Timelines are the backbone of any project plan. Project timelines lays out your tasks and events in chronological order. This helps project managers plan, create schedules, prioritise work and organize tasks.
In other words, they help you to define the duration of the project from start to finish and keep track of time throughout the project life cycle. All tasks must be completed within the time you allot, and the budget you agree on to finance the effort.
Making a project timeline is the starting point for planning your project and it is easy to create. Follow the steps below to begin planning a timeline.
Five steps to making a project timeline
- Define your Project Scope
The first step in creating your timeline is determining the scope of the project. The project scope refers to all the work required to complete your project, including tasks, deliverables and milestones. To define your project scope, you can begin by outlining what deliverables you are going to produce throughout the project and the tasks needed to produce them.
- Identify the Tasks That Make up Your Project Timeline
Each deliverable represents a milestone on your project timeline. The points between them are the tasks required to create that project deliverable. To make sure you have a thorough list of all your tasks, use a work breakdown structure, which is a tree diagram with your final deliverable on top and all the steps leading to it.
- Evaluate Your Project Timeline
Next, look over each of the tasks and events you’ve collected and ask yourself—do they achieve the goal? Are they specific enough? This is how you determine what is essential, and what could be left aside if time and costs constrain your effort.
- Add Dates to the Timeline
Every task must have a duration, and together, they all have to fit within the timeframe of your project timeline. Therefore, it’s critical that you do your best to estimate the time each task will take. There are several ways to get more accuracy, from your personal judgment or expert team members’ opinions to historical data and statistical analysis.
- Create a Timeline on Paper or with a Project Timeline Maker
Finally, you’re ready to map out your timeline. You have all the project scope elements you need, and they can be assembled manually or by using a timeline maker or project management software. A timeline maker will only help you create a project timeline, while a project management software will cover your time tracking, task management and team collaboration needs.