Before you embark on any project, it’s a good idea to start with a plan. Specifically, a project plan. It’s even more important if you’re trying to impress stakeholders with your work–whether that’s volunteers, employees, potential clients or important foundations.
Why not just make a roadmap in Excel or Word and call it a day? Well, you could, but the end result will be pretty lackluster.
Not sure where to start? This guide will offer you tips for designing an engaging project plan and a bunch of creative project plan templates to help you along the way.
Project plan templates (jump ahead):
1. Use a project timeline template to visualize your deadlines
When you’re first outlining your project timeline, it can be pretty overwhelming. A visual timeline helps stakeholders get a better sense of what needs to be done, and by when.
A project timeline template is a versatile way to visualize milestones processes, and goals. There are several ways you can visualize your deadlines and keep everyone on track, as we’ll explore below.
Project timeline templates
A clear timeline is the backbone of a solid project plan. Confusion relating to deadlines, and what is required for those deadlines, is a common problem many teams face while working on a project.
This project timeline template uses different colors to categorize tasks for each week.
Notice how each tasks bar corresponds with the same colored text in the side bar and the legend below. This made it easy to scan the chart for specific weeks and tasks.
When it comes to designing reports and charts, color is particularly effective for categorizing information. You can use color to categorize tasks by type, week, the team involved etc. This project timeline template uses color to categorize tasks by month.
Pro Tip: Save templates you like in Venngage and reuse them again and again. Make as many copies as you want.
It’s also important to break your projects down into smaller tasks with staggered deadlines. This project timeline template includes specific dates for tasks to complete within each month.
You can also step back and create a big picture overview, especially when you’re in the initial stages of planning a project.
This project timeline template provides an overview of all the steps involved in a particular project. It also uses icons to add visual interest and easily identify different stages.
Once you’re ready to set specific milestones, you can use a project management timeline template like this one to effectively map out high-level goals over several weeks.
Pro Tip: You can change the colors in any of these templates. Our online editor has custom color palettes you can apply with one click. Or use our My Brand Kit tool to import your brand colors from your website and use them instead.
Further Reading: Our guide to timelines has dozens more templates divided by use case and industry.
Gantt chart templates
When you think of drawing out your project plan, a Gantt chart probably comes to mind. Gantt charts show tasks over a period of time.
This particular type of chart is handy because it allows you to show different timelines that run concurrently with each other, even if their start and ends dates are different.
Use Venngage’s Gantt chart maker to get up and running in minutes. We have dozen of Gantt chart templates to choose from.
Further Reading: Our guide to using Gantt charts for project management.
Mind map templates
There are a lot of moving pieces that contribute to the completion of a project. It can be easy to lose track of different tasks. A mind map shows relationships between pieces of a whole.
You can use a mind map in your project plan to categorize tasks according to your goals, like in this mind map project plan.
Or you could use a mind map to break down the different components of your project or marketing strategy, like in this mind map template below:
This mind map template alternatively shows different parts of a process.
Further Reading: Check out our mind map guide filled with mind map design tips and templates to help you get started.
2. Keep things in perspective with a simple project plan template
When your team is working on a large project it’s sometimes hard to keep everything in perspective. You may have been working on a certain part for so long that you forget what came before it. Or what tasks come after that you need to be aware of.
Without all of this information, mistakes will be made and delays are guaranteed.
That’s why it’s a great idea to use a simple project plan template that includes critical information like scope and timeframes.
This simple template uses icons to help communicate what’s part of the scope of work.
A Next, Now, Later plan can also really help your team out. As you can see below, this project timeline example keeps each of the steps extremely simple and easy to follow.
Plus, it clearly states exactly what this team is working towards with each of their releases.
Also, since most project plans aren’t set in stone–they’re agile documents that will probably have to be adjusted along the way–sometimes a much simpler and therefore more flexible project plan template is the best way to go.
You’ll have an easier time editing it, and there will be more opportunity to give it an engaging design.
For example, you could use a process infographic like this one to quickly swap out phases, add news ones and edit the text.
All in all, if you’re unsure of how to put your plan together, starting with a project plan template is always a big help. For example, this simplle sales plan template can be customized for any industry or time frame. Just swap out the text.
If you need a multi-page project plan, you can still keep it simple and easy to understand by organizing your information in an engaging way using illustrations, big headers and lots of white space.
Pro Tip: Add more pages to your templates in Venngage’s online editor with one click. Easily copy existing pages or delete ones you don’t need.
Simple charts for project plan
Actually starting the process is one of the hardest parts of project planning. This is because there’s so much potential, you might not know what to begin with.
Your team may have so many ideas, that it becomes overwhelming and unorganized in a manner of minutes.
So if you’re not sure where to start, use one of these charts to get the creative juices flowing.
With this simple process map template, you can kick off the planning in a more structured way.
