Projects don’t just complete themselves. They need plans to direct them toward success. A strong project plan allows you to organize tasks and assign resources to execute them, all within a set budget and on a deadline. It’s unrealistic to think you can just wing it, which is why it’s recommended you use a project planner of some kind.
There are many ways to plan a project. Managers have used everything from notebooks, task lists, kanban boards, Gantt charts or a hybrid of some of these project planners. We’ll run through these five different project planner types, and you can decide what’s right for you.
1. Project Planner Notebook
It might seem a bit old-fashioned, in this day and age, to use a planner tool that isn’t online. But collecting your plan in a notebook is a tried and true method for managing a project. They can run from simple to very complex, but really—what else do you need but a pad and a pen to get organized?
Certainly, a project planner notebook is going to work best with smaller projects that don’t involve a lot of team participation. They can be ideal for keeping track of your own work; say, the tasks you’re assigned in a larger project. A notebook is best as a tool for one person, for the obvious reason that the information within is only between those covers and therefore not easily shared.
If you’re looking to get organized and use a project planner to get your personal work in order or manage those tasks you’re assigned on the job, try one of these:
- Ink + Volt Hardcover Notebook: Classic notebook with ribbon to mark your place and a simple lined page format.
- 2021 Daily Planner: More decorative and detailed, this daily planner from Day Designer has a to-do page, goal setting worksheets and an annual review.
- Poketo Pocket Planner: With bold colors and features that help you map, organize and complete projects, this project planner is open-dated yearly, monthly and weekly.
2. List Style Project Planner
This is also called a to-do or task list. It’s a way to collect all the work you have to do in a single place. They’re a great way to manage your tasks, whether they be daily, weekly or even monthly tasks. It’s easy and efficient. You can even break your tasks into sub-tasks to better organize them.
The list-style project planner could be offline like a notebook, but there are a lot of software tools that add efficiencies by putting your task list online. You can easily edit, filter and add tags to prioritize your work. Some lists even allow you to share with others to work better together. But best of all, a task list makes sure nothing falls through the cracks.
However, a task list is best when you’re not dealing with a whole project’s worth of work. Imagine opening up your task list and seeing an endless scroll? While some task lists give you features to prioritize, most are limited in how much you can structure them. This can make them confusing. Then there’s the fact that you want to integrate with your calendar or other tools, which might not be possible, leaving you jumping back and forth from one app to another.
Here are some task list programs that can help you plan your project include:
- Todoist: Window-based task management software, which is used for small personal task lists to larger business-oriented work.
- Google Keep: More a note-taking service, but a great place to collect your tasks and it’s Google, so it works with its other apps.
3. Kanban Style Project Planner
Kanban is a planner that visualizes workflow in the form of cards and columns. The kanban cards represent tasks, and are stacked underneath columns that stand for the different stages in the production cycle. For example, a card might assign a task like fixing a bug in a software project. The columns then would be to do, doing, test, done. The card moves from one to another as the team member assigned completes the work.
The advantages of using kanban is that is helps teams know what needs to be done and when, while giving managers a view into the process so they can track and reallocate resources as necessary to keep the work moving forward smoothly. It balances resources to capacity, while improving that process regularly. This reduces waste as well as time wasted, efficiencies are increased and productivity improves.
Kanban planners aren’t without their deficiencies, though. Disadvantages that critics find with the system include that the process is continuous and assumes similar and stable plans. If there are changes in demand or product, kanban can falter. Depending on the project, the kanban board can grow overly complicated, and the fact that there is often no timeframe dedicated to each column can also cause problems.
Regardless of the pros and cons, kanban is a nifty tool and can be a valuable feature in your project planning. Here are some kanban software options to try.
- Trello: Created for collaborative teams, giving them boards, lists and more to keep their work well-organized and flexible, while prioritizing tasks.
- Kanbanery: A kanban tool that offers templates to get you started or customized board. Cards have multiple ways to note your progress as well as room for comments.
4. Gantt Style Planning
If you’re planning a larger, more complex project, the go-to tool is the Gantt chart. This visual planning tool looks like a spreadsheet on one side and a timeline on the other. Tasks are listed on the left and then populate the project timeline to the right. This gives you a full view of the whole project across its life cycle.
The pros of using a Gantt chart is that it visualizes projects big and small, simple or complex, in such a way that you can see the big picture. It is a great way to organize a lot of tasks, sub-tasks and milestones so you can manage your plan daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or even yearly. This all helps you better control team, time and resource management.
Some of the cons of working with a Gantt chart include creating a Gantt. They can be hard to build, especially if you’re not using a digital version. Updating Gantts can also take quite a bit of time. If you’re planning a larger project, you might not be able to see all the tasks in a single view of the Gantt. Editing changes can also be difficult and time-consuming.
Even with those issues, the Gantt is the gold standard project planner, and one that you should be familiar with even if you don’t choose to use it. Here are some Gantt makers to get you started.
- Ganttpro: Because it’s focused on Gantt charts, they do it well, with timelines, workload and schedules all easily defined. However, there are no reporting features.
- Celoxis: Supports large and complicated projects, even allowing you to link tasks from different projects. But it’s enterprise software and hard to learn how to use well.
5. Hybrid Style Planning
If you’ve seen aspects of task lists, kanban and Gantt charts that appeal to you, you’re not alone. There’s no single way to plan a project, and most projects aren’t executed by one person. Therefore, having multiple project planners is a no-brainer. That’s why you’ll find many software options that offer two or more of these tools in their feature set.
However, there’s a difference between having the features, and offering a rich product suite where they all are powerful individually and work collectively to better organize and streamline processes. That’s how you get productive.
ProjectManager.com is an award-winning project planner that offers multiple views to manage your plan across an array of features all dedicated to making you work smarter. For example, one project view is the task list.
Not only can you create a project easily by adding tasks or importing your task list from a spreadsheet, but you can prioritize, tag to make search quicker, filter by assignee and more. Columns can be sorted how you want and dragged to where you want. Once you’ve created your project in the task list planner it shows up in all the other project views too.
One of those views is the drag-and-drop kanban board. That means you can move cards with your cursor as you progress through the project cycle. The board visualizes those steps in the workload or allows you to organize by category. The boards are auto-populated with to do, doing and done columns, but you can customize them as you want.
Clicking the card shows task details, such as descriptions, due dates and files, and comments can also be added to help teams collaborate. Teams can even add their progress to keep everyone updated. Filter the board by progress or due date to stay on top of your plan.
The interactive Gantt chart maker takes all the pain out of traditional Gantt making and adds features to give you more control over your project plan. The Gantt shows your tasks in a waterfall timeline, allowing you to assign those tasks costs, resources and then team members to complete them.
Tasks can be dependent, meaning one can start or end until another starts or ends. Not identifying these tasks can lead to bottlenecks later in the project. The Gantt allows you to link these task dependencies to make sure they’re never forgotten. Milestones can also be added to mark the end of one phase and the start of another or just note deadlines.
Watch the embedded video to get an overview of the product and how it can help you plan your project.
If you’re looking for a cloud-based project planner that lets you work how you want, then you want ProjectManager.com. It has multiple project views that all work together, while monitoring and tracking your progress so you can stay on schedule. See how it’s the preferred project management tool for tens of thousands of teams working for NASA, the Bank of America, Ralph Lauren and more by taking this free 30-day trial today.