Project Timeline Explained with Templates and Examples: 5 Steps to Success

In project management, time can be your greatest enemy. But what would happen if you could use every minute that was given to you to your advantage? That is what the project timeline is for - and here’s how to create it from scratch.

Arkadiusz Terpiłowski


Project Management


Project timeline explained with templates and examples: X steps to success

Table of contents

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What is the project timeline? Definition

A project timeline is a visual representation of all the tasks and activities that are supposed to be completed in a project, as well as their duration and start and end dates. Such an overview provides the manager with key information on all the tasks and related allocation, helping them manage projects on both general and more detailed levels. 

Types of project timeline

There are no two identical projects - that is why we divide project timelines into several different types based on their features. 

Project timeline by types of charts

The most popular types of project timelines include: 

  1. Historical timeline that simply outlines the chronological order of the project's tasks and acts as a project schedule for its stakeholders,
  2. Vertical chart timeline is mostly used to track project-related data, with billable hours, project budget involved.
  3. Gantt chart that combines tasks with allocations and their details to provide managers with a comprehensive overview of all the key deliverables in the project. 
Gantt chart calendar available in Primetric
Project calendar based on a Gantt chart available in Primetric

This text will focus on the type of project timeline that appeals most to professional service companies - the Gantt chart calendar with employee capacity and task assigned to particular team members.

Project timeline

How to create a project timeline? 

If you are still here with us, you know you need a project timeline for your business. So let’s get to the point: how to create a project timeline? 

What are the things that the project timeline consists of? 

First, let’s start with the things your project timeline should have by the end of your journey. 

Ideally, it should contain: 

  • project stages or tasks (whichever fits your project best) for the entirety of the project scope
  • their duration, start dates, and end dates, 
  • dependencies - for example, when one task needs to be completed for another to start, 
  • team members, their capacity, and allocation. 

Now let’s see how it works in practice. 

5 steps to create a timeline for your project

The process of preparing a project management timeline usually takes just a few steps. They include: 

1. Define the project scope

That’s the simplest step - you need to figure out what task needs to be done for the project to succeed. 

Specify the requirements for the scope of your project

To get started, you need to talk to your customer to discuss the basic details behind the operation. By the end of this conversation, you should have: 

  • project description and background information needed to complete it, 
  • main objectives, tasks, and/or project milestones
  • project goals, including target audience, desired features, outcomes for each phase. 

Get into more detail about the project

However, these factors are insufficient for the project timeline - they must be much more specific. That is why you can now move on to organizing the project scope and its deliverables.

At this point, you should: 

  • write a project statement, 
  • create a list of stages and tasks in the project, as well as their dependencies, that need to be completed, and their general schedule,
  • perform basic resource forecasting to establish what resources are required for the project and whether you have a project team for the job, 
  • specify the desired start and end date for the project and its stages, 
  • prioritize the tasks accordingly, 
  • consult other project managers who may have experience in similar projects or tasks. 

Having done that, you can now organize the information even further - it’s time to divide your projects into smaller pieces.

2. Split the project into parts

Once you know what your team must do to succeed, it’s time to take a closer look at all the necessary operations, their scope, and milestones.

Dividing the project step by step 

First, divide the project into key stages marking the significant development of the project.

For each of them, select a milestone showing you the exact goal you must achieve for the project to proceed. Do not forget to determine the task dependencies and dates if they are critical for the tasks! 

From there, split the stages into small, manageable deliverables and place them chronologically. Once again, include task dependencies when necessary and identify any bottlenecks preventing your teams from succeeding.

3. Determine the time and resources needed to complete each phase or task

You already have a list of tasks that need to be done. Now it’s time to check what they need to complete on time - and according to all the complicated requirements. 

A successful project in a nutshell

To do that, analyze each task or stage and determine: 

  • what actions the task will involve, 
  • what are its stakeholders,
  • how much time it will take to complete all tasks and fulfill the project plan, 
  • what skills or sets of skills will be required to complete the task, 
  • how much money each task will cost, 
  • how the costs compare to the budget. 

After completing all of the steps above, you will be able to see how long the stage will take, what resources it requires, and what are its possible deadlines.

Estimates used for project timeline in Primetric
Estimates for project stages in Primetric

4. Assign tasks to specialist

Now, you can use your newly acquired knowledge to start project scheduling in project management.

Start the process with capacity planning - check the status of your employees and other duties they need to attend and establish the number of hours they have at your disposal. 

In Primetric, all the information on available people and their utilization (on the right) is displayed on a single list

At this point, you can start resource planning by allocating specialists whose schedules do not collide with your perfect project schedule.

Last but not least, verify whether your project has no vacancies needed to be filled. While this step might seem trivial, it may be the difference between success and failure! 

5. Put all the tasks on the timeline and perfect your plan

If you have a project scheduling tool and you have already allocated your specialists, you probably already have your project timeline in a calendar or a Gantt chart.

However, if you use Excel for a resource management plan (or if you prefer Jira resource management), you still need to take one more look at your project timeline and arrange it in chronological order.

Manage your project and its tasks

At this point, you should pay close attention to problems such as: 

  • vacancies or tasks that were not assigned to any specialists and team members, 
  • benches or overtime included in the plan - they should be avoided as much as possible, 
  • dependencies that are at risk of failing, 
  • any other risks that may affect the project. 

However, if you have found no wrongdoings, your project timeline is ready! 

Project timeline template in Excel - how should it look? 

