12 Free Project Planning Templates for Excel and Word


Without a plan, projects are in trouble. Project planning is one of the first and most important aspects of project management. Using project planning templates can help you schedule tasks, estimate budgets and allocate resources.

Project management software does more than a static Excel or Word template, but using these free 12 project planning templates for Excel and Word is a decent substitute. Download one or all to start your next project on the right foot.

Why Use Project Planning Templates?

Project planning templates are an important part of project management. They organize your tasks, help you write a project charter, come up with an accurate budget and so much more. Even if you’re using project management software, project planning templates can help you with everything from decision making, such as with our free RACI matrix template, to identifying project deliverables, with our free work breakdown structure template.

You can even use project planning templates to help you manage your project and track progress and risks. They provide a consistent project documentation process, which can then be archived and retrieved to inform future planning. Project planning templates help reduce work as they’re preformatted so you don’t always have to start from scratch.

But using project planning templates is, at best, only a starting point. To ensure your plans are well-managed during project execution, you’ll want to upgrade to project management software.

ProjectManager is award-winning project and portfolio management software that helps you plan projects and manage and track them in real time. We have multiple project views, from kanban boards to tasks lists, sheet and calendar views, but project managers typically plan their projects on our powerful Gantt charts.

Unlike templates, our Gantt charts organize your tasks, add resources and costs and link all four types of task dependencies to avoid costly delays. Gantts can filter for the critical path to identify essential tasks and set a baseline to track your planned progress against actual progress in real time. That’s how you deliver on time and within budget. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

ProjectManager's Gantt chart light mode
ProjectManager’s Gantt charts are superior to project planning templates. Learn more

12 Best Project Planning Templates

If you’re not ready to use project management software, these 12 project planning templates for Excel and Word can help you get your project planned properly. They cover all the bases, from creating a timeline to chart your tasks to having a risk register to prepare your team for issues that inevitably arise in every project.

1. Project Plan Template

A project plan is a big endeavor. Our free project plan template for Word helps you organize the various project management documentation needed to prepare your project for success. You get to address the planning basics, such as defining your project scope, identifying milestones and breaking the project down into manageable phases and tasks.

Project plan template by ProjectManager

Then you can create a project schedule, including task dependencies, project assumptions and constraints. There’s also a section that addresses the project budget, risk and change management, which is essential to stay on track. Included is a risk log and the process you’ll use for change management to avoid delays.

2. Project Charter Template

A project charter is an important project planning document. It provides high-level information on the project to ensure stakeholders are aware of the project deliverables, milestones and the roles and responsibilities of the project team. It also explains the reason for the project, including how the project plan and project team will be structured to meet the project goals.

Project charter template by ProjectManager

Using our free project charter template for Word will define the project vision and scope for everyone involved. It’s presented to the project sponsor in a neat, organized and easy-to-digest fashion. From the executive summary to the appendix, everything is collected to show how to achieve the project’s goals. The project charter template defines the project and shows the plan that will outline the milestones, tasks, dependencies and resource management plan.

3. Project Budget Template

All projects cost money. Being able to accurately estimate those costs and make a realistic project budget can make the difference between a healthy profit margin and losing money on the project. That’s why using our free project budget template for Excel is such a vital part of any project planning template offering. It can help you monitor project expenses and avoid cost overruns.

Project budget template

The free project planning template lets you list all your tasks and subtasks, including who’s assigned to each. Then you can estimate the labor, materials and other costs, such as travel, equipment, food and more. There’s also a column to track the actual costs for each of these categories to monitor the budgeted versus actual costs. A final balance column shows if you’re in the red.

4. Work Breakdown Structure Template

A work breakdown structure is a project planning tool that allows you to identify your project tasks and deliverables and, in turn, begin the scheduling process of your project plan. You don’t want to neglect any deliverables or you’ll suffer delays and cost overruns during the project execution phase.Work breakdown structure template

A work breakdown structure is a hierarchical chart that incrementally breaks down the project into deliverables and the tasks that are needed to complete those deliverables. Our free work breakdown structure template for Excel is a customizable project planning template made up of two sheets, one that has a task list and the other a tree diagram to help you identify not only deliverables and tasks but dependencies, resources and more.

5. Project Timeline Template

Another powerful project planning template is a timeline. It’s a visual representation of your schedule laid out from start to finish. On the project timeline, you can plot your project tasks, due dates, milestones and more. Use our free project timeline template for Excel to start your project scheduling process.

Project timeline template

When you open our free project planning template for making timelines, you’ll see that it’s divided in half. On the left is a spreadsheet where you can list all the project tasks in one column, their start date in another and the end date in yet another. The last column notes the duration of the task in days. As you’re doing this, a timeline on the right will automatically populate to show you the entire project in one place.

6. Project Scope Template

The project scope outlines your project, so this project planning template is extensive. It’s a detailed document that shows the project’s activities, resources, timelines and deliverables. It lists your key stakeholders, the processes you’ll be using in the project, assumptions and constraints, all so you can understand what’s in and out of scope for the project.