Each step will help you define goals, future plans and a ton of other metrics without getting distracted. This simple project plan chart has the same objective.
3. Use a project schedule template to outline a roadmap towards completion
Sometimes you’re going to have to present a project plan to people outside the company. These days it might be an investor, a new client or a potential hire.
You should probably create a simple project schedule (or roadmap) in these instances. And be sure to have it ready whenever you go into a meeting.
This type of project plan helps boil down complicated internal processes into something accessible.
This project schedule template quickly communicates what teams are responsible for what tasks over certain periods of time. Very easy to grasp.
You can also categorize your tasks by priority. Simply pick a corresponding color for each level of priority, like in the monthly project schedule template below.
Pro Tip: Easily switch up the icons in these roadmap templates. Our in-editor icon library has thousands of professional icons. Select any icon in our templates to replace it.
Not looking for a roadmap? You can also use a timeline infographic to plan out your schedule.
Pro Tip: Once you’ve customized your project plan template, you can download it in Venngage’s online editor as a JPG and add it to another document. Or download it as a PDF.
Further Reading: Our guide to creating roadmaps for project planning.
Work plan template
Want a simpler solution to creating a work schedule? Here’s a traditional work plan template. Simply add your text to fill out the plan for each day. Or use our calendar maker tool to browse schedule templates and customize them.
4. A project management checklist offers a high-level overview of key deliverables
While a project management checklist can be incredibly detailed, it can also provide a more generalized, bird’s eye view of a lengthy process.
In the example below, a supervisor can easily glance at their company’s extensive onboarding process and keep track of their responsibilities pertaining to new hires in their first day, week, month, even year.
Same idea here with this project management checklist, except it’s not organized by date. You can add dates, or simply use it as a supplement to your project plan.
For example, you could send it to your team so they know exactly what’s required of them (and even customize the checklist for each team member).
Further Reading: Our guide to a successful employee onboarding process, with templates.
5. Use a project status report template to track your progress visually
Once your team dives into working on a project, there will almost certainly be changes that need to be made to the project plan. Unforeseen obstacles come up, certain tasks take longer to complete than expected, and other snags happen.
That’s why it’s important to not only set your goals, but to also report on your progress throughout the process. Creating a project status report will help you keep track of your progress, while also communicating it effectively with other parties.
Project status report templates
Your report doesn’t need to be complicated. This project status report template provides a simple one-page snapshot.
When creating a multi-page project plan, be sure to include a summary. This will help make your project plan more reader-friendly and easier to scan.
Pro Tip: With highly collaborative project plans, it’s important to make them easily accessible to all team members. Venngage for Business lets you create a team in your account so you can edit designs simultaneously, leave comments with the feedback feature and more.
Project management communication plans
Nothing is more critical to the success of a project than effective communication, according to a research paper for the Project Management Institute. In fact, the negative effects of bad communication on cost and timelines increase as the project progresses.
That’s why from the outset of a project you should have a project communication plan, such as this one.
The plan should include what formats are appropriate for communicating types of content (email updates vs. a formal report, for example), to who and when.
This project management communication plan lays all of these elements out in an easy-to-grap one-pager.
Further Reading: Our post on effective communication with your remote team, with templates.
6. Use a process map template to communicate across teams
Communicating across teams can be a nightmare sometimes, especially as your company continues to grow. It’s common for different people to call a certain thing many names, and that can cause unneeded confusion. Like how people in call a soft drink: “soda”, “coke” or “pop”, but it means exactly the same thing.
So assigning common titles for each step of the process in your project plan can make communication a bit easier.
In the process map template below, they used eight simple keywords for each step of their project.
The common words and phrases in this simple project plan template will make communication a lot smoother. Now the product team will know exactly what you mean when you say you’re working on the “Sketch” step.
Further Reading: Our guide to creating process infographics, with templates.
7. Marketing project plan template
The success of a marketing plan relies on setting clear goals–including specific metrics and outlining the steps your team will take to get there.
This marketing project plan template is incredibly detailed, with sections for goals, competitor analysis, workflow and more. Click on the template image for a full preview.
That said, sometimes you need a simple project marketing plan to help pitch your agency and provide a high-level overview, like this template does.
Further Reading: Our guide to marketing plans, including formatting tips, how to visualize data creatively (and easily) and templates to get started.
8. Nonprofit strategic plan templates
Nonprofit strategy and planning are two different animals–planning is implementing a strategy, says sgENGAGE. To get started, you’ll want to do a SWOT analysis to fully understand your nonprofit’s unique strengths.
You can also build out a full strategic plan to identify priorities, goals, key stakeholders and more. This infographic lays out best practices for this process; click the image to see the full visual.
Here we’ll look at specific aspects of the planning process in nonprofits.
