You know what it's like: A deadline gets missed, your team gets flustered, and you all fall behind. Targets are missed, and opportunities are lost. In short, you've dropped the ball.
Well, one of the reasons might be that you haven't created a clear action plan in the form of a project management timeline.
In this article, we're going to outline the importance of a project management timeline, before giving you a step-by-step tutorial on how to create one. This means no more missed deadlines and much more productivity.
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The importance of timelines in project management
There are numerous benefits to creating a clear project management timeline. These include:
A study by Cortex found that 57% of projects fail due to poor communication between team members. This shows how crucial it is to have a communication strategy implemented into project management, which can be easily defined with timelines.
A project management timeline improves communication so that everyone knows who is doing what. Moreover, it allows other team members to get involved quickly and efficiently when it comes to relaying the right information to the right team members.
Not just that, but by improving communication, you're also improving morale. A study by Accountemps found that 33% of respondents believe inadequate communication from management is the primary cause of morale issues in the workplace.
Project progress can more easily be tracked
Let's say you do happen to fall behind schedule with a project. While that's a bummer, the advantage of a project management timeline is that you can recognize when you've fallen behind a due date as soon as possible. This means you can react as quickly as possible, too.
Better time management
Time has a starring role in the success of any project. When you properly plan your project with a timeline, you get to understand how damaging a delay can be. When you have an overall view of the progress in front of you, it's easier to avoid working mindlessly on tasks. Instead, your team will focus each week on what needs to get done.
Motivation can be the driving force behind a project. Some team members find it easier to stay motivated when they can see a timeline in front of them as it helps to sharpen their focus and discipline. Motivation also goes up when they can see they're completing their tasks on time (or even ahead of time).
Important tasks get done first
With a project, you have to be flexible. Priority tasks change often, and it's essential that you know what needs doing before anything else.
A timeline helps to set clear priorities and directions so that the most critical tasks are cleared out of the way first.
How to create a timeline for a project
Creating a project management timeline doesn't have to be stressful. Here's the best way to do it:
1. Outline your goals
Before you begin, it's crucial that you know what your goals are - and also that your team mutually agrees on your overall goals and their individual goals for each project. Get approval from everyone for each target before moving forward so that there are no misunderstandings later on.
2. Note down key milestones
Milestones are a fantastic way to help you schedule, plan, and evaluate your project as it moves along. A milestone might include delivered work, a phase in the project, an approval, or even a meeting.
Essentially, a milestone should be an actionable step that brings you closer to your overall goal. Moreover, they're great ways to break your project down so that it doesn't look overwhelming, and they also help you to create a timeline.
3. Decide timeframes
For this one, you'll need to find who's available for your project and what their workloads are like. This is vital information that will help you create a project timeline and decide on timeframes for each milestone.
After all, the last thing you and your team want is for an unreasonable time frame to create tension.
Don't underestimate or overestimate your team's capacity. Talk to your peers about their workload and abilities, so milestones aren't missed, and opportunities aren't lost.
4. Review everything
Before launching your project management timeline, everyone must be on board with it. This includes yourself, your team, and your clients.
Present a draft roadmap of your project timeline to your team and ask for opinions. Are their milestones present? Does anything need adding? Does the timeframe look too crowded? Does it need to be slimmed down?
Show your timeline to your clients/stakeholders, too. While you might not need to show them the whole thing, it's a good idea to get them to confirm the delivery dates and milestones.
5. Create your project management timeline
When it comes to the creation of your project management timeline, it's a good idea to use a project planning tool. Such a tool will help you manage your tasks and budget, and it will also help you to plan your project properly.
It will also make it easier for you to develop an actionable project timeline that looks the way you want it to. If you're stuck for inspiration regarding how your timeline should look, you can use project management templates, too.
On the other hand, you could use an Excel project template, which is free. However, they're not as flexible as premium tools and might not be the best for complicated projects.
6. Track and analyze
The great thing about a project management timeline is that it can be tracked, analyzed, and improved upon. If something isn't working the way you wanted it to, you can revisit it and make amendments while communicating everything to your team members.
Ask each member of your team to mark their progress in real-time, but make sure to find a method that works for you guys.
Now that you know how to create a timeline for a project, the next step is to take action. The importance of timelines in project management can't be underestimated; follow the step-by-step guide in this article for more efficient, productive, and ultimately successful projects from now on.
With GoSkills Project Management for Experts course, you will learn how the pros create timelines, stay on track, and so much more!
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