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Project timelines for improved project management

Keep your team on track for what’s happening when

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Scheduling calendar

A project management timeline is like a detailed schedule for your project. It lays out all the tasks and their deadlines so your team knows when each step will happen and when the whole project will be finished.

Let's say you and your team are working on rebranding your website, and everyone wants to know: How long will this take?

It's tough to pinpoint the exact end date for a project. In fact, 48% of projects don't meet their original deadlines. Having a project management timeline can help keep your team organized and prevent your project from dragging on forever.

What is a project management timeline?

A project management timeline is a schedule for your entire project from inception to completion. It will break your entire project into smaller tasks and milestones, with a deadline assigned to each.

This timeline lets teams see when individual pieces are due and when the entire project will be delivered. 

Difference between a project schedule and a project timeline

A project schedule is like a detailed to-do list for your project, outlining all the tasks, when they need to be done, and who is responsible for them. It's like breaking down your project into smaller steps and planning exactly when each step will happen.

On the other hand, a project timeline is more like a big-picture overview of your project, showing key milestones and deadlines in a visual format. It's like seeing the whole journey from start to finish on a map without getting into all the little details of each step along the way.

While a project schedule focuses on the specifics of what needs to be done and when, a project timeline gives you a broader view of the overall progress of your project. Both are essential tools for keeping your project on track, but they serve slightly different purposes in helping you manage and communicate your project's progress.

Why are project timelines important?

Project timelines give your team an action plan, boost accountability, and help you avoid potential roadblocks. And that's only scratching the surface of your project timeline's advantages. Additional benefits include:

1. Giving everybody a high-level view of the project

It's easy to get lost in the weeds when you're hard at work on a project. A project timeline allows teams to get a broader view so they can zoom out and see what different steps are happening and when. It lets them get context around their pieces to see how it fits together. You can also proactively identify potential roadblocks or requirements before your project starts.

2. Managing your resources more effectively

Your project will need resources like equipment, budget, and time from team members. Projects would be a dream if everything were available for you right when you needed it, but you aren't carrying out this plan in a vacuum.

Knowing when specific tasks happen helps you allocate and manage your project resources more effectively. So, if you know that your company's graphic designer won't be able to pitch in with your website redesign until the end of the month, you can plan accordingly.

3. Making overwhelming projects more manageable

Project timelines are essential for managing large-scale projects effectively. To create a successful project timeline, it's necessary to divide the project into manageable steps. This approach provides you and your team with a clear roadmap, allowing you to progress steadily without feeling overwhelmed by the project's scope.

Need help? With our project schedule template, you can easily and effortlessly manage any project from beginning to end.

4. Keeping projects on track

Creating a project timeline enables teams to maintain focus and stay on track. Breaking down projects into smaller components makes identifying inconsistencies and tracking progress easier. If one task misses its deadline, you'll know the whole project could fall behind. Project timelines enhance accountability within your team by providing transparency regarding each member's responsibilities and deadlines.

Benefits of a project management timeline

A project management timeline offers a multitude of benefits that significantly enhance the efficiency and success of projects. Here are some key advantages:

  1. Improved planning and organization: A project timeline provides a structured roadmap for the entire project, ensuring all tasks are identified, prioritized, and scheduled appropriately. This organized approach helps in better planning and allocation of resources.
  2. Enhanced communication and collaboration: With a clear timeline, team members have a shared understanding of project milestones, deadlines, and dependencies. This fosters better communication and collaboration among team members, reducing misunderstandings and conflicts.
  3. Effective resource management: By mapping out tasks and their deadlines, project timelines enable better resource allocation. Teams can identify constraints and allocate resources optimally to avoid bottlenecks and ensure smooth project execution.
  4. Increased accountability: Assigning deadlines to individual tasks creates accountability among team members. Everyone knows their responsibilities and the expected timelines for task completion, which reduces procrastination and improves overall productivity.
  5. Risk mitigation: Project timelines allow project managers to identify potential risks and bottlenecks early in the project lifecycle. Project managers can proactively address issues and mitigate risks before they escalate by having a clear overview of task dependencies and critical path activities.
  6. Client satisfaction: Transparent project timelines give clients visibility into project progress and expected deliverables. This transparency builds trust and confidence in the project's management, ultimately increasing client satisfaction.
  7. Informed decision-making: Project timelines serve as valuable tools for decision-making by providing stakeholders with timely and accurate information on project progress. Managers can make informed decisions based on real-time data, ensuring that projects stay on track and within budget.

Project management timelines streamline project planning, improve stakeholder communication, optimize resource utilization, enhance accountability, mitigate risks, boost client satisfaction, and facilitate effective decision-making throughout the project lifecycle.

Features to look for in project timeline software

Choosing the right project timeline software is crucial for effectively managing projects and ensuring successful outcomes. Here are some essential features to consider when evaluating project timeline software:

Intuitive interface for ease of use

Look for software with a user-friendly interface that allows for easy navigation and customization of timelines. Jira stands out with its intuitive interface and drag-and-drop functionality, making project timeline creation and management effortless.

