienced employees. You could also recommend that employees enter a training program to improve their resolution skills.
And finally, if the training is a bust, you may need to recommend hiring new staff.
From there, you could offer to create new timelines to track whether your recommendations are working.
Keep in mind, this is just ONE example.
You can do just about anything you want with a timeline. The point is: use it to make your job easier, better, and less stressful. Use it to solve problems, use it to save time, use it to cut costs — as long as it brings value to the project, you won’t regret it.
What are timeline infographics and how do you make them?
An infographic is pretty much a fancy way to say chart or diagram. You can display your timeline in so many cool ways.
Here are just a few examples:
Example 1: create a timeline calendar
A calendar view lets you view tasks for the whole month, which can help you understand the schedule better. Most people have some experience working a calendar, so this kind of timeline can feel really intuitive.
You’re limited on space and task lines so you’ll need to condense the information or have another view option available to see task lists in greater detail.
How to create one:
Gather up your tasks and schedule them in a calendar. Or, use one of our boards, input your information, and choose the calendar view style.
Example 2: create a classic timeline
A timeline view lets you view tasks in chronological order, which can help you understand project scheduling phases better. This kind of linear layout can make it nearly impossible to miss a project stage.
It can be harder to see how the project scope fits into the overall schedule because the focus is on each phase. Make sure you have another view option available so your team can easily grasp the whole project schedule instead of just phase by phase.
How to create one:
Gather up your tasks and schedule them in a linear format, then choose your timeline creator tool. Or, use one of our boards, input your information, and choose the timeline view style.
Example 3: create a table timeline
A table view lets you view tons of information about your tasks. This view style uses data columns to keep everything organized.
For example, you can create a ‘World Clock’ column if your team is spread out all over the world, or a ‘Priority’ column to keep all your highest priorities in line.
If you need to fit a lot of information in your timeline, this one’s a great fit.
It can be hard to see key details if there’s too much information. This can feel overwhelming at times, so make sure you have a way to break it up into more detailed views to help you manage.
How to create one:
Gather up your tasks and schedule. Decide what kinds of columns you need. Then, create a table using a creator tool. Or, use one of our boards and input your information. Our boards automatically come with a ‘Main Table.’
One thing we’re really proud of at monday.com is our multiple view options.
With these options, you only need to put your information in our system once and then add whatever view style you want to see it in.
This saves loads of time, so you don’t have to create chart after chart using the same pile of information. This is especially important when managing multiple projects.
How to use our project timeline template:
At this point, you’ve learned quite a bit about what timelines are and what kind of infographics you can make with them. Now, let’s create an optimized timeline together step-by-step.
Step #1: grab your template
Okay, so first thing’s first, head over to grab your Project Timeline template. Just click the button that says ‘use project timeline template.’
When you’re all set, you’ll see the template applied to a monday.com board.
This board includes 3 groups: a ‘Start Here’ group, a ‘Project 1’ group, and a ‘Project 2’ group.
Each group comes with a set of ‘pulses’ underneath, which are really just customizable information slates, so don’t let the name throw you off.
For example, in the Project 1 group, there are 5 ready-made pulses like ‘Phase 1 – Research’ and ‘Phase 2 – Planning.’
Here’s what your board should look like at this point:
Step #2: create a welcome message
Okay, let’s start using this board. First, let’s focus on the first group called ‘Start Here.’
Click on the ‘Hi there’ pulse and write a welcome message to the project group. Be sure to include anything they need to know, like how to use the board, what the project goals are, what the project scope is, and what the deadline is.
Everyone on the project team needs to know what’s expected of them.
Feel free to jazz up your welcome message with a GIF, emoji, @mention, or add a file like a project description, PowerPoint presentation, or a social media content plan.
This is also a great spot to continue to add project updates so that you don’t have to send a million emails.
You’ll also find an activity log here.
If you want to set up alerts to notify your team, you can set up automations so they can see any new updates by email.
Step #3: set-up your projects
Before we start editing the project phases in each project, we’re going to add a ‘Text’ column so we can write a description next to each phase.
To add the text column, click on the ‘+’ sign to the far right of the group and choose ‘text.’ If you need to add large amounts of text, choose the ‘Long Text’ column in the ‘More columns’ section.
Note: When you click on the ‘+’ sign, it turns into an ‘x.’
