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How To Create A Project Management Timeline: Step-by-Step Guide

Want to learn how to create a project management timeline?

Projects can get messy. 

There are backlogs, missed deadlines, task-related hiccups, and so many other things that add to the messiness.

And if you don’t have a project timeline and roadmap ready, it’s like baking a cake without the ingredients, recipe, or the oven! 🎂

But don’t worry.

This article explores the eight fundamental steps for creating a project timeline to make your project planning a success.

Let the bake-off begin!

What Is A Project Timeline?

A project timeline or a project schedule timeline is a chronological arrangement of the various events and key tasks in a project.

And here’s some good news, if you’re a project manager, you get to create it!

This timeline will give you a grand view of your entire project, from start to finish.

A project timeline is also a guide for your team members, project stakeholders, and everyone else you think should be informed of every stage of the project.

So what does a project timeline typically contain?

Here’s a quick look at the key elements in any basic timeline of a project :

  • Project tasks
  • Due dates of the project tasks
  • Task durations
  • Task dependencies

Tip: Brush up on how to create your own project management calendar.

Why is it important to create a project timeline?

A project’s success depends on an accurate project management timeline.

Here’s why…

A project timeline:

  • Clarifies goals, priorities, and assigned roles
  • Keeps everyone informed and on the same page
  • Lets you and the team visualize the big picture
  • Shows how changes affect the project
  • Unveils bottlenecks and dependencies
  • Helps you determine the project start date and end date accurately
  • Dodge scope creep

The list can go on and on. But you get the idea.

So let’s not delay things any further and check out how to create a project timeline.

8 Steps To Create A Practical Project Timeline

Creating a project timeline or a project roadmap doesn’t have to be rocket science.

To make it simple, we’ve ordered the process in eight simple steps. It would also help to have roadmap tools.

Step 1: Determine the project’s goal

If you don’t know what you need to do, how do you even begin to do it?

No goal = No purpose

The same goes for your project timeline. 

If you don’t have a goal, you can’t move on to the next step or progress. 

Determine the project goal and the project scope to understand what deliverables you must work towards.

For example, if you own a bakery, your goal may be to bake a cake for a client’s wedding.

In this case, you’d sit down with your team and your client for a brainstorming session.

This will help you put together a project scope statement for your wedding cake project. It might look like this: Bake a four-tier wedding cake for 50-100 guests on December 23.

That’s a lot of cake! 

Anyone else getting a sugar rush just thinking about it! 🙌

Your scope statement will work as an outline for all the tasks and deliverables your team will have to produce during the project.

So how do you set project goals?

Project management tools like ClickUp make setting Project Goals and Targets a breeze. It’s the highest-rated productivity tool in the world that can help you every step of the way as you create your project timeline schedule.

Whether it’s a simple project timeline or a complex one, we’ve got you covered.

Use ClickUp’s Goals to break your goals further into Targets, such as:

  • Numbers
  • Currency
  • Tasks 
  • True/False 
goal target in clickup

As you wrap those Targets up, you come closer to achieving your Goal too. 

All you have to do is click on the Goals icon that looks like a trophy, click on ‘New Goal,’ and start creating targets under it to start crushing your objectives!

two men in an office saying that was easy

Step 2: Break down the project into milestones

When you’re handling a complex project, creating a project timeline can seem impossible. It’s like sneezing with your eyes open.

You’re trying, aren’t you? 😝

However, it’s not impossible to handle a complex project’s timeline. 

You just break it down into smaller pieces because smaller pieces (just like small cake slices) are easier to handle.

With the project goal in mind, create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). That’ll lead you to figure out your project milestones.

Wait, what are project milestones?

Milestones are checkpoints in the lifecycle of your project. It can be a difficult individual task, a group of tasks, or a work package.

For your wedding cake order, milestones can be:

  • Completing the cake design
  • Finish baking the cake sponges
  • Completing the decoration and icing

You can set up Milestones on ClickUp to signify the end of these big chunks of tasks or achievements that show crucial progress when you hit them.

mark task as milestone

It’s not just easy to set milestones. 

You can quickly spot them too. Just look for a diamond shape in the Gantt chart or List view.

Because your achievement should: 

shine bright like a diamond Rhiana

Step 3: Explore the milestones to create tasks

Now that you’ve defined your milestones zoom in further to create the different tasks.

Whether it’s making the cake batter or purchasing the right baking tools, they’re all tasks. 

When you complete these tasks, you start hitting the defined milestones and eventually complete the project successfully.

With ClickUp, creating Tasks has never been easier. 

Just click on the pretty purple button in the lower right corner of your screen.

create a task in clickup

Here’s what you can do when creating tasks in ClickUp:

Want to save time? Rely on Task Templates

Instead of wasting time creating things from scratch each time, just reuse a format you used before!

create template in clickup

Step 4: Identify task dependencies

When you’re making a cake, can you start adding the frosting without already baking the cake?

No.