Collaboration capabilities

Atlassian’s collaboration tools facilitate smooth communication and teamwork, allowing team members to access and update project timelines in real-time. Features such as commenting, task assignment, and file sharing promote collaboration and ensure everyone is on the same page throughout the project. Coupled with Jira’s timeline features, which ensure stakeholders stay informed and teams are aligned with overarching goals. Together, our tools foster transparency and collaboration, ensuring everyone understands project progress and tracks its trajectory toward success.

Customization options

Choose software that offers customization options to tailor project timelines to your requirements. Jira shines in this aspect, providing users with extensive customization options to adapt timelines to specific needs. 

Beyond its robust project management capabilities, Jira caters to the diverse needs of every team, offering a comprehensive suite of tools and functionalities. Whether it's software development, marketing, HR, or beyond, Jira provides structure, visibility, and advanced planning capabilities without compromising flexibility.

Integration capabilities

Select software that seamlessly integrates with your organization's project management tools and software applications. Jira excels in integration, enhancing workflow efficiency and data synchronization.

Timeline visualization and task management

Look for software that provides visually appealing timeline visualization options, such as Gantt charts or Kanban boards. Jira offers a wide range of visualization options, allowing users to understand project progress, dependencies, and critical path activities at a glance. Its robust task management features—including boards, issues, and reports—enable users to stay on top of task deadlines, manage dependencies, and generate insightful reports to keep projects on track.

Reporting and analytics, real-time updates, and mobile accessibility

Choose software with robust reporting and analytics capabilities to track key project metrics and make data-driven decisions. Jira's powerful reporting and analytics capabilities give users valuable insights into project performance. 

With real-time notifications, teams stay informed every step of the way, receiving instant updates on critical task updates, new comments, or changes in project status. Jira's mobile accessibility ensures team members can view and update project timelines on the go, enabling remote collaboration and ensuring project timelines are accessible anytime, anywhere.

Incorporating Jira and Confluence into your project management toolkit not only enhances efficiency and productivity but also fosters a collaborative and cohesive work environment. By combining project timelines with Jira's robust features, you can streamline workflows, improve communication, and drive project success like never before.


Best practices for making a project management timeline

Creating a successful project management timeline requires careful planning and execution to ensure its effectiveness in guiding project execution. Here are some best practices to follow when making a project management timeline:

  1. Define clear objectives: Define the project objectives, deliverables, and success criteria. Understanding the project scope and goals is essential for creating a realistic and achievable timeline.
  2. Involve stakeholders: Engage key stakeholders, including project sponsors, clients, and team members, in the timeline planning process. Solicit their input and feedback to ensure the timeline reflects their expectations and requirements.
  3. Break down tasks: Decompose the project into smaller, manageable tasks and subtasks. Use a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to identify all the activities required to complete the project and organize them hierarchically.
  4. Estimate time and resources: Estimate the time and resources required for each task based on historical data, expert judgment, and input from team members. Consider task complexity, dependencies, and resource availability when estimating durations.
  5. Identify dependencies: Identify task dependencies and constraints to determine the sequence of activities and their interrelationships. Use techniques such as precedence diagrams or dependency matrices to visualize task dependencies accurately.
  6. Allocate resources: Assign resources, including human resources, equipment, and materials, to tasks based on their availability and skill sets. Avoid overloading resources or scheduling conflicts by balancing workloads effectively.
  7. Set realistic deadlines: Establish realistic deadlines for each task and milestone, considering potential risks and uncertainties. Build in buffers or contingency time to accommodate unforeseen delays or changes in project scope.
  8. Monitor and update: Continuously monitor the project's progress against the timeline and update it as needed. Track actual versus planned progress, identify deviations or delays and take corrective actions to keep the project on track.
  9. Communicate effectively: Communicate the project timeline to all stakeholders, ensuring everyone understands their roles, responsibilities, and deadlines. Use visual aids such as Gantt charts or project dashboards to convey information clearly and concisely.
  10. Review and improve: Conduct regular reviews of the project timeline to assess its effectiveness and identify areas for improvement. Solicit feedback from team members and stakeholders to refine the timeline and enhance its accuracy and reliability.

By following these best practices, you can create a comprehensive and realistic project management timeline that is valuable for effectively planning, executing, and monitoring projects.

How to create a project timeline

From fostering a collaborative "we're in this together" mindset to keeping your team organized, a project timeline is essential for completing projects without feeling overwhelmed. Follow the steps below to draft a project timeline that empowers your team to deliver their best work.

Jira timeline.

1. Understand the project scope

Imagine you’re asked to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Initially, it might seem like a quick task. However, if you then specified that you wanted it on homemade bread from a specific recipe, with a unique jelly only available from a particular farmer's market open on Sunday mornings, and requested that the crust be removed and the sandwich cut into a star shape, suddenly, the process becomes more complex and time-consuming.

