How To Use Excel For Project Management (+Free Templates)

Jitesh Patil

Small teams and businesses prefer using excel for project management for its availability, familiarity, and cost-effectiveness. Further, templates make it easy to get started with Excel project management quickly.

But what are the best practices when using Excel for project management?

That’s what you’ll learn in this article. Here’s what we’ll cover:

When Should You Use Excel For Project Management?

Disadvantages of managing projects in excel, create a project timeline.

  • Manage tasks

Plan & Manage Resources

  • Effort Tracking
  • A Better Alternative to Excel Project Management

Ready to get started? Let’s begin.

You don’t always need project management tools to manage projects. Sometimes a simple spreadsheet can do the job. Here are some situations where project management in Excel makes sense:

  • You work on simple projects: If you work on projects with very few dependencies and team members, you may not need project management software. A simple spreadsheet to track project tasks is perfect for such simple projects.
  • You work on one project at a time: If you work on multiple projects simultaneously, you’ll need to share team members across projects. Shared resources create complex dependencies. But if you work on a single project at a time, spreadsheets are often enough.
  • You already have access to Microsoft Office: Almost everyone already has access to Microsoft Office. You, too, can consider using Excel for managing projects if you have easy access to it. 

Even if you have access to Excel and manage simple projects, Excel still may not be the right choice. These are some of the disadvantages of Excel project management:

  • No communication features: All spreadsheets, including Excel, lack communication features. Communicating with clients and other team members can be a big challenge.
  • No collaboration features:   There’s no way to share files or documents via Excel. You’ll have to use a file hosting service to share files. On the other hand, most PM tools come with built-in file sharing.
  • Information overload: Over time, Excel spreadsheets accumulate a lot of information. Clients and most team members rarely need access to all this information. As a result, time is wasted looking for information.
  • Hard to ensure data integrity: When everyone is updating the same sheet, it’s easy for someone to update or remove information accidentally. Plus, project information can get lost as we discuss tasks over chat or email.
  • Expensive in the long run: Most PM tools have a free plan. Paid plans often cost less than $10 per user per month. Considering the above disadvantages, using Excel for project management can be expensive in the long run.

Excel Project Management Use Cases

So far, you’ve learned about the kind of work you can manage with Excel. You’ve also learned about the disadvantages of Excel project management.

Next, let’s look at the project use cases you can manage with Excel.

A timeline is a simple way to visualize plans — whether it’s a high-level project roadmap or a detailed project schedule. Using Excel or other spreadsheet software like Google Sheets, you can easily create a project timeline . 

how to project excel

Typically, a project timeline is created using a Gantt chart. 

The Gantt timeline helps your team members visualize the project’s schedule.

Excel and other spreadsheets are not meant to be used as project planning tools . They don’t have an in-built Gantt chart feature. Instead, you can customize the horizontal bar chart to look like a Gantt timeline. Check out these tutorials on how to create a Gantt timeline in Excel and Google Sheets .

Other than the above-mentioned disadvantages:

  • Excel timelines are hard to keep up to date. 
  • There’s no way to add milestones to an Excel Gantt timeline.
  • And, it’s almost impossible to work collaboratively on an Excel project timeline.

Gantt Timeline Template For Excel

If you want to use Excel, despite its disadvantages, use this simple template or choose from the project timeline templates available here.

Manage Tasks

Once the project plan is ready, the next step is to start executing and tracking day-to-day tasks.

how to project excel

Using a spreadsheet, it’s fairly easy to track task status. 

List down all the start with their start and end dates. Assign tasks to team members. And, finally include a column to track task status. You can either create a simple to-do list using checkboxes or include more task statuses in a dropdown.

Tracking task progress using Excel suffers from the same disadvantages mentioned above. Also:

  • You cannot create custom task workflows.
  • Unlike Kanban boards, it’s not easy to visualize task progress in Excel.

Project Task List Template

You can use the same timeline spreadsheet template given above or use this simple spreadsheet template to track task progress. 

