What Is a Timeline?

A project timeline is a visual and detailed list of the expected project deliverables and the timeframe for their completion. It includes the project tasks together with their deadlines, listed in chronological order, and allows the project team to keep track of the project’s progress.

How Does a Timeline Work?

A project timeline is used to break down a whole project into smaller tasks, milestones, breakthroughs, etc., including deadlines for each. The project timeline allows managers and employees to monitor the delivery time for individual tasks or milestones and the project completion date.

Before managers start creating the timeline, they need to understand the project's scope, which will help them determine how much time it will take to complete a task, how many employees are needed on board, the overall progression timeline of the project, etc.

The most common practice is creating a project scope statement that displays all of the project deliverables and a list of resources required to complete them. Once the scope statement is ready, managers list every detail and every task and create their project timeline.

With project timelines, managers can do the following:

  • Identify when the project will start and end
  • Determine when separate tasks should begin and end
  • View the task order chronologically or by priority
  • Create a list of task dependencies (how preceding tasks rely on succeeding tasks)
  • See which employees are assigned to specific tasks
  • Break down a project into several phases or milestones.

What Are Some Popular Timeline Techniques?

Gantt Charts

Gantt charts are one of the most commonly used timeline techniques as they present a quick and detailed project overview. They include dates, milestones, and task dependencies and display which employees have been assigned to specific tasks.

PERT Technique

The Project Evaluation Review Technique, or PERT, is a project management planning technique that managers or other entrepreneurs use to calculate the total time a company will need to complete a project. The technique uses charts for task planning, making it easier to coordinate employees and schedule their responsibilities.

What Should a Timeline Include?

There are five key components that all timelines should include:

  • Project tasks.
  • The tasks’ due dates.
  • The full length of each task.
  • Task dependencies.
  • The team members assigned to each task.
  • The project deadline.

Why Is a Timeline Important?

Timelines not only help managers and employees visualize the project processes but also keep the tasks and milestones on a defined schedule.

Here are more examples that illustrate why implementing a project timeline is important.

They Show the Way Forward

With a project timeline, it’s easy to determine the order in which a team can complete tasks and split them into bite-sized deliverables. This is especially helpful with complex and long projects with multiple stages and layers.

They Help Teams Grasp the Bigger Picture

Managers often have a hard time visualizing the project’s completion as there can be lots of small steps and potential obstacles before the team gets there. With a project timeline, managers can see everything regarding the project in one place and take action on time to prevent bottlenecks and delays.

Everyone Works Together Towards a Shared Goal

Adept managers know they must have their entire workforce on board. Project timelines allow them to achieve this as they help everyone understand where they fit in during a project’s lifecycle and what role they will play.

Everyone Is Up to Date

The project timeline allows everyone working on the project to follow the project’s progress. This can lead to an increase in workforce confidence in the eyes of employers and create better communication channels between team members.