Create a project timeline in minutes with these free project timeline templates for either Excel or ProjectManager. If you’re looking to schedule a project and need a timeline, having a project timeline template is a great way to start collecting your data in one place. Using a Microsoft Excel project timeline will set you on the road to project success. But, if you open the project timeline template in ProjectManager, you’ll be able to manage your project on not just a timeline, but with five different views: Gantt, kanban board, task list, calendar and sheet. Plus, you’ll be able to collaborate on those tasks with your team in real time and track progress in the software with live dashboards and instant status reports. Get started for free with ProjectManager and build a dynamic project timeline in minutes.
What Is a Project Timeline Template?
A project timeline template is a project planning tool that helps project managers easily create project timelines by simply adding tasks, due dates and milestones. There are two main types of project timeline templates. Excel project timeline templates and timeline templates for project management software, which are usually made with Gantt charts. An Excel project timeline is a good alternative for beginners because it is a basic project planning tool and most people are familiar with Excel. However, Excel project timelines have limitations. If you want a more advanced project timeline, you can open the project timeline template in ProjectManager.
When to Use a Project Timeline Template
A project timeline is an essential planning tool, but it’s also limited in its functions. This Microsoft Excel template is a great way to get started with the process of scheduling a project, but as you move on to other phases it quickly loses its value. That doesn’t mean a project timeline template is useless. Here’s a short explanation of when to use a project timeline. A project timeline lays the groundwork for your project schedule and in so doing the entire project plan. It shows you the major deliverables for the project and in what order they need to be done. This allows you to determine the resources and costs associated with executing those tasks. As you can see, the whole project plan emerges from a simple timeline.
Every project has stakeholders and a project timeline is a tool that you can use to communicate with them. It provides an outline of the project deliverables, which notes when and what the deadlines are. There are many ways to update stakeholders and a timeline is one of their first glimpses into how the project will progress. Simply download our free project timeline template for Excel to get started.
Why Use a Project Timeline Template?
The main selling point of a project timeline template is that it’s a visual tool. This is ideal for visual thinkers, but everyone benefits when they can see the entire project plan laid out before them. At a glance, they’ll discern the tasks, when they need to be completed and where the milestones are.
Advantages of Using an Excel Project Timeline Template
As noted, a timeline is a visual representation of your project schedule. It shows you the tasks you need to do in order, with start dates and end dates, similar to a PERT chart. If there are changes, each user has to manually add them. You can also add a noted column to the template to jot down important information, but it won’t show on the Excel project timeline.
Disadvantages of Using an Excel Project Timeline Template
There’s a lot you can’t do with an Excel project timeline. For example, you are not able to link dependent tasks, add project milestones or collaborate in real-time with your team like you would with ProjectManager’s Gantt chart. Since the template is a static document, there’s no way to use it as part of a larger suite of project management tools to build your plan, assign tasks and track and report on progress. One of the biggest drawbacks of this Excel project timeline template is that your team members can’t make changes in real time to the same document because each user has to download a copy. ProjectManager is an online project planning software that has the features you need to create project timelines that are much more dynamic than Microsoft Excel, Powerpoint, Google Sheets and Office Timeline templates.
How to Use This Free Project Timeline Template for Excel
Download our free project timeline template and you’ll simply have to fill out the various fields that are already laid out for you. The basic structure of project timelines is simple: tasks and their start and end dates. This project timeline Excel template captures this data and automatically populates the spreadsheet into a visual timeline.
1. Create a Task List
Tasks are small, manageable pieces of work. Each task is a step towards a deliverable, leading to the final deliverable, which is the project objective. Simply write the name of your task down in the task column. Our template has some sample tasks, but you can enter as many as you’ll need to complete the project. You can download our work breakdown structure template to help you identify the tasks that make up your project.
2. Add Due Dates
This is the date you want the work to start on executing the task. It’s simply the day, month and year. These dates might be estimations, but that’s fine as they can always be changed. If you do edit your timeline, that information will instantly reflect on the visual side of the template. Estimating is a big part of project planning. You can use a PERT chart or the critical path method to help you with this process. Again, this is the estimation of the task’s conclusion. When you expect the work on the task to be completed or the deadline by which it must be done. Just add the day, month and year. This endpoint with the previous start point will chart your timeline.
3. Calculate the Duration of Each Task
In this field, the amount of days between the start date and the end date is automatically calculated. This is called the duration or how long the task is estimated to take. Remember, these dates are your best estimation of how long everything will take based on research. They’ll likely change, but the template is designed to be flexible.
4. Create a Visual Project Timeline
This Excel project timeline template also generates a project timeline for you, in the form of a stacked bar chart. Similar to a Gantt chart, this chart lets you visualize tasks on a project timeline as shown in the image below.