This analogy highlights the importance of understanding the scope of a project. The project scope encompasses everything needed to complete the project, including tasks, time, and resources. By identifying all requirements from the outset, you can create a more realistic timeline and proactively address scope creep—when project requirements expand beyond the initial agreement. Scope creep is a common issue, affecting 52% of projects.

To define your scope, you'll figure out your project's:

  • Goals: What will your project accomplish?
  • OKRs:  How will you measure the success of your project?
  • Deliverables: What is the output of your project?
  • Tasks and activities: What steps must you take to produce those deliverables?
  • Exclusions: What won't you complete as part of this project? 
  • Constraints: What limitations are you working with? 

Once you have this information, you can consolidate it into a project scope statement. This statement serves as a reference for you and your team throughout the project, enabling you to focus on the essential aspects while setting aside anything that falls outside the scope.

2. Identify your project tasks

Your project timeline shouldn't revolve around a single end date for the entire project. Instead, you must establish milestone dates for various tasks throughout the project.

To get technical, this process is called creating a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which involves breaking down your large project into different deliverables. This approach simplifies the identification of tasks associated with each deliverable.

In our PB&J example, the ultimate deliverable is a finished, gooey, crustless, star-shaped PB&J sandwich. However, several other deliverables must be completed to achieve this final product. These might include:

  • Homemade loaf of bread
  • Specific jelly from the farmer's market
  • Peanut butter

Now that we have identified each of our separate deliverables, it's simpler to discern the tasks associated with each one:

Deliverable #1: Bread

  • Choose a bread recipe
  • Purchase ingredients to bake bread
  • Bake bread
  • Give bread an hour to cool
  • Slice bread

Deliverable #2: Jelly

  • Find the time and location of the farmer's market
  • Drive to the farmer's market
  • Purchase the jelly
  • Return home

Deliverable #3: Peanut butter

  • Visit the grocery store
  • Purchase the peanut butter
  • Return home

Deliverable #4: Finished sandwich

  • Gather a knife and other supplies
  • Spread peanut butter on one slice of bread
  • Spread jelly on another slice of bread
  • Put two pieces of bread together
  • Remove crust
  • Slice the sandwich into a star-shape
  • Put the sandwich on a plate to serve

Looking at all those steps, it's clear that the process isn't as straightforward as it may seem. While you might initially be tempted to jot everything down on paper to ensure nothing is overlooked, it's essential to make this information accessible to your entire team.

Consider using a collaborative knowledge-sharing platform like Confluence to store notes, responsibilities, and project details. This allows everyone to create consistent documentation that all teammates can access.


3. Assign time estimates to each task

You've outlined your deliverables and their associated tasks, but we haven't discussed time yet, so we're not quite at the stage of creating a timeline. In this step, you'll estimate the time required to complete each task. Review the tasks outlined under each deliverable and estimate the time needed for each one.

It's crucial to involve your project team in this process, as they'll have a more realistic understanding of how long their assigned tasks typically take. This collaboration helps guard against the planning fallacy, which suggests that people tend to underestimate the time required for tasks. Your team can provide valuable insights and act as a reality check to ensure your time estimates are accurate.

4. Put your tasks in order

Now that you have your project tasks and time estimates ready, it's time to arrange them in chronological order to establish a logical sequence for you and your team to follow. As you create this sequence, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind:

  • Task and resource dependencies: These are resources or tasks that cannot be used simultaneously or completed until a subsequent task is done. For example, you can't spread the peanut butter until you've baked and sliced the bread.
  • Concurrent tasks: Some steps can happen simultaneously, allowing you to save time. For instance, you can run to the farmer's market while the bread is cooling off.

By paying attention to these factors, you can develop a realistic and efficient timeline for your project.

5. List deadlines

It's important to remember that time estimates alone do not constitute a schedule. You must assign firm deadlines to tasks. "This should take three hours" is different from stating, "This task will be completed by Tuesday."

Thankfully, your time estimates will aid in setting more realistic deadlines for your project tasks. To err on the side of caution, include a buffer to ensure you don't cut things too close. Unexpected surprises are inevitable, and you'll appreciate having some flexibility built into the timeline.

Know when your project will cross the finish line

Unexpected challenges often arise during projects, and planning for every possible outcome is impossible. However, taking the time to create a project timeline is still incredibly valuable.

Skipping a project timeline can lead to problems like team members struggling to manage their workloads, confusion about what comes next, and projects feeling chaotic.

Your timeline doesn't have to be rigid. It's important to remain flexible and adaptable. Even if you need to adjust the plan along the way, having a solid foundation early on helps reduce confusion, keeps everyone accountable, and ensures your projects keep moving forward smoothly.

Want to keep the team moving forward with your project timeline? Jira and Confluence offer a complete solution for getting work done. Manage projects in Jira and see context for tasks in Confluence. When teams integrate Confluence and Jira, they work in the only platform built for both robust project management and document collaboration, with live views into each.

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