Nonprofit fundraising plan template
A fundraising timeline can be critical to your campaign–from start to finish. Include it in your fundraising plan to illustrate targets.
Then, add it to your internal reports as the campaign progresses to show the amount raised to date. You can also release it to your donors to motivate them to contribute as you inch closer to your goal.
You can also include a fundraising timeline in your final report to your nonprofit’s donors to show what they achieved. It’s the perfect way to say thank you and it’s also a great way to engage donors and encourage repeat donations.
Nonprofit communications plan template
A communications plan should prepare your organization for key events or dates, but be flexible enough to adapt to changing times, advises the Council of Nonprofits.
It’s important to nail out your goals, who your audience is (personas) and what channels and stories will be most effective for said audience. This template addresses all these areas.
Also think about including a timeline of key events and special days such as World Mental Health Day.
11. Process mapping in healthcare
Using project process maps in healthcare help stakeholders understand an entire process, without resorting to confusing documentation. Visuals help with comprehension, especially regarding the sequence a project will follow.
These visuals can take the form of timelines, flowcharts, step-by-step infographics and more. This planning process timeline is a high-level overview of building a new hospital, from service offerings to architectural plans.
Process mapping in healthcare also helps with outlining an existing system and then analyzing how that system can be improved.
Further Reading: Our post on branding guidelines, including a template specific to the healthcare industry.
12. Marketing strategy for financial services
Financial services have typically relied on referrals for new customers. That said, millennials and Gen X prefer to do their own research online, making newer marketing strategies such as search engine optimization, content and email marketing essential.
Our guide to marketing plans has in-depth templates to help you plan what strategies will work for you. Here we’ll focus on infographics and diagrams for high-level marketing strategy planning for financial services.
This layer infographic can be edited to visualize key parts of a marketing plan such as local SEO or video marketing.
You can also use a mind map to plan out your entire marketing strategy, from outreach to content to inbound, like in this template.
Further Reading: Our post on case study examples, with templates that work across industries.
Project plan design best practices
Illustrate steps in a process with icons
Multiple studies have found that people tend to remember images better than words. With that in mind, look for ways to incorporate visual memory-prompters in your project plan design.
Icons are one type of visual that can be used to make information more memorable. Pair an icon with an important piece of text to help it stand out and stick in the reader’s mind.
For example, this project timeline template uses an icon to illustrate each step in the process. This helps reinforce the information, and gives readers a visual to refer back to:
While your project plan should include the details of your project, offering a visual summary will help keep your team on track.
Use a project timeline template that offers an overview of your project’s phases, as well as the expected beginning and completion dates. Your team will be able to refer back to the timeline quickly, without needing to read through a bunch of text.
For example, this project timeline template outlines that tasks and milestones for each month in a year:
Incorporate the theme of your project into your design
While your priority when designing your project plan should be function, finding ways to make your design engaging is still important.
After all, your project plan will help inspire confidence in your team–and the people who will be funding your project. Especially if you can inject some of your branding into the design.
Adding surprising design elements will help engage and excite readers. An easy way to do this is to include icons and images that reflect the theme of your project.
For example, this project plan template for a baking company incorporates a donut into the design:
Use a chart to track your project’s process
Certain phases of your project may end up taking more or less time than anticipated. That’s why it’s valuable to track your progress, so you can adjust your goals. Tracking your progress will also help you make informed decisions when planning future projects.
You can track your project using a flexible chart that’s easy to update, like the chart templates offered by Venngage. Our process infographic templates can also come in handy here, if you want to visualize the phases in a project.
For example, this project plan template uses a simple bar graph to track the duration of each phase. The updates are tracked in the top right corner:
With Venngage, you can create multiple copies of a design. If you’re updating a chart or timeline, it’s a good idea to keep a copy of past iterations.
Use a project schedule template to keep track of tasks or events
Are there specific dates that certain tasks needs to be completed on? You may want to create a calendar that specifies what should be done on what day.
For example, if your team is executing on an event like a conference, then a calendar is necessary for keeping events for specific dates organized.
In this project schedule template, for example, the events are color-coded by type, making it easier to scan:
Rate your process using an icon chart
An icon chart uses (you guessed it) icons to represent units of measurement. When coming up with ways to embellish your project plan design, look for opportunities to visualize information that you want to emphasize. An icon chart is a creative and effective way to do that.
For example, this project status report template uses check mark icons to rate the success of three different aspects of the project:
Illustrate how each project is connected with a flowchart infographic
At Venngage we really love using flowchart infographics in all facets of our planning. These graphics are a solid way to show how a project should progress and how each part is connected to each other.
And when your team is working on a complicated process, a visual representation can help you keep it all organized.
In the project plan example above, they used a flowchart infographic to work through their productivity plan.