Who Should Use This Excel Project Timeline Template?
The project manager is usually the owner of the project timeline. They’re responsible for building it, but the data they use can come from a multitude of sources. For one, historical data can help you figure out what tasks are needed, how long they’ll take and what resources and costs they’ll require. While the task of creating the timeline falls under the purview of the project manager, stakeholders and team members all contribute. Stakeholders are the reason for the project and their investment means whatever expectations they have should be addressed. Project teams, on the other hand, have practical knowledge of the work. They were assembled because of their skills and experiences working on similar projects and therefore can offer great insights into what’s needed and how long things will take to accomplish the project goals.
What Other Project Management Templates Can Help You Build a Project Timeline?
Creating a project timeline is only a small part of project planning. That’s why we’ve created a library of free project management templates to help you plan, schedule and track projects. Here are some of them.
Project Plan Template
Creating a project timeline it’s an important step toward making a project plan. Our free project plan template is a starting point that helps project managers gather all the information they need.
Project Scope Template
Defining your project scope is the foundation of creating a project timeline. This free project scope template helps you define what will be the reach of your project.
Work Breakdown Structure Template
Our free work breakdown structure template is the ideal tool to help you gather all the project tasks that will feed into your project timeline.
Project Management Software Takes Project Timeline Templates Further than Excel
A timeline template provides the basis for defining when your project deliverables are due. Use project management software to turn that timeline into a dynamic schedule. ProjectManager has online Gantt charts so you can build powerful project plans that link dependencies, set milestones and create subtasks. Plus, you can track the costs and resources needed to execute project activities. Set the baseline and then compare actual versus planned progress to keep on track. You can even see the critical path within your timeline to know what tasks are essential to achieving your goal.
How to Import your Excel Project Timeline Template Into ProjectManager
Once you download your Excel project timeline template and start building your project plan, you’ll quickly discover some roadblocks. Our free Excel template is a fine tool to get started or for a static visual document to outline the chronological tasks in your project. However, managing a project involves much more than just project timelines. If you’re looking to super-size your timeline so that it’s integrated into a holistic project management software then try out ProjectManager. First, you’ll want to take advantage of the free 30-day trial. Then follow these steps. Get your Excel project timeline template into ProjectManager. It’s easy. Just use the import button, choose the file and import. You can also just open the Gantt chart view on the software and input the data manually or use one of the many industry-specific templates to get started.
Add Start and End Dates
Import the project timeline Excel template and the information you collected will populate the Gantt chart. If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll have to add those start and finish dates in the appropriate columns. This will then reflect on the timeline side of the Gantt chart. You’ll see the duration indicated by a bar connecting the start and endpoints.
Set Project Milestones
Add milestones to your online Gantt chart. Your project milestones are represented by diamond icons on the timeline. They represent important dates in the project and are used to note the end of one project phase and the start of another. This breaks the project into more manageable bits.
Link Task Dependencies
Connect tasks that are dependent on one another by simply dragging and dropping one to another. Dependent tasks are those that can’t start or end until another starts or ends. Identifying these dependencies helps avoid bottlenecks later on in the project. Milestones and dependencies are just the beginning of how using a project management tool can take your timeline to the next level. You can even assign tasks from the Gantt, attaching files and giving teams detailed descriptions of what needs to be done. Then tag the task for priority or to make it easy to find. Our online tool gives your real-time data, which means that teams can collaborate on the same platform even if they’re working remotely without having to download any files. Managers can oversee their progress with dashboards and reports. There’s even a workload page to see who is overallocated and reallocate their work to keep teams productive. Once you’ve imported your Excel timeline template into our software you have the tools you need to control every aspect of your project all from one place. It organizes your work for greater efficiency. Why jump from one application to another and download countless files when all you need to bring in a successful project is altogether in one online tool? For more information, check our 5-step guide to make a timeline.
Project Timeline Tutorial Video
For more information on how to create and manage a project timeline, watch the video below. Jennifer Bridges, PMP, gives you a number of crucial tips that can help you get the most out of your project timeline template.
ProjectManager is an award-winning software and also the industry’s hub for all things project management. There are scores of blogs, guides and videos to help you through all aspects of managing your project. If you’re interested in project timelines, then you’ll probably want to read the following pages on our site.
Once you’ve imported the Microsoft Excel project timeline template into our tool you’ll see how it expands your project horizons to include more robust planning, monitoring of your project’s performance and detailed reporting to keep stakeholders up-to-date. Used by tens of thousands of project teams from NASA to Ralph Lauren, see what it can do for you by taking this free 30-day trial.