Creating a timeline for your project is a critical step toward making sure you meet deadlines and hand over deliverables on time. While it’s certainly easy enough to open a calendar and begin marking due dates, that may not be an effective or efficient way to actually create deadlines that can be met. And when you begin to work on bigger projects — projects with multiple deliverables, encompassing a variety of internal and external teams, and having complex and demanding and even conflicting goals — simple calendar marking almost certainly won’t work.
Project management timelines provide a clear overview of a project from its beginning to its end and leads to greater visibility, better communication, a clear foundation for the purpose of the work, and better efficiency.
Whether this is your first big project or you are looking for a more efficient and effective way to plan deadlines, this guide will show you the steps to take to create a project management timeline.
Steps to Create a Project Timeline
1. Create a brief or scoping document
Start by defining the project in broad terms. Describe the goals, who has a stake, the roles of key individuals, the timeframe, and key milestones. Where possible, be specific. Let’s say, for example, you are planning a wedding. The scoping document would say the project is to deliver a fantastic, memorable wedding for 100 guests, and the event will include the ceremony, dinner, and dancing.
2. Using the scoping document, break the project into smaller pieces
Define sub-deliverables and the steps likely to lead to their successful completion. The order of these steps is not important, but the individual parts are. The more you refine the scope of the project, the more overwhelming it may begin to seem; this step, where you break the job into a number of steps, will make each portion seem digestible. In the case of the wedding, this step might include creating a budget, finding a venue, selecting a caterer, choosing decorations, finding a band, and buying gifts for the attendees.
3. Estimate how long each step will take
Once you have these steps broken down, you can begin to get a better handle on how involved each one will be. Once you know how much time it will take you can more accurately plan and sequence each task. For example, finding a venue, you might learn, will take a month: one week to research venue locations, one week to visit top picks, one week to decide which is best, and one week to sign a contract and make a deposit.
4. Formalize the order
As you come to better understand the steps involved in the wedding you will see that certain steps can’t be completed before others. For example, you can’t send invitations until you know where the event will be, and you can’t plan a menu before you know who the caterer is. By uncovering these “dependencies” you can map out which steps can be tackled simultaneously and which need other steps to be checked off first.
5. Create your timeline
Now, you can enter the specific steps into your project management tool. Tools like ProWorkflow allow you to easily create projects, assign tasks, make (and change, if necessary) deadlines, corral resources, contact stakeholders, peek in on team progress, budget, invoice, and more. For projects, there are numerous prebuilt templates to choose from, and it’s made so that creating custom templates is a cinch.
6. Share your timeline with stakeholders
Now that your timeline is built, if you created it using a project management tool like ProWorkflow, it’s a snap to share it. Send your timeline to staff, contractors, stakeholders, and more (and if you really are doing a wedding, make sure you send it to the groom – they tend to get left out of the planning!).
7. Refer to your timeline frequently as you mobilize teams and get to work, and be prepared to manage and adapt along the way
Things will happen – both too and bad – to affect your timeline. Maybe you were able to consolidate steps, maybe a contractor bowed out, maybe a key component simply isn’t available. While a timeline won’t keep those things from happening, it will help you to react much more quickly when it does. By understanding the steps in detail, and the steps that depend on other steps to move forward before they can be done, you will be able to better adapt to the changes that are sure to hit you along the way.
Create your next project timeline confidently. By using custom and built in tools from ProWorkflow, timeline creation and management is surprisingly easy. Contact them today to get started.