This approach allowed the designers to show how each step was related, and how it affected the other steps. If they would have just listed all of that information, the relationships between all of it would be lost.
We would recommend using a flowchart to help explain how a single part works, not for an entire project plan.
With Venngage, you can make flowcharts that are functional and look great.
Project plan examples from the business world
If you need a little more inspiration for your project plans, be sure to check out some of the examples we found below.
Project management checklist
When it comes time to launch your project or product accurately tracking what needs to get done is essential.
For a smaller company, it’s easy to keep track of what everyone is working on. But as your brand grows this becomes almost an impossible task. Especially as employees start breaking into smaller teams to tackle a project.
Now a simple project management checklist like the example below can help you ensure everything gets done on time:
In this project plan example, they use a wide range of colors to break tasks down by teams. This approach will help the managers quickly see what needs to be done next.
Plus checking off tasks like this will help each team feel like they are working towards a common goal. You could even print this example off and hang it up in your office so everyone knows exactly what’s going on.
Project plan example using multiple visuals
As you have seen in this article, there’s not one project plan example that fits every company perfectly. Some simple projects may only need a flow chart, but others could need diverse visuals across a multipage marketing plan.
That’s why your project plan should use a mix of different visuals to efficiently explain the process. Or in some cases, many processes, like in the beautiful project plan below:
This project plan example is almost a work of art, but it still gets their point across very effectively.
Featuring a flowchart to illustrate their ideation process:
A timeline project plan to break down the release schedule:
And even this unique bubble chart:
Overall, it’s one of the most unique project plans we have ever seen.
Project plan example that focuses on deliverables
At Venngage we try to make sure that at the end of each step in our project we have a deliverable to show for it. Otherwise, we are just spinning our wheels and working on things that don’t really matter at that step.
If you weren’t aware, a deliverable is something tangible that you can show to the rest of the team. Like in this simple project plan template, they include deliverables like a report or a presentation:
A lot of the time, simple project plans fail because they don’t list deliverables or the ones they do are too vague.
For example, a good deliverable is very descriptive and has a due date. A bad one is open and never really has an end date in mind.
Just remember to be realistic when planning your project, and you will be set.
Project plan example that breaks down tools and processes
Sometimes telling your team to just go do something is not the best course of action. Especially when there’s is an approaching due date that needs to be met. It’s safe to say that a lot of time will be wasted as they try to figure out where to start.
However, a great planner will actually give these team members the tools they need to succeed. Just like they did in this project plan sample for a startup weekend:
At the bottom of this bold project plan, there are a handful of tools and processes that should be followed at each step.
Now, these people can hit the ground running and get their tasks done on time. Instead of wasting half the time searching for the solution.
Infographic project plan example
Good design work is consistent, it’s as simple as that. You want each of your graphics to feel and look the same throughout. Otherwise, people are going to focus on the random design elements, instead of your important content.
Think about how much a simple misspelling distracted you in an email or presentation. Inconsistent design choices are kinda like typos in the design world.
Additionally, this consistency can help you quickly distill info to a reader. Design elements like color, shapes, and icons can add a ton of context to any complex project plan.
In this project plan infographic, they use colored lines to indicate the answer to a question. Then they added simple flat icons to give each question some supporting info. And a single shape to illustrate the deliverables for each process.
This may not be the most traditional project plan example, but it does get the point across with its many visual elements.
What is a project plan?
A project plan is an essential document for keeping a project on track. In your project plan, you identify the scope, goals, deliverables and deadlines of your project.
Here’s one example of a project plan in a timeline format:
How to create a project plan
A project plan should answer these questions:
- What is the purpose of this project (what problem is it going to solve)?
- What are the main deliverables?
- What will the timeline be, including deadlines?
- Who will be on the team for this project and what role will they play?
- What resources are required to complete this project?
The problem is, people dive into writing a project plan without understanding its purpose or the importance of its various sections.
Your project plan needs to be organized, focused, readable and engaging enough to hold the attention of your team.
This is especially important if you’re including your project plan in a company newsletter, Slack channel or presentation (whether internal or to external stakeholders)–anywhere people need to understand a project at a glance.
How to use Venngage to create a project plan
It’s simple to modify the project plan templates in this blog post with our drag-and-drop online editor.
Here’s a sneak peek at how our editor works, including the text editing bar, icon and stock photo library (free), photo upload function and more.
Here’s how to get started:
- Sign up for a free Venngage account.
- Browse our project plan templates (some are free, some are paid).
- Click the template you like and start customizing it in our simple online editor.
- Upgrade to a paid plan to download your project plan as a PDF, PNG or in PowerPoint format.
With these foundational tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating an impressive–and effective!–project plan. Remember, a well-executed project begins with a solid plan.
If you still need a primer on what a project plan is and how to write one, check out our project management plan guide (it includes plenty of free project management templates, too).
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