Project delays holding you back? Create a critical path method template to visualize everything that needs to be done in order to reach your end goal, including which tasks have flexible due dates and which ones are mission-critical.Create your template
Projects are rarely simple, linear things. Rather than tackling tasks one after another, teams often work on several deliverables at once to complete different project components on time. On the other hand, some tasks can’t be started until others are complete—so one holdup can cause a bottleneck and derail your entire project. If you don’t have a system to organize and visualize all those interconnected tasks, it’s hard to predict how much time you’ll need to get everything done.
When your project timeline gets complex, a critical path method template can help. This template helps you visualize the longest, most important chain of events you need to complete for a successful project—so you know which tasks to prioritize and how much time you need to finish everything on time.
A critical path method template is a reusable guide that helps you determine the critical path for a project. In project management, this path is the longest sequence of tasks you need to finish on time in order to complete your initiative—meaning any delays in critical tasks will delay your whole project. Determining the critical path helps you prioritize and allocate resources to tasks that have the biggest impact on your project timeline, so you can avoid bottlenecks and keep work flowing smoothly.
A critical path method template simplifies this process by laying out each step you need to take in order to determine a project’s critical path. It outlines all the information you need to collect, plus how to put that information together. Thanks to your template, you don’t have to start this process from scratch for every new initiative. Instead, you can copy the template, fill in the required fields, and start planning.
Things change during a project. Priorities shift, resources fluctuate, and additional requests can alter your project scope. A digital critical path method template doesn’t just help you plan your timeline at the start of a project—it also helps you adjust and visualize your critical path even when circumstances change.
Instead of relying on static Excel spreadsheets or paper trackers, you can view any updates to your digital critical path method template in real time as your team completes or changes project tasks. That means you always have an up-to-date view of what your team has accomplished, what’s coming up, and what adjustments you need to make to keep your timeline on track.
By creating your critical path method template with a project management tool, you can:
Visualize which tasks have the biggest impact on your project timeline.
View project deliverables as a list or Gantt chart-style illustration, without doing any extra work.
Identify and track project dependencies—tasks that rely on the completion of a different task.
See updates in real time as your team completes and adjusts tasks.
Update your project timeline if circumstances change.
Give stakeholders visibility into your project timeline and priorities.
Add contextual information to tasks by attaching documents, images, and videos to each task.
Your critical path method template should outline all the information you need in order to determine a project’s critical path. This includes:
A list of all deliverables and sub-deliverables: Everything you need to complete for a successful project, similar to a work breakdown structure (WBS). In Asana, you can include these as tasks and sub-tasks.
Task dependencies: Tasks that either block, or are blocked by, other tasks.
Task duration: An estimate of how long each deliverable will take based on previous experience, past projects, or industry standards.
Total float: The amount of time you can delay a task without impacting your project timeline. This is the number of days between the earliest possible start date of a task and its latest possible start date.
Free float: How long you can delay a task without impacting the next task in your timeline. This is the number of days between the earliest start of the next task and the earliest possible finish date of the current task.
A label to identify critical vs. non-critical tasks: Tasks in the critical path have zero float—meaning you can’t change their due dates without impacting your entire project timeline. Tasks in the non-critical path have more wiggle room and you can delay them without throwing your project off track. To distinguish the critical and non-critical path even further, you create separate sections in your template.
A date range for each task: The time span you have to accomplish each deliverable, based on dependencies and the duration of the task. When you use your critical path method template, this is one of the last fields to fill out as you plan your project timeline.
Timeline View. Timeline View is a Gantt-style project view that displays all of your tasks in a horizontal bar chart. Not only can you see each task’s start and end date, but you can also see dependencies between tasks. With Timeline View, you can easily track how the pieces of your plan fit together. Plus, when you can see all of your work in one place, it’s easy to identify and address dependency conflicts before they start, so you can hit all of your goals on schedule.
Dependencies. Mark a task as waiting on another task with task dependencies. Know when your work is blocking someone else’s work, so you can prioritize accordingly. Teams with collaborative workflows can easily see what tasks they’re waiting on from others, and know when to get started on their portion of work. When the first task is completed, the assignee will be notified that they can get started on their dependent task. Or, if the task your work is dependent on is rescheduled, Asana will notify you—letting you know if you need to adjust your dependent due date as well.
Custom fields. Custom fields are the best way to tag, sort, and filter work. Create unique custom fields for any information you need to track—from priority and status to email or phone number. Use custom fields to sort and schedule your to-dos so you know what to work on first. Plus, share custom fields across tasks and projects to ensure consistency across your organization.
Start dates. Sometimes you don’t just need to track when a to-do is due—you also need to know when you should start working on it. Start times and dates give your team members a clear sense of how long each task should take to complete. Use start dates to set, track, and manage work to align your team's objectives and prevent dependencies from falling through the cracks.
Clockwise. With the Clockwise + Asana integration, you can add Asana tasks as time blocks in your Google Calendar. The Clockwise + Asana integration allows you to specify the duration of tasks, when they happen, and whether Clockwise can automatically reschedule them. Add tasks to your calendar and make time to get work done.
Loom. Loom videos help you add personality, context, and clarity to your Project Overview. You can easily embed Loom videos to explain your project, set expectations, and highlight key milestones. A Loom video message adds nuance and context to get your team up to speed on the project faster. The best part is—your team can watch the videos without leaving Asana.
Salesforce. Remove bottlenecks by enabling sales, customer success, and service teams to communicate directly with their support teams in Asana. Share attachments and create actionable, trackable tasks for pre-sales needs. With Service Cloud, connect your implementation and service teams with supporting teams in Asana to deliver amazing customer experiences.
GitHub. Automatically sync GitHub pull request status updates to Asana tasks. Track progress on pull requests and improve cross-functional collaboration between technical and non-technical teams, all from within Asana.
As a manager, you can share your critical path method template with team members to help them prioritize and plan tasks for every project. Once you create and fill out your template, you can also share it with project stakeholders to give them insight into why specific deadlines are important and why you’ve prioritized certain tasks within your project timeline.
Any project with dependencies can benefit from a critical path method template—especially when multiple project activities are happening simultaneously, and it’s difficult to understand how task deadlines will impact your project duration and project completion.
Check out our critical path method (CPM) article to learn more about this project management technique, including detailed steps on how to conduct a critical path analysis during project planning, how to create a network diagram, and the differences between CPM, PERT charts, and Gantt charts.
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