Project scope template

Our free project scope template for Word is very thorough, though you can add to it as suits your project needs. We have space for project managers to explain the need for the project, what’s in and out of scope, its business objectives, deliverables and cost estimates and much more.

7. RACI Matrix Template

RACI is an acronym for responsible, accountable, consulted and informed. A RACI matrix, often referred to as a diagram or chart, is a tool that ensures that all project stakeholders are on the same page and working together, making it an important project planning template.

ProjectManager's RACI template for Excel

Our free RACI matrix template for Excel helps you identify and define everyone involved with the project. The template lists all the project stakeholders across the top row and tasks down the left side of the template. Then just add R, A, C or I to define who is responsible for what.

8. Resource Plan Template

Resources are part of any planning process and, therefore creating a resource plan is an essential part of the project planning phase. You need to identify and plan everything needed to execute your project, and the most important resource is your team. Our free resource plan template for Excel helps you align resources with your project schedule and budget.

Resource plan template

Our free resource plan template helps you organize tasks by team members and the department in which they work. You can also estimate the planned effort for each task, the team member’s rate of pay and the total cost for the duration of that work. There’s also a calendar to schedule the team’s work.

9. Risk Register Template

Risks, whether good or bad, are unexpected events in a project. Regardless, you need to plan for them. A risk register allows you to list all your project risks, their potential impact, priority level and more. You can use it throughout the project life cycle to track any risks that might occur.

Risk tracking template

The template allows you to add an ID number to each risk to track it. Then you can describe the risk and note the potential impact on the project. Following that, you’ll add the response if that risk becomes an issue in the project. You can also note the risk level to prioritize it and who on the team is responsible for dealing with that issue if it arises in the project.

10. Project Calendar Template

Calendars are one of many ways to plan a project. As a project planning template, calendars can provide a monthly overview of the assignments and deadlines of the project. Use our free project calendar template for Excel to plan your project on a calendar grid.

Project calendar template

When you open our free project calendar template, you’ll find 12 sheets, one for each month of the year. The calendar has color coding to indicate the task and which phase it belongs to. We’ve created some examples, which you can use or change to suit your project, as the template is customizable.

11. Action Plan Template

An action plan is a plan. It charts the steps necessary to achieve whatever goals you have in mind. It’s a project planning template that can help you define your project timeline and resources.

Action plan template

Using our free action plan template for Excel gives you space to list your tasks ad note the phase in which they’ll take place and who’s assigned to that task. There’s a column to mark its status to help you track the task, as well as a place to add start and end dates, resources and their associated costs.

12. Project Milestone Template

You can collect project planning templates without touching on milestones, which are part of the project planning phase. They’re used to indicate important dates on a project timeline, often showing the end of one phase and the beginning of the next, which helps with tracking progress.

ProjectManager's milestone template

You can open our free project milestone template in our software and import your project plan from Excel or create your own in the free template. The milestones are represented on the Gantt chart timeline as diamond icons. Our software gives you access to the Gantt chart and multiple project views, but more on that in the next section.

ProjectManager Helps With Project Planning

If you’ve used the milestone template in ProjectManager, then you can see the advantages of project management software over static project planning templates. Templates must be manually updated and aren’t great for collaboration.

ProjectManager is award-winning project management software that helps you plan, manage and track your projects in real time. Everything you can do with the above project planning templates you can do better in our software. We’ve already shown how our powerful Gantt chart helps you organize tasks, resources and cost when building a project plan, schedule and budget. Here’s what else our tool can do.

Manage Resource and Labor Costs

Resources are part of any project planning process. Our software makes it easy to assign team members to tasks by allowing you to set up their availability in advance. You can note each team member’s vacation time, PTO and even global holidays for those with remote teams.

Once everyone has been assigned, toggle to the color-coded workload chart, which makes it easy to see team allocation at a glance. If some are overallocated, you can re-allocate those resources to balance the team’s workload and keep them working at capacity and productivity without eroding morale. During project execution, our secure timesheets streamline payroll and help you track labor costs to stay on budget.

ProjectManager's team page

Track Project Progress, Time and Costs

There’s more than one way to track project costs once the project has moved into its execution, monitoring and controlling phases. For a high-level view, project managers can use real-time dashboards, which automatically collect data and display it on easy-to-read graphs and charts. You can see how the project is progressing against your plan, compare costs against your budget and much more. If you’re managing multiple projects, use our portfolio dashboards.

ProjectManager's dashboard

For more details, use our reporting features. Customizable status and portfolio reports capture your project in time, but there are also reports on variance, timesheets, workload and more, all of which can be filtered to show only the data you want to see. Then share them with stakeholders to keep them updated.

Related Project Planning Content

Project planning is a big subject and we have many more articles that discuss all aspects of it from making a project plan to explaining what an implementation plan is. Check out a sample of our project planning content below.

ProjectManager is online project and portfolio management software that connects teams whether they’re in the office, out in the field or anywhere in between. They can share files, comment at the task level and stay updated with email and in-app notifications. Join teams at Avis, Nestle and Siemens who use our software to plan and deliver successful projects. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.