Large, complex projects need structure to stay on track. After breaking a project down into smaller steps, you’ll want to define the who, what, and when of each actionable task. Enter project schedules. Project schedules keep work focused by housing every task in one place.
Project schedules show you a project's milestones, tasks, and deliverables neatly displayed on a timeline. From start to finish, they let you streamline the entire project in one space.
Project schedules are a key component of project management. Based on your project roadmap and project lifecycle, schedules organize work into an actionable sequence.
In the planning stages, everything feels possible. The work is shiny and new, and you’re usually excited to start. But if you dive into the project with no clear schedule, you can quickly lose sight of the big picture—why you started and what you’re hoping to achieve. If you spend time upfront to create a project schedule template, you’ll have a point of reference to guide you every step of the way.
There are different ways to manage your project schedule template, but using a project management tool will help you get the most from it. You’ll be able to save your favorite schedule as a template and reuse it for every new project. Using a tool also allows you to:
Design your schedule in a visual timeline where you can instantly see connections. between to-dos, team members, and deadlines.
Add dependencies so work is completed in the right order.
Celebrate and recognize wins with project milestones.
Connect all the project information—from task lists to reporting—all in one central place.
Share your project schedule across teams for cross-collaboration and support.
Automate workflows within your schedule so you can set it and forget it.
Shift due dates when priorities change.
Provide an at-a-glance view of the project status for all stakeholders.
Working docs, scrap paper, integrated software—technically, you can create a project schedule anywhere. Before project management software, companies used paper calendars and thick binders to track projects. Now, we have the benefit of digital tools that automatically track and adjust with us as the project does, which reduces work about work and boosts productivity.
Here are three common ways to organize project schedules, and pros and cons to each:
It’s becoming less and less common to use documents for digital project schedule templates, but they are still the most accessible.
Pros: Usually free to use, easy to create, and accessible to anyone.
Cons: Projects can change on a whim, but documents won’t change with them. It’s almost impossible to turn these into living schedules. Because of this, they’re time consuming to maintain and require lots of manual updates. This increases the risk of human error as tasks get overlooked or deadlines forgotten. In addition, people have to remember to reference them—there are no reminders or tools to alert stakeholders of changes.
Spreadsheets are easy to turn into project schedules, but that’s mostly where the benefits stop.
Pros: A spreadsheet’s grid design naturally lends itself to schedules. You can also input rules and formulas to automate some of the work. Plus, they’re accessible to most organizations and are mostly free to use.
Cons: Spreadsheets are designed to function around rules and formulas—but you need to know what they are in order for this to be efficient. While anyone can create a spreadsheet, only a select group of people are proficient enough to use them well. Otherwise, they are mostly a grid layout of a document, with little capabilities when it comes to automation, adjustments, and communicating with the team.
Also known as Gantt charts, these visual project schedules show tasks plotted along a timeline.
Pros: Gantt chart templates are the ideal way to create a custom project schedule. They’re visually designed and include all necessary details—so you can see everything at once. This is especially helpful so you can visualize the critical path—or the minimum sequence of tasks that needs to be completed in order for the project to be successful. They provide an at a glance view of the project status for all stakeholders and are easy to change. You can adjust tasks, team members, or deadlines with a few simple clicks. If you add dependencies and automation rules, you can automate the full project workflow from start to finish.
Cons: Specific project management software is often required to create easily editable digital timelines.
All project timelines will include the same basic features—deadlines and tasks. From there, it’s up to you to customize it. This will depend on how you’re using your project schedule template. For example, if you’re coordinating cross-collaborative work, you’ll likely want to add project dependencies that manage the workflow.
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.
Automation. Automate manual work so your team spends less time on the busy work and more time on the tasks you hired them for. Rules in Asana function on a basis of triggers and actions—essentially “when X happens, do Y.” Use Rules to automatically assign work, adjust due dates, set custom fields, notify stakeholders, and more. From ad hoc automations to entire workflows, Rules gives your team time back for skilled and strategic work.
Project Overview. Project Overview is your one-stop-shop for all important project context. Give your team a bird’s-eye view of the what, why, and how of your project work. Add a project description to set the tone for how you’ll work together in Asana. Then, share any important resources and context—like meeting details, communication channels, and project briefs—in one place.
Gmail. With the Asana for Gmail integration, you can create Asana tasks directly from your Gmail inbox. Any tasks you create from Gmail will automatically include the context from your email, so you never miss a beat. Need to refer to an Asana task while composing an email? Instead of opening Asana, use the Asana for Gmail add-on to simply search for that task directly from your Gmail inbox.
Outlook. As action items come in via email, like reviewing work from your agency or a request for design assets from a partner, you can now create tasks for them in Asana right from Outlook. You can then assign the new task to yourself or a teammate, set a due date, and add it to a project so it’s connected to other relevant work.
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.
Google Workplace. Attach files directly to tasks in Asana with the Google Workplace file chooser, which is built into the Asana task pane. Easily attach any My Drive file with just a few clicks.
To get started creating your own project timeline, follow these best practices:
Use a system that makes it easy to adjust deadlines. With a project management tool, you can change multiple deadlines at once and alert key stakeholders in real-time.
Use project dependencies to reduce the risk of missing work. This is most helpful in scenarios where you need an item to be finished in order to execute the next task. For example, needing legal approval before a website can go live.
Assign tasks and delegate work so all stakeholders have ownership in a project.
Add project milestones to track and celebrate every accomplishment.
Define the scope of work with clear deliverables and the expected start date and estimated end date for each to-do.
Creating a digital project template is easy. First, review the project overview and create a task list. Write every actionable task that needs to get done. Then, look at a calendar, your team's workload, and any hard deadlines. Notice where there are gaps and available resources. Now, plot all of this information on a timeline, assign tasks, and create deadlines for each to-do. Ta-da! You’ve created a project schedule template.
Project schedule templates list your tasks on a timeline so you can see what work needs to get done every day, week, and month until the project is completed.
Your project schedule template should include everything you need to smoothly manage the work. The exact elements will vary, but you should always include estimated start and end dates, work tasks, milestone accomplishments, working team members, and any known project dependencies. Including these steps will help establish clear checkpoints along your project schedule.
Project schedule templates are sequential tasks based on dates. A work plan template is a full overview of the project, which also includes budgets, staffing, and broad objectives.
Missing deadlines? There’s a simple solution to that—digital project schedule templates. These tidy templates offer a visual view of everything that needs to be completed from start to finish. From here, all you have to do is assign deadlines and team members to each task to keep the project moving forward.
Yes. You can use spreadsheets to create project schedule templates but you will need to manually update and maintain them, wasting time and reducing productivity. Instead, use project management software to create, standardize, and share your project schedule templates.
Project schedule templates are one step in the project management process. They’re versatile, multi-purpose projects that can be used across multiple teams to track what needs to get done and when. The team can use the template to easily kick off project work. From then on, the project schedule becomes a reference guide to make sure work stays on schedule.
A project’s scope is just as important as its budget or timeline. Prioritize this crucial part of project management by creating a project scope management plan template.
Learn how to create a customizable template in Asana with a free Premium trial today.