Planning resource availability and allocating them to projects is the next use case for Excel project management.

Resource Allocation Template. Use Excel For Project Management.

Before you allocate resources to a project or a task, you need to know if a resource is available. For example, you cannot plan for a team member who’s on vacation or busy with another project. 

You’ll need two separate spreadsheets — one to track off-days and another to track project allocation.

Using Excel to manage resources is hard. You’ll have to update the spreadsheet constantly based on inputs from team members and other project managers.

Resource Management Templates

These templates cover all team resource management use-cases, including:

  • Track team availability
  • Allocate resources to projects
  • Plan project resources
  • Plan resource capacities

You can copy these from File > Make a copy or download as Excel from File > Download as > Microsoft Excel (.xlsx) .

Learn more about how to use these resource planning templates .

Track Project Efforts

Finally, using Excel, you can track your team’s actual number of hours into a project. This is a critical step in project management, especially if you bill clients by the hour.

Time Sheet Template in Excel For Project Management

You can calculate the total number of hours put in by each team member in a project. Also, you can set the rate for each team member and calculate the billable amount.

Tracking project efforts in Excel is fairly easy. But, it’s cumbersome to record the time spent on each task. 

Excel Timesheet Template

Use this simple Google Sheets template to track time spent on a project. You can make a copy of it from File > Make a copy or download it as an Excel from File > Download as > Microsoft Excel (.xlsx) .

Toggl Plan: A Better Alternative to Excel Project Management

Considering the use cases above, it’s definitely possible to manage projects using Excel. But keeping information up to date in all these spreadsheets can be quite a task. 

That’s where using a project management tool like Toggl Plan can help.

Toggl Plan is a beautifully simple tool that helps you with project planning, task management, and managing team workloads.

Here are some ways you can use Toggl Plan to manage projects:

Project Planning

how to project excel

With Toggl Plan, you can create unlimited project Plan Timelines. 

Creating a Gantt timeline is as simple as dragging and dropping tasks on the timeline. Also, you can add color-coded milestones to keep track of critical dates.

You can zoom in to a week to look or zoom out to get a bird’s eye view of the entire year.

Also, you can share a read-only view of the timeline with clients and other stakeholders to keep them up to date.

Tasks can be assigned right from the timeline. Plus, you can import tasks to the timeline from a spreadsheet.

Task Management

Toggl Plan Tasks

You can manage tasks in Toggl Plan from timelines and task boards. 

With Toggl Plan, task workflows are customizable. You can assign tasks to one or more team members, record task estimates, and categorize tasks using tags.

Also, team members can collaborate on tasks using file attachments and task comments. 

Using task boards, your team can visualize task progress. And update task status by just dragging the task across the board.

Team Management

how to project excel

Along with Plan Timelines, you can also create unlimited Team Timelines. Team Timelines can be created with people across your organization, including shared team members.

On the Team Timeline, you can visualize your team’s availability and workloads. 

If you find overworked team members, you can rebalance work right from the timeline.

Any changes you make in one timeline or board automatically are reflected everywhere.

Toggl Plan Pricing

Solo users can use Toggl Plan for free.

Paid plans range from $9-$15 per user per month and have a 14-day free trial. Toggl Plan paid users get Team Timelines, multiple assignees for a task, and recurring tasks.

Get started with Toggl Plan for free .

Jitesh Patil

Jitesh is an SEO and content specialist. He manages content projects at Toggl and loves sharing actionable tips to deliver projects profitably.

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How-To Geek

How to create a project timeline in microsoft excel.

Save time and money by creating a simple project timeline in an application you already use.

Quick Links

Create a project timeline using smartart, create a project timeline using a template.

Are you managing a small project or tasked with creating a timeline for one? Without extensive tools like a Gantt chart or expensive software like Microsoft Project , you can create a simple project timeline right in Microsoft Excel.

A basic project timeline shows milestones or tasks with dates in chronological order. This allows you or your audience to see the entire project at a glance and in one spot. Using a SmartArt Graphic built into Excel or a free downloadable template, you can create a timeline for your project to show exactly what's necessary.

