How to Create a Timeline: the Definitive Guide

Projects can’t exist without timelines. Every task, even the smallest one, has certain dates. No project manager will successfully accomplish a project not having a clear understanding of start and end dates of their plans.

To visualize time-related information, a manager needs to create a project timeline. But how to make a timeline?

We can find plenty of tools that allow us to build a timeline. Remarkably, all those tools offer different ways to create a timeline. The same way we can find dozens of timeline examples. In some of them, you can do it with the help of a simple vertical line. Some tools offer charts that is the easiest way to create a timeline. In general, there are many ways to do it. But all of them have almost the same steps. They are typical of any project or activity.

How to create a basic timeline?

1. Plan all steps from the start

Before you start your project, define what it will include. If it is not possible for you now to plan all the tasks, anyway, be serious about this point. Knowing what events and actions do constitute your timeline, you’ll be able to not miss a detail. Also, bear in mind that a project management timeline differs from timelines for, say, historic events or for educational purposes.

So, start with a clear project scope statement that will be the key document for you to properly create a timeline and achieve your deliverables.

How to create a timeline

2. Break down tasks

It’s more convenient to work with small achievable tasks, isn’t it? If you have big tasks or even groups, divide each of them into smaller parts and put them on your timeline.

For example, if you work in software development, homepage development may look as a big task. But if you break this assignment down, you will have something like this: content creation, keywords, pictures and video creation, etc. So, the whole task gets clear parts that have clear achievable timeframes.

Moreover, this also helps to identify milestones – important events in a project. If your project timeline has a milestone and you achieve it, it means it moves in the right direction. In case your timeline depicts a historic event, a milestone itself will be this event.

3. Set dates

This is what a timeline is all about. Projects should have start and end dates, as well as each particular task, should do. After you define your to-do list with milestones, work precisely with each date. It is the most important point when you deal with tasks and milestones in project management.

Some managers may experience problems with setting accurate dates for tasks. For example, time periods for a task can be too long or, vice versa, too short. This is where experience can help a lot. In case you are not experienced enough, try to take every detail into account while you create a timeline. And of course, it’s better to consult those who have been directly engaged in such tasks.

Also, when you create a timeline, remember about measurable units. For example, if your timeline takes a year, break it into months or even weeks. It will help to better browse your timeline layout and work with it.

How to create a timeline

4. Define the way to depict tasks

For some, this may be the easiest point. To create a timeline online, you need to choose the way you like most to visualize it before you create it. But at the same time, for some, it may be a stumbling point. There are so many timeline examples, tools, and ways of visualization so the searching process can take too much time. It can be a simple horizontal timeline, a vertical one or a Gantt chart, etc.

After deciding the way to depict your tasks, it’s time to choose the appropriate tool.

5. Go on with the right tool

So, what do we already have when we approach this point? We have goals and deliverables, tasks, milestones, and timeframes. Also, we have an understanding of how everything should look like. What’s the next step?

We’ve finally come to tools and services that will help us to create a timeline. If you are sure about the way you want to depict your timeline, go on with a search. Also, you can take a look at the tools that already proved to be efficient to make a timeline. For example, GanttPRO as Gantt chart software is one of those tools. Or you can go through this list of timeline makers.

How to create a timeline in GanttPRO

To create a timeline in GanttPRO is easy. As it is Gantt chart software, all your projects will automatically have an axis with timeframes. This is a horizontal line. After you choose to create a project, go on and create your tasks. On a Gantt chart, they have a location on a vertical line. Each of your tasks will have start and end dates. Therefore, they will have a clear visualization on a timeline.

How to create a timeline in GanttPRO

To get maximum of your Gantt chart timeline, set a measurable unit. In GanttPRO, the Zoom function allows you to change time intervals. You can start with hours and finish with years.

You will find the Zoom toggle on the top right corner of your screen.

If you need more information on how to create a timeline in GanttPRO, please, watch GanttPRO overview video.

What about other popular tools?

Of course, GanttPRO is not the only choice for you. You can take popular tools that are on everyone’s lips. For example, you can create a timeline in Excel, a timeline in Word, or you can create a timeline in PowerPoint. I do not state that in some tools it is much easier to create. But the services like, for example, Excel require additional knowledge from you to build even a simple timeline template. In this regard, GanttPRO with its Gantt chart approach looks like the more appropriate tool to create a timeline.

How do you make timelines? Is it somehow different from the ways described above? Share your ideas with us!

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