Alright, let’s fill it in:
First, take a look at the columns you already have. There’s a ‘Lead’ column, a ‘Status’ column, a ‘Timeline’ column, a ‘Work days’ column, a ‘Dependency’ column, and we added a ‘Text’ column.
Decide if you need to add another column like a ‘Files’ column to keep project files in the right place, or a ‘Location’ column to see multiple project locations on a map.
Then, take a look at the project phases. Are there any you need to edit? Are there any you need to delete? Are there any you need to add?
Hint: just click add at the bottom of a group to add a new project phase.
Here are the current project phases on the board under Project 1 and Project 2:
- Phase 1 — Research
- Phase 2 — Planning
- Phase 3 — Execution
- Phase 4 — Implementation
- Phase 5 — Launch
If you need to start a conversation about a certain phase, just click on the chat bubble icon next to it.
Need to add more projects? No problem, just click the ‘New Item’ button at the top left of the board and choose ‘New group of items.’ Then name your project and get to it!
Here’s the list of columns, how to approach them, and how to fill them in:
Use this method to fill in all project phases until the board is set-up.
- The ‘Lead’ Column: who’s in charge of this phase? Who are the researchers? Click on the ‘+’ sign under the ‘Lead’ column to add the leader. You can also invite a new member by email if they’re not in the system. Really consider the lead for each phase. Are they considered a qualified expert? Do they have experience with a special project detail that nobody else has? Whoever you choose, make sure they’re right for the job.
- The ‘Status’ Column: what’s the status of this phase? Has it started yet? Are you working on it? Click under the ‘Status’ column to add a label. You can also customize labels if you want to use one we didn’t include like ‘Need More Info’ or ‘Will do it tomorrow.’ Let your team know that they need to update this column as soon as possible so that everyone understands where each phase is in the process without any lag time.
- The ‘Timeline’ Column: Next, what’s the date range for this phase? Click under the ‘Timeline’ column and choose the specific dates on the calendar that pops up. See if you can add an extra day — or whatever’s fair — to the front end and the back end to give yourself some wiggle room. You can also add a milestone to your timeline by clicking the milestone checkbox at the bottom left corner of the calendar.
- The ‘Work days’ Column: this column automatically calculates how many work days It takes to complete a project based on the ‘Timeline’ column. You can also edit the formula by clicking on the days and typing it in.
- The ‘Dependency’ Column: What are your project dependencies? For example, does Phase 1 need to end before Phase 2 can start? Does Phase 4 depend on a meeting that needs to happen in Phase 3? You can also create automations between dependencies to reflect date changes. Just click on ‘Automate’ at the top right of your board and then choose your automation in the ‘Automation Center.’ Once you’re there, you can search ‘dependency’ in the search bar at the top so you don’t have to comb through the options.
- The ‘Text’ Column: enter key project notes here. This is a great place to give project leaders pointers about where to start on a project. You can write things like ‘Be sure to check how many competitors are in the area,’ or ‘Check event venue options in New York City,’ or ‘Bring the marketing plan to next week’s meeting.’
Reminder: you can also choose the ‘Long Text’ column if you want to add large amounts of text. To get there, just click on the ‘+’ to the far right of the group, click ‘More columns,’ and that’ll lead you to the Column Center. You can also add a ‘File’ column or a ‘Link’ column to add any relevant documents.
And then you’re done.
You’ve filled in the board completely, column by column, phase by phase, and now your entire team has an optimized timeline.
Remember, you can view this board in over 8 different styles, like Kanban, Gantt, Timeline, and more.
Want to see timelines across multiple boards? Add our Timeline widget.
You should use monday.com for your timeline planning needs because:
- Our system is easy to use and easy to adapt
- You can customize any timeline with all your project details
- Teams genuinely love creating timelines with our software because it’s fun
- Our system feels intuitive, so you’re not confused when you’re trying to use it
- If you get stuck and need help, a real human will handle it fast
- We have fabulous timeline features like our timeline view, timeline column, and timeline widget
You can use timelines in a variety of ways to add a strategic schedule to any project.
Once your timelines are set-up, you can enjoy the stress-relieving benefits while you let them work for you. Everyone knows what to do and when to do it. Your clients are happy, your boss is happy, even your mama is happy.
Get started with monday.com today and see how our timeline features can add value to your next project.