While this tutorial walks you through creating a project timeline in Excel, you can use the same features and steps to make that timeline in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint instead.

If you're not familiar with the SmartArt Graphic tool in Microsoft Office, this handy feature helps you build and insert items in your documents. From a pyramid to a matrix to a stylized list, SmartArt Graphics give you a head start on visuals.

Related: How to Create and Insert a Pyramid in Microsoft PowerPoint

Open Excel to the sheet where you want your timeline. Go to the Insert tab, click the "Illustrations" drop-down arrow, and pick "SmartArt."

Project timeline in Excel

When the Choose a SmartArt Graphic window opens, select "Process" on the left. On the right, find and select the Basic Timeline, then click "OK." If you prefer, you can pick the Circle Accent Timeline for a fancier visual.

The Basic Timeline graphic will pop into your sheet for you to add your items. The essential elements of this timeline include blue dots for the milestones or dates with boxes for the corresponding text. You can also add tasks or activities as bullet points within each text box.

Customize the Timeline

As you add your text, the boxes adjust to accommodate the size. So you save time from formatting them yourself. Plus, you can also add more shapes to lengthen your timeline or change the direction of the arrow easily.

Related: How to Create a Timeline in Microsoft PowerPoint

Rather than working with the actual graphic for items, you might try the super simple Text Pane tool. This allows you to add your timeline items, including bullet points , within a small window.

To open the tool, select the timeline graphic, go to the SmartArt Design tab, and click "Text Pane" on the left side of the ribbon. Alternatively, click the arrow on the left border of the timeline graphic.

When the Text Pane opens, create your timeline in an outline format using these actions:

  • Add a shape : Go to the item before the new shape, press Enter or Return, and type the item.
  • Insert a bullet : Press Enter or Return after the item containing the list, press Tab to indent, and type the first bullet item. Alternatively, type the first bullet item, right-click, and choose "Demote."
  • Remove an item : Delete the item using your Backspace or Delete key.
  • Rearrange items : Right-click an item you want to move and choose "Move Up" or "Move Down."

You can also use the tools in the ribbon on the SmartArt Design tab to customize the timeline. On the left, you can add a shape, insert a bullet, change the arrow direction, rearrange items, and demote or promote items.

Moving to the right, you can choose a different layout, change the colors, or pick a different style.

You can also select items on the timeline, such as text boxes, and use the Home tab to format the font differently. Or, right-click the graphic, select "Format Object," and use the Format Shape sidebar to add a border, fill color, or shadow.

For a nice, basic project timeline, the SmartArt Graphic in Excel is a good option.

If you're looking for a project timeline with more detail or pizzazz, you can check out one of Microsoft's timeline templates. One example is this free Project Timeline With Milestones .

Once you download the template , simply enter the dates and milestones for your project in the table at the bottom. Use the Position column of the table to place the text for the milestones above (positive number) or below (negative number) the line.

To lengthen the timeline, just add more rows to the table . To shorten it, delete rows from the table.

As you make changes to the table, you'll see the timeline update immediately. This template gives you a quick and easy way to create an attractive timeline for your project.

When you need to create a simple project timeline, Excel gives you two easy ways to do it depending on the appearance and details you need.

Related: How to Add or Delete Columns and Rows in a Table in Microsoft Excel

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Vartika Kashyap

How to create a functional project plan in Excel?

How to Create a Project Plan in Excel

If you’ve ever found yourself staring at a blank spreadsheet, wondering how to turn it into a structured plan for your next big project, you’re in the right place. 

Creating a project plan in Excel may seem daunting, but I’m here to walk you through it step by step. 

In this article, we will break down the process, sharing tips, tricks, and templates to help you get organized and, most importantly, get things done.

But, before we dive in, it’s important to acknowledge that Excel, while versatile, isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. 

I have shed light on its limitations, when it’s best to use Excel, and when it is better to rely on a better option like a project management tool .

Explore Excel alternatives that will suit your requirements – 17 Best Microsoft Excel Alternatives & Competitors

What is a project plan?

A project plan is a living, actionable, and dynamic framework, created before the beginning of a project for successful project execution, effective control, and timely delivery.

As defined by the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) , it is a formal document, outlining all the project execution and control guidelines that are approved by all the members concerned.

From sketching out the project scope , objectives, and timelines to establishing evaluation criteria for safeguarding the project against risks and ensuring quality standards, the project plan serves as a roadmap and a clear blueprint for everyone involved in the project.

Tips for formulating a brilliant project plan –

  • Evaluate your needs, resources, and project objectives as the first thing if you do not want to hit project failure because of bad planning .
  • Construct a solid plan and break it down into manageable tasks.
  • Analyze potential risks and risk-mitigating parameters beforehand. Also, do not forget to specify milestones.
  • Allocate required resources, time, and budget to the tasks. 

Read More: Steps to create a perfect project plan

Without further ado, let us now jump directly on the steps to create a project plan.

How to create a project plan in Excel?

For your convenience and ease, I am breaking down the entire process into clear actionable steps.

Step 1 –  Create headers

Once you’ve opened up your Microsoft Excel, and have an Excel worksheet to work on, it’s time to take the first step in setting up a project plan for you. 

Start adding headers to the table.  Label the columns as 

Column A: “Task” or “Activity” or “Actionable Item”

Column B: “Start Date”

Column C: “End Date”

Column D: “Duration”

Column E: “Assigned To”

Column F: “Task Status”

Feel free to add on as many columns as you want, and adjust their alignment, column width, and formatting, to make your project plan tailored to your requirements.

Create desired headers for your project

Step 2 – Add your project information

Now that you are all prepared with your project plan base, start listing your project information in the columns stated.

  • Start by filling up column A and listing down all your tasks and subtasks. You can even categorize them by giving them a label or creating a separate column instead.
  • Move on to filling Columns B and C by adding start and end dates to build your project timeline. For that first select both the columns, right click on any cell, and a dialog box like this will appear.

Add your project information in the columns

      From here select the Date category, and choose the way you want to format it. 

  • Next comes the duration, which you can compute by selecting the cell and applying the formula = C2-B2. Then, drag and drop the right dot of the cell and the formula will be applied to the rest of the cells too.

Apply the formula for project duration

  •  Following the above procedure, mention the resources for each task and mention its current status.

Allocate resources for each task

P.S. – If either of your tasks is dependent on the other, or if only the completion of one can kick start the other, you can add one extra column labeling Dependency .

Step 3: Format and Customize

Now color, font size & style, apply conditional formatting, and more from the Home Tab to set the aesthetics of your project reports.

Format and Customize with Conditional formatting

As you can see from the status report, I’ve highlighted every pending task in red to clearly signal them for being behind schedule and capture the user’s attention.

The visual project timeline assists in clearly depicting the project expectations, progress, priorities, and due dates. 

P.S. – Looking to create a visual draft of your plan using Gantt charts or simplify your project timeline? 

Check out our guide .

Step 4: Save your plan

Once you’re done with all the adjustments, do not forget to save the workbook. For that click on the File option from the Excel ribbon following with Save option. 

Step 5: Update and maintain

It is more of a regular routine you need to follow, than a step that you can take for once. Because as the project progresses, you need to stay on top of project updates and maintain the plan throughout its lifecycle. 

This way you can ensure your project’s progress, and hold team members accountable for their actions. 

Step 6: Collaborate and share

Lastly, finish the project plan by sharing it with team members and stakeholders involved for better collaboration. 

Get to know ProofHub’s capability in breaking the collaboration barriers. Explore how collaboration can help .

Is there a project plan template in Excel?

If you wanna skip all the steps to create a project plan in Excel , the ready-to-use project planning templates are a perfect solution for your planning needs.

For the time being, there are only two dedicated project plan templates available in Excel. These are –

Gantt project planner

This template serves the modern business needs for creating a project plan by incorporating both a static timeline and a visual Gantt chart on the right for enhanced project visualization. 

You can make the most of these color-coded bars to track the task progress.

Download here:

Read More: How To Use Gantt Chart Template In Project Management

Marketing project plan

The marketing project plan template includes the task lists, status, task assigned to (owner), anticipated and actual start and end dates, and cost columns. 

Marketing teams can make the most of this template to stay on top of their marketing ventures. 

However, several project plan templates are available online to download from third-party sources, such as Project Manager, Smartsheet, Vertex 42, Office Timeline, and others.

Limitations of creating a project plan in Excel

While many project managers out there still use Excel for project planning, does it stand the test of efficiency and effectiveness in the long run?

While I won’t question its usefulness as a to-do list or simply a spreadsheet tool, Excel’s limitations in handling complex calculations, tracking changes, and lack of automation capabilities make it less suitable for drafting full-fledged project plans.

  • Prone to errors and time-consuming

Here comes the fundamental limitation of project management in Excel – time consuming and vulnerable to blunders.

Documenting, updating, finding, and cross-checking your project plan in Excel consumes a lot of your time and effort. Moreover, due to being shared among multiple members, your project plan is susceptible to faults.

Also, when different information is scattered across different spreadsheets, and in the worst-case scenario, stored in various locations, information silos become an unavoidable repercussion.

  • Managing dependencies is challenging 

Managing and showing task dependencies in Excel workbooks is tricky and high-key.

Because, again, we lack any built-in feature and need to start from scratch to define which task cannot commence before the completion of another.

For a timeline, you need to add an extra column defining the predecessor task for each task. And if you want to transform it into a visual representation, creating a Gantt chart using a stacked bar chart is the only possible way out.

  • Limited resource management capabilities

If you are a team of few members and customers, and you rarely handle multiple projects altogether , Microsoft Excel can be enough for allocating and scheduling resources .

But, t here’s a twist.

Excel falls short when it comes to your complex resource allocation needs, especially for robust capacity planning . You cannot utilize your available manpower because you simply cannot track your overallocated and underutilized resources.

  • No dedicated reporting features

Excel does not offer a dedicated reporting feature, however, it includes a variety of features and built-in templates that can be used to generate comprehensive reports. 

You must be wondering, if it has so much to offer, where does this lashback come from?

Because, despite having charts, graphs, pivot tables, formulas, functions, and more, Excel limits its functionality to generate complex data reports with less time and effort. 

  • Project scalability is a nightmare

Once your projects or team member count starts to increase, there is no turning back to Excel’s limited and intricate methods. 

Even if you attempt to stick to these old-fashioned intersections of rows and columns, you’ll soon end up with a handful of Excel spreadsheets and information scattered all around. 

Excel spreadsheets fail to support scalability and offer a comprehensive picture of project status and progress. 

  • Maintaining versions is a big no

Imagine you and your colleagues working on a shared Excel workbook and either one of you causes (intentionally or unintentionally) a blunder. And keeping a manual check on it becomes too demanding.

What comes next is a huge disappointment. Why?

Despite having built-in Track Change, the feature is not robust enough to provide ultimate revision history control. Moreover, you can’t assess this functionality beyond shared workbooks.

  • Real-time collaboration is a struggle

Excel doesn’t support real-time collaboration. Period. And if you think otherwise, then you my friend, should give it a second thought. 

To some extent, yes, I agree, it does, but is it enough? 

If you consider sharing Excel workbooks, providing access, and tracking down comments as collaborative metrics, then you should explore true essential collaborative capabilities. 

When it comes to effective and excellent project planning and management, turning to efficient project planning tools is the only solution available that will make a difference. 

If you’re frustrated with the limitations of Excel for project management, try ProofHub’s Gantt chart for efficient project planning.

ProofHub for enhanced project planning

While Excel is a viable option for basic projects, ProofHub steps in as a robust project management software , especially when dealing with large and complex projects. (Where Excel completely surrenders its efficiency)

The all-in-one solution seamlessly complements Excel with its advanced and intuitive infrastructure, offering solutions to many of the most complex limitations associated with Excel project planning .

  • Seamless project planning

Project management is ProofHub’s forte. It eliminates Excel’s time-consuming and error-prone processes with its streamlined and efficient platform to enhance the efficiency of your project planning process.

This highly customizable platform eliminates the need to jump across various Excel sheets by centralizing everything you and your team need in a one-centralized platform.

Still using Excel for project planning ? See how to revolutionize your approach to project management.
  • Effortless task management

ProofHub - Task Progress View

ProofHub provides you greater control over your task management practice by allowing you to not only create and assign tasks but also decide the order in which you want them to be executed. 

With ProofHub’s Gantt chart (need not be built from scratch) , you can easily plan your tasks, visualize the dependencies between them , modify the plan without disrupting the task flow, and compare the progress against the pre-defined timeline.

  • Efficient resource management

While resource allocation is a continuous process, ProofHub aids you in streamlining this process by monitoring your team’s activity to neither overburden nor underutilize your team members. 

You can use resource reports and resource utilization reports to get a summarized overview of your resource’s entire activity and identify their productivity levels. Also, ProofHub’s Calendar view is a great way to review your resource’s availability. 

  • Advanced insight reporting

Advanced insight reporting in ProofHub

ProofHub’s built-in reports curb Excel’s limitation of not being able to provide comprehensive reports. You can either use built-in reports or create custom reports as per your requirements.

This way you can get an idea of where your team’s efforts are invested and how your work is progressing but make the most of those intricate details to make adjustments in your plan for successful project execution.

  • Extremely scalable

ProofHub places greater focus on scaling up without causing stress. The flat pricing model of ProofHub is significant evidence of ProofHub’s commitment to scalability. 

ProofHub’s easy-to-navigate interface allows you to add as many people as you want and handle as many projects as you can. Moreover, you can even collaborate with external stakeholders on ProofHub using a link, without requiring them to sign in.

  • Complete version control

ProofHub eliminates the major Excel complication of not having a version control, by providing complete access to version history. No more blame games, just a quick glance at the revision history.

Also, you can easily identify the changes made, who made them, and when by following a few simple steps. Also, you can store various file versions and even restore them whenever required.

  • Effective real-time collaboration

Collaborate with your team instantly

Collaboration is a seamless experience with ProofHub. It provides you with a dedicated space for collaborating on tasks, mitigating even the slightest scope of misunderstanding. 

Moreover, you can also utilize ProofHub’s built-in features, such as discussions , real-time chat , and much more to effectively collaborate with your team members. You can even annotate directly on documents and decide a specific privacy level to safeguard your sensitive information.

Empower your team for effective communication using the top online collaboration tools .

Make a switch: It’s the right time

While creating a project plan in Excel is an effective and economical choice for smaller teams and projects, the complexities that accompany growing Excel sheets become naturally overwhelming.

However, keeping in mind Excel’s limitations, ProofHub emerges as a robust and specialized project management software for enhanced project planning.

Not only does it ensure all-encompassing success but introduces efficiency to your operations, by centralizing task management , team management, resource allocation, seamless collaboration, and more.

Lastly, no matter the choice you make, the key to successful project planning still remains strategic planning, clear communication, and effective resource utilization.

Ready to streamline your project planning and get more done in less time? Try ProofHub free for 14-days. (No credit card required)

Project plan in Excel FAQs

What are the key components of a project plan.

The essential elements of a project plan include –

Project objectives – Despite acknowledging the fact that a project plan is prone to experience vulnerability during the entire course, defining project objectives sets a direction to achieve the project purpose.

Scope statement- The scope of a project is a clear written set of instructions and performance goals for team members. It includes stakeholder requirements, the team’s vision, expected results, and all the boundaries and limitations of a project.

Project budget – Estimating the total project cost of all the tasks before allocating a certain amount to each one is the responsibility of a project manager. Also, taking an extreme level of control over the combined project expenditure on all activities is essential to not run out of budget.

Project schedule – Developing a project timeline is crucial for communicating the project milestones and deadlines and defining the roles and responsibilities for the successful project execution. The process can become easy with a project management tool like ProofHub.

Resource allocation plan- Determining the resources (people, equipment, materials, and budget) required for successful project execution and allocating these to specific tasks or activities is the foundation of effective project management.

Risk assessment plan –  This includes identifying the potential risks that could affect the project’s performance, status, and budget in any way possible, and developing strategies to mitigate them for timely project delivery.

Communication plan – Specifying the right frequency and communication strategies that will be incorporated during the entire project journey, and the recipients that will be engaged, is a crucial part of a well-defined project plan.

How to handle changes or delays in the project plan?

The key to handling changes or delays in the project plan is to stop the project from derailing. Fort that you need to – 

  • First, identify the root cause of the change or delay and assess the severity of the impact it can have on the success of your project plan. 
  • The next step is to communicate them to your stakeholders or the team members concerned to avoid unpleasant surprises. 
  • Once done, update your project plan accordingly to meet your project plan objectives. 
  • Stay on top of the project to prevent further disruptions.

Are there Excel templates available for project planning?

Yes. There are two built-in Excel templates available – A marketing project plan ( dedicated Excel template for marketing teams) and a Gantt project planner for any type of project.

How can I create a project plan that is easy to update and maintain?

You need not look elsewhere than ProofHub for seamless and efficient project planning. With its robust project planning solutions, you can both maintain and update your project plan with minimalist efforts.

How do I create a project timeline in Excel?

To create a project timeline in Excel, you can either use the built-in template or create a Gantt chart in Excel .

When to use Excel for project planning?

Excel works fine for individual users, beginners, and smaller teams with limited projects to manage. Also, if you just want to analyze and modify your data, Excel is sure to satisfy your needs.

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How to Create a Project Plan in Excel [Step-by-Step]

Home Blog Project Management How to Create a Project Plan in Excel [Step-by-Step]

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The most crucial aspect of project management is the project plan in excel. An effective project plan includes a scope definition and a feasibility study . Only after a successful plan has been laid out can execution begin. Various project management software programs can be used for effective project planning, and one of the simplest and widely used in project plan in excel.

Microsoft Excel is one of the world's most popular spreadsheet software programs. People of all ages use it in schools, colleges, homes, and offices. In addition, excel is used in the majority of organizations to generate progress reports and manage business data.

What is a Project Plan?

A project plan , according to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), is a formal document that is approved by all parties involved and provides guidance on how a project is executed and controlled.

A project plan is intended to deliver on the project's scope, contribute to the decision-making, and allows stakeholders to communicate smoothly. A project plan can present several points, including the list of all the stakeholders, the future vision and mission of the business, the cost baseline, plans to manage the business, etc. A project plan is more than just a project timeline. There is so much more to excel, and you can ace it with the best Project Management courses available online.

Why Do You Need Project Tracker?

The primary reason for using a Project Tracker is inefficiency and uneven resource distribution. Project management software can help us accomplish more with fewer resources. The primary reasons are listed below:

  • Task Overflow
  • Resource Distribution
  • There is no set priority list.

The Multiple Projects tracker has several advantages:   

  • Provides an overview of the data without delving too deeply into it.
  • Can repeat the process without difficulty.
  • Effective Resource management.
  • Capable of switching from one task to another. 

The Importance of Creating a Project Plan

A project plan is one of the essential components of a successful project. It documents and communicates expectations, controls timelines and deliveries, and calculates and manages risks. In general, it serves as a road map for all project participants. The following are the four most significant advantages of a project plan:

Here are some of the important reasons for having the best project plan.

1. Smooth Communication

As stated earlier, having an outline of your project allows each and every member to have a clear picture of the project. In fact, by handing over a project outline you can get feedback much earlier from stakeholders. This will save time for both parