When projects go off the rails, it’s often due to a lack of organization. Most businesses and project managers rely on project timelines. Unfortunately, the stock project timeline templates in many common office tools can be limiting creatively and when it comes to team engagement.
But Venngage users can have the best of all worlds by creating engaging project timeline templates and infographics they can export and use in other programs like Microsoft Office Word and PowerPoint.
With Venngage for Business, users can collaborate in real time with other members of the team and export image files for PowerPoint and Word. And our Timeline Maker new smart list feature can help you save even more time by automatically adjusting content when you make changes.
Let’s take a look at some tips for creating a project timeline and share design inspiration to get your creativity flowing.
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How do you make a project timeline?
For large and small projects, sorting out the timeline is often the first and most important job. If the team doesn’t know the deadline or when certain tasks within the project need to be done, there’s little chance they’ll complete it on time or within the budget.
There’s no one way to make a project timeline, but the two most common methods are going from start to finish or working backward. What’s the difference?
- Start to finish: If you know how much time each step in the project will take but don’t have a deadline, figure out task deadlines based on how much time each step will take. Work your way through to the end of the project, and you’ve got a completed project timeline.
- Working backward: If the deadline is established already, start with that and work your way back to figure out when each task needs to be done in order to hit that deadline.
This project timeline, for example, wasn’t created with a specific deadline in mind.
Instead, each segment in the project includes an estimate of how much time has been allotted for completion. The addition of simple data visualization helps everyone involved see clearly the tasks that will require the lion’s share of time.
Regardless of how you go about creating your project timeline, you should aim for something resembling the example above, though, as you’ll see, that’s definitely not the only way to do things.
What is a project timeline template?
Once you’ve had a project run smoothly and successfully with the help of a project timeline, you should plan to make a template out of it.
The easiest way to do that is to open the timeline in Venngage or whatever tool you’re using and delete the relevant dates and tasks. Then re-save the file, making sure to name it something related to “template.”
Or better yet, you have the option to save a design you love as a template when you upgrade to Business:
That way, you can simply add the new dates and reuse the project timeline over and over. You then have a library of timeline templates that have worked for you and can decide which type to use for each new project.
This simple timeline template runs through a total of nine weeks, but you can easily modify it to apply to the timeframes more common in your projects. Quickly update the content and icons to make it fit your industry.
Project timeline examples
Let’s look at a couple project timeline examples to see how they can apply to different types of projects, including both long ones and short ones.
This project timeline covers an entire year’s worth of important milestones. Don’t need a full 12 months of entries? Simply modify the design to fit the timeline of your projects.
Breaking major tasks into smaller pieces can prevent people from becoming overwhelmed. It’s a method called micro-productivity, and if your team is facing a huge task, use a project timeline like this to help them keep their eyes on the ball.
PowerPoint timeline examples
PowerPoint remains the most common presentation tool in most workplaces. But timelines, roadmaps and related visuals aren’t exactly PowerPoint’s strong suit.
This PowerPoint timeline template example shows just how plain the program’s onboard visual tools are. While functional, it’s tough to call this project timeline highly engaging.
This three-month project timeline is another example of the extent to which PowerPoint struggles when it comes to providing robust tools to create exciting and visually engaging images.
Project timeline templates for PowerPoint
A paid Venngage user has the option to download your project timeline design in PNG or PNG HD, which can be added to your PowerPoint slides as an image.
Once you’ve upgraded to Venngage for Business, you can download your project timeline templates in PowerPoint format which can be opened, edited and presented through PowerPoint. If you prefer editing your project timelines on Venngage, you can always go back, edit and export it as a .pptx file again.
Take into account the slide orientation of any PowerPoint templates your company has. The program defaults to a horizontal, landscape view, but it’s also possible to switch to a vertical, portrait layout.
This horizontal timeline template is ideal for most PowerPoint presentations. If your company’s PowerPoint presentation style includes some built-in branding, such as a logo or other material on each page, simply remove the bar at the bottom for a perfect fit.
While this project timeline template might be a bit tall even if you change your slide orientation, it’s easy to envision how a timeline design like this might help your information stand out.
Going against the grain is often helpful, as it breaks people’s expectations and could make your information more memorable.
Word timeline examples
PowerPoint’s sibling program Microsoft Word is an even worse tool for creating graphics. It’s not Word’s fault; after all, it’s a word-processing program, not a graphic design tool. Still, it’s technically possible to create a project timeline in Word.
This project timeline template for Word makes the PowerPoint examples we shared look like something that should be hung in the Louvre. In reality, neither Word nor PowerPoint are graphic design tools, and that’s why using them to create exciting and engaging visuals is a fool’s errand in many cases.
Project timeline templates for Word
While we caution against using Word as a design or presentation tool, many organizations use Word to write project briefs or even hammer out contracts. For those reasons, it’s often helpful to include a project timeline in a Word document.
Venngage’s Timeline Maker offers many project timeline templates that can be used for Word. Simply log in to Venngage, create a project timeline and save it as an image which can then be uploaded to your Word document.
Word’s default document size is letter, which is 8.5 by 11 inches. As with PowerPoint, it’s possible to change this, but most companies that use Word stick with the standard letter orientation.
With a standard margin of 1 inch on all sides, that means a project timeline template for Word would max out at 624 by 864 pixels, or 6.5 by 9 inches.
This simple project timeline template for Word would fit nicely on a full page of a contract, proposal or other corporate documents. Add dates to make sure all team members are aware of key deadlines.
This project timeline template for Word would take up about half a standard page, meaning you’d have room for additional content if you need it. That can be helpful if the timeline includes elements that need to be further explained.
Project management timeline templates
Project managers must keep all the plates spinning, as they ensure no detail is left unaccounted for at the end of a project. That’s why project management timeline templates should run the gamut from high-level to extremely detailed.
Use a project timeline template like the one above early in the planning phases of a project. The broad, general approach of this timeline can help everyone on the team get their arms around the scope of the project.
And it’s particularly helpful in cases where the project will involve an outside team, like a client or customer, so you can set clear expectations.
Project management timeline templates are also useful for being extremely detailed. Not every person involved with the project needs to see every little milestone along the way, but for the project manager, visualizing steps in a method like the above timeline is helpful.
Project milestone templates
Whether you’ll be using them for PowerPoint, Word or another program or they’ll be standing on their own, project milestone templates are useful tools to have on hand. They can help teams understand how projects break down into manageable segments.
Consider creating a project milestone template without dates or specific lengths of time for each segment during the planning phase of a project.
These are useful especially when dealing with new team members or onboarding a new client who hasn’t been through the process of project planning yet.
Add an element of time without providing specific dates or deadlines with a project milestone timeline that breaks down by week, as this one does. If that doesn’t apply to your project, break it down into days, months, quarters or whatever division of time works for you.
Simple project timeline templates
Many of the examples of project timeline templates we’ve shared lean toward the more detailed and complex. But useful project timelines can also be quite simple; often, the simpler the design, the more effective it is.
This simple project timeline is ideal when you have broad ranges of time in which tasks will be completed. While it was created to serve as a syllabus of sorts, it’s easy to see how it could be customized for your project.
Simple project timelines can also provide a high-level overview of the flow of work that will happen. In this case, no dates or even time ranges are included, though that could easily be added in just a few clicks once you’re in the Venngage editor.
Construction timeline templates
Even minor home renovation projects can be a planning nightmare, and major construction projects are huge logistical challenges. It’s no wonder why the construction industry is among the biggest users of timeline templates.
The sheer volume of moving parts in a construction project is staggering. That’s why being incredibly detailed and prescriptive in terms of how long each task will take can drive home the need to get tasks done within those time restrictions.
Construction timeline templates are also useful when they take a 10,000-foot view. This example would be ideal for conversations with internal and external leadership so they can see how the current work fits in with long-term planning.
Timeline calendar templates
If your project requires detailed planning, down to the date and time by which something must happen, consider using a timeline calendar template. These are especially useful in the event planning space, as they can help organizers and participants visualize major events.
Organize every aspect of your event with a timeline calendar template. While this template has a convention in mind, you can use something like this on a weekly basis to update the team on what’s being done across the project.
Timeline calendar templates can help you get extremely granular, even down to the hour. Again, while this example was created for a single event, it is easily editable for any project or event planning purpose.
In summary: Make order out of chaos with engaging and effective project timeline templates for PowerPoint and Word
The onboard capabilities of PowerPoint and Word aren’t much of a match for the important and difficult job of project management. But Venngage users can have the best of both worlds by creating beautiful timelines for use in their favorite programs.
You can create a Venngage account for free, and try out the templates listed above to see how much better they are compared to timelines created in PowerPoint and Word.
Coupled with our drag-and-drop editor, creating a project timeline using Venngage is a breeze, even if you have no design experience.