That’s because the frosting stage depends on the readiness of the cake.

Quick advice: If you love frosting as much as we do, don’t make the frosting way ahead, or you’ll end up eating it all right out of the bowl. 😋 

Now, back to timelines.

When one task depends on the completion of the other, it’s called a task dependency

Identify them so you can create a workflow that never deviates from the work plan and, most importantly, an accurate timeline.

Did you know you can set your Task Dependencies on ClickUp?

Use the tool to identify one or more Task Dependencies as:

  • Waiting on: certain tasks need to be completed before starting on this task 
  • Blocking: can’t start another task until this one is complete
  • Link to: tasks related to one another but aren’t dependent
task relationships in clickup

And managing, scheduling, and rescheduling Task Dependencies in ClickUp’s Gantt Chart has never been easier.

How easy are we talking?

You just draw lines between tasks to set dependencies automatically! 

dependencies in gantt

Step 5: Define time estimates for each task

Time management is crucial in the project management world. 

That’s why each task has to have a time estimate.

Why?

For starters, we’re trying to create a project timeline. 

So it kind of…has to have time in it. 😜

Without predicting how long each task will take for completion, you can’t have an effective timeline. 

Doesn’t everyone want to know when that cake’s going to be ready?!

do you have a timeframe schitts creek

Secondly, time is money.

Let our efficient project management software introduce you to Time Estimates.

With this, you can set expectations and predict when each task will be completed to stay on top of everything.

time estimates in clickup

The result?

A realistic and accurate timeline.

Step 6: Distribute the tasks

There are multiple tasks between ingredient shopping and cake delivery.

So the next question is, who’s gonna do what?

That’s where the distribution of the tasks comes into the picture.

Make sure every task has an assignee, and the roles are clear. 

Scope creep, you’re not welcome here!

In ClickUp, you can Assign Tasks as you create them.

Use this function to assign a single task to:

  • One person
  • Multiple people
  • Even an entire Team!
multitask toolbar

But whether it’s the kitchen or a software development project, too many cooks do spoil the broth. 

That’s why we also recommend using the Workload Chart to learn about your team’s capacity and become a pro at allocating tasks. 

What’s that?

The Workload Chart is a visual that tells you:

  • Who’s working on what
  • What tasks have people done
  • The workload of every assignee
workload in clickup

In other words, you don’t have to take up all the baking and decoration tasks for the day. Just assign it to someone with lesser tasks on their plate and have the right skills for it.

Note: You’ll find the Workload Chart in the Box view, which is just one of the many views ClickUp has to offer.

Step 7: Build your timeline

Does that heading make you feel relieved?

We’re almost there!

It’s finally time to prepare your complete project timeline.

But how?

If you’re thinking of timeline templates, we won’t mind. 

After all, they’re all over the internet. 

You can find PowerPoint charts, a Gantt chart timeline template, a project schedule template, a timeline chart, a product roadmap template. The list goes on! We’ve even created an article about the differences between Gantt and timelines to help you out.

However, these downloadable project timeline templates won’t give you the desired flexibility for complex projects.

Want to carry out proper timeline project management instead of downloading different templates for multiple timelines? 

Try ClickUp.

ClickUp’s Gantt Chart was made for project management timelines. 

Use it for project scheduling, organizing, and tracking the progress percentage of multiple projects and tasks.

gantt chart in clickup

Don’t forget to use it to discover your critical path!

The other option in store for you is Timeline view

With the Timeline view, you can create a visual roadmap or a project plan with timed tasks.

project timeline view in clickup

The bottom line is that ClickUp has several project timeline features designed to handle all your projects.

So if you come across an Excel spreadsheet or an Excel timeline template, just…

woman in a robe opening the door

Step 8: Review and approval

The final step is to review the project timeline with your project team and get the client’s, stakeholder’s, and sponsor’s approval.

This step ensures that your timeline or roadmap is something that the whole team can agree on.

You can easily share your project timeline with ClickUp’s Permissions. Choose who should and should not have access to viewing it.

permissions in clickup

You can also rely on ClickUp’s Zoom integration for discussing the timeline you created #socialdistancing.

A good project timeline management tip is to encourage people to spot flaws or raise concerns. That way, it’s easier for you as a project manager to implement the plan change before the work begins.

Far better than making alterations when your project progress is halfway through.

Once everyone approves of your timeline, all there’s left to do is to get started on your project!

The Icing On The Cake

Creating a project timeline doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Just follow the steps like any cake recipe, and you’ll be fine. 

You can always go for a downloadable project timeline template.

But guess what’s even better than a timeline template or project template?

A project management tool that’s an all-in-one solution for your projects like ClickUp.

It assists you right from setting the project goal to visualizing your timeline.

In other words, ClickUp is a project management and project timeline software at the same time!

Sounds like a complete package?

Then why not get ClickUp for free and make drafting project timelines a cakewalk! 🎂🎂🎂

two boys jumping for joy

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