The project timeline is difficult to create in Excel, as the tool has limited visualization options. To make things worse, Excel’s graphs are based on tables, making editing difficult. Therefore, this program's project timeline template may not suit your needs. 

Let’s see what the Excel project management timeline looks like. 

Excel project timeline template - table 

In the project timeline template, everything starts with a table. In this case, it should contain the name of the milestone, its start date, and its priority (on a scale from 1 to 5). 

Here’s an example of such a table: 

Excel project timeline template
Excel table for project timeline in a scatter plot chart

Adding a scatter plot chart for the project timeline template

Now it’s time to go one step further with our project timeline template and turn the table into a scatter plot chart. 

To do that, select the data table, go to the Insert menu, and select the Scatter chart. You can edit it in this panel, too.

The result of the change in the project timeline template should look like this, with each dot representing a project milestone. However, the entire project plan remains invisible - there is no way to show its details here.

Scatter chart as an Excel project timeline
Example scatter plot chart with project timeline

Of course, project managers can also expand the chart a bit in this panel using the same project timeline template. For example, you can add the title to the chart, and add chart elements and data labels.

However, an Excel project timeline has significant visibility problems - and they will not change regardless of the number of labels you use to describe the data.

Additionally, these are not the only limitations in the Excel project timeline and project timeline template.

Project timeline template in Excel - limitations 

Excel project timeline templates are not a perfect tool - especially for service companies managing several specialists and projects simultaneously. That is because the tables are not meant to act as project timeline software and lack the big picture necessary for the job, not to mention the milestones and timeline templates in general. 

What is impossible in Excel project timeline templates? 

For example, in Excel project timeline template, you cannot: 

  • view each phase, milestone, and task, as well as their details, separately, 
  • create a list of allocations and responsibilities for each team member,
  • monitor work progress for each stage, task, or employee, 
  • flexibly edit allocation and stages whenever necessary, 
  • monitor budgets and spending - again, you need another spreadsheet for the purpose,
  • collaborate with your employees or teammates and exchange information with them in real-time.

Therefore, it is no surprise that numerous service companies decided to look elsewhere for their project timeline tools - and we have an example of a perfect project management tool for them. 

Project timeline example

Excel project timelines do not always look intuitive, and they undoubtedly require lots of additional labor. However, preparing a timeline in Primetric is much less time-consuming, as it was designed as project timeline software in the first place. 

Let’s see how it works in a project timeline example! 

Create a new project in Primetric

Every new project in Primetric starts with a few basic pieces of information we need to have to adjust the view to your needs. Therefore, before you start, you need to create a new project and add some details to it. 

New project in Primetric tools

Creating stages and estimates 

After you confirm the data you filled in the Create a new project window, you will be redirected to the project panel. Here you can add stages to the project (the button on the left), add a sufficient date to them, monitor their status, and create estimates for each stage.

Create and monitor the budget for every project in Primetric

Additionally, in Primetric tools, stakeholders can also monitor your budget from the start - the estimate can include your costs, rates for your teams, and live calculations - just like in the screenshot below. 

Phases and their estimates in Primetric
Estimates in Primetric are a perfect base for the project's timeline

Creating a project timeline in Primetric 

You can now go to the project calendar tool and plan the project from start to finish by creating a project schedule. Simply click on the Calendar tab to get there. 

After doing so, you will see an empty calendar that only marks the project's duration. Now you will have an opportunity to fill it in.

Simply click on the day you want the allocation to appear, and choose a person you want to add to the project. If you have any doubts, the project timeline software will help you do that! 

Adding an allocation to the project timeline in Primetric
Adding an allocation to the project timeline in Primetric

Adding allocations for team members 

Then, you can repeat the process and fill in all the project team allocations in the project. You can do it in the very same with all tasks in Gantt chart.

You do not have to worry about overbooking, time offs, missing milestones, and public holidays - the system will track them and inform key stakeholders whenever such an event is in the schedule.

Here’s what it looks like: 

Project timeline in Primetric
Project timeline in Primetric

If you want to see whether Primetric can accommodate your project and all its important dates, feel free to book a demo with our advisors or start a trial immediately with our tools - you can begin the process online right now!

Benefits of the project management timeline

Alright, but why, in the first place, should you even consider spending your precious time on preparing a timeline? 

There are a few good reasons for it.

Benefits for project milestones and… everyone involved

  1. Clear overview of the entire project and ability to track it. No one wants to be kept in the dark. With a project timeline, you can track and monitor the project's milestones while ensuring all tasks are on schedule.
  2. Mistakes can’t hide! There’s no denying that planning is a complicated process prone to human error, regardless of the tools you use. However, creating a timeline and using it to track task progress can simplify and help you correct mistakes. 
  3. Tracking progress and status is easier. The project timeline shows you everything that is supposed to happen in the project - and later on, you can use it to see what’s happening in its every task.
  4. There are no bottlenecks in the project. Without a project timeline, work tends to pile up, creating chaos no one in the team wants to deal with. It’s better to identify these issues before they put the entire operation at risk! 

Do you want to know more about project timelines or project management? 

You’ve come to the right place! 

Visit our blog and read about: 

Or contact our advisors and book a demo right away. 

Arkadiusz Terpiłowski


Arkadiusz is Head of Growth and Co-founder at Primetric. Prior to that, Arkadiusz was at the helm of his own software development company where he oversaw operations. A great enthusiast of process improvements, his personal mission is to make software companies more profitable and efficient on their path to growth.

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