A timeline template is a very useful tool for project managers and planners. Timelines allow everyone involved in the project to have an idea about where the project is supposed to be and how much work remains. Timelines also help keep projects on track and visually explain the many different achievement of the project. It is impossible to properly plan something without a timeline. You need to know what is being done, what has been done, and what remains to be done.

Timelines are used in many different ways and can represent many different things as well. We have many different project management timelines for you to download and use.

Timeline Templates

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Using Timelines to set pace

Timelines are often created at the beginning of the project because they allow the managers to set the pace of the project. A project involves many different people and tasks and having a unified template means that people know what they are supposed to do and when they are supposed to do it. The timeline defines when the project should be completed which tells everyone involved in the projct how much time they have for the project. If you are creating a timeline to set the pace it is important that you take realistic measures of how long each task will take. Often people end up being too optimistic when creating timelines and commit to completion dates that are unachievable. Do not create a timeline which goes totally off the rails if any of the tasks involved are delayed. Your timeline shoul have some cushion room because in real life there are going to be a few complications no matter how well planned you are. Better to create a plan that can take a few hits without going off the rails.

Using timelines to manage

Timelines are also fantastic for managers because they make it easy to understand the amount of work that has been done and the amount of work that remains to be done. Managers need to have an innate understanding of the project and its scope and timelines help a lot in that regard. If you are using timelines to manage the project then you need to be extra vigilant and detailed while making the timeline. Some of the excel timeline templates we have will allow you to enter even the smallest details into the timeline.

The reason you have to be more descriptive is that your purpose is different; if you are making a timeline to set the pace, you can talk about broad project objectives. If you are simply trying to tell a story then you only need to mention the major milestones. However if you’re using the timeline as a proper project management tool you will need to make sure nothing is missed or overlooked. Once you have your timeline made you also need to keep updating it as the time passes. Keep entering more details as they emerge and your timeline will be a great tool for everyone involved in the project.

Using timelines to tell a story

Timelines are also a great way to commemorate progress or an achievement. Many corporations have a visual timeline of their company’s humble beginnings and current state somewhere in the office. When you manage to take a company from a small startup to a big player it is necessary to keep a memento that shows the journey. Timelines are also great if you are trying to explain an event or a development. You can simply map out the major points of the story on the timeline and people will be able to understand the relationships between the events simply by looking at where the different events are in your timeline.

If you are using timelines to tell a story then use one of the powerpoint timeline templates we have available for download. The reason behind this is simple; it is much easier to be visually interesting in Powerpoint compared to Excel or even Word. You will easily be able to add graphics and effects to really make the story pop. When you are telling a story, it is best to do it with as many pictures as you can to increase the impact on the viewer.

Timeline Examples

 

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How to make a timeline

When you set out to make a timeline, things might seem confusing if you jump straight into the timeline. You’ll need to do a bit of work before you create the timeline if you want to be able to do it correctly. Follow these steps and you’ll be able to make a great timeline in no time.

Figure out the objective of the timeline

What is your timeline trying to achieve? If you are making the timeline for decorative purposes or if you are making it for a class project then you don’t need to cram it with details. If you are making it for a project you will need to put a lot of thought into it. First you need to determine what you are trying to tell people through the timeline and then you’ll be able to actually do it.

Write down the important information

Create a text file and enter all the events you will mention in the timeline on it. Remember, it becomes very cumbersome if you have already designed a timeline and it turns out you need to change some events later on. It is much better to simply finalize the events beforehand instead of thinking of them once you’re making the timeline. Share the events you write down with other people involved in the project and take their feedback. Ask them if they want any information or event added to the timeline. Once you’re confident that you have entered the right amount of information you can move onto actually building your timeline.

Choose a template that fits

You will find many different project timeline templates on our website. You need to figure out what timeline template is the right one for you. Some of the templates have more flair to them and are better suited to more visually intensive timelines. Our PowerPoint timeline templates are great if you are focusing more on the visuals and want a file that can be edited quickly. One the other hand our excel timeline templates will be perfect if you want to get more technical with the timeline and have deeper control over how it looks. No template is wrong and no template is right. What matters is understanding which template is right for you.

Use pictures

A timeline is a visual tool; you need to use pictures wherever you can. A great example is the timeline of a building being constructed. Sure, you can simply enter in the major milestones but the timeline will look much better if you actually insert pictures of the building in different phases of the construction and being built up. Think of your project as a building; what images would convey the same message but for your project? Insert pictures wherever appropriate and your timeline will pack a nice visual punch. Do remember that it is possible to enter too many pictures and make it look garish so you have to keep it tasteful.

Use multiple timelines if necessary

You don’t have to draw everything in a straight line. If you are running a project which consists of different tasks being done independently then do not be afraid to insert more line which can later converge into one timeline. Remember, the important thing here is that your timeline tells the right story. That may sometimes mean that you’ll have to merge different timelines or highlight the different phases that the project was in. You will find many of our excel timeline templates have different tasks and smaller timelines independent of the original timeline. This is done to ensure that your timeline provides complete information without leaving any necessary information out. It is always a good idea to divide the timeline into phases if you are making the timeline for a huge project.

Timeline Samples

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Common mistakes to avoid when making a timeline

There are some issues which are very prevalent in many timelines we have seen. If you want to make sure that you do not make one of the mistakes that people commonly make then read on and avoid doing any of these.

Too much text

It is easy to see why people make this mistake so much. They want to tell the full story and they end up putting too much text on the timeline. If you think that text is the only thing which will convey what you want to convey then maybe you should simply write about the project instead of creating a timeline. If you are set on creating a timeline then you need to let the visuals talk. Understand that the timeline itself is telling a bit of the story. If you simply enter the major milestones then people will be able to see how much different there is between two different points in the timeline. A timeline isn’t meant to tell the full story; it is meant to provide a general idea about how far along something has come. People who want more details can get it somewhere else.

Bad color schemes

When you look at our project timeline templates you’ll notice that they have well thought out color combinations. Many people end up using inappropriate and unprofessional color combinations which can end up looking really tacky. Make sure you choose colors that fit the occasion. If you are making it for an office project it is better to stick with black, grays, and darker shades of blue. If you are making the timeline for school then you can use brighter, livelier colors. You can pick out different color schemes from the many templates that we have available for download.

Unreadable Text

Too many timelines have text that is too small or the wrong color. You need to have an idea about where your timeline will be displayed. If you are going to paste it on a wall then you can put in a lot of small text, but if it is meant to be seen on a screen then make sure the text is big enough to be read. Also make sure that the text contrasts nicely with the background of the timeline or the graphics over which you will enter the text.  If you are not sure about the text then you can always go with white text with a black outline as it is easily visible on almost any color.

Too many events

You need to have some gap between different events on the timeline. If you try to cram too many events into the timeline it will start looking like a collection of events instead of an organized timeline. Only enter the biggest milestones and major achievements into the timeline and make sure you space them out properly. If the event didn’t mean a major change in the project or a major achievement then it can be removed.

Download Timeline Templates

In order to make sure that you find the project timeline template that you need we have made many different templates available for download. You will find templates that allow you to create very simple timelines quickly and you will find templates which allow you to make technical timelines in excel as well. Our templates have been made with a lot of thought to ensure that you will find something that works for you.

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TemplateLab July 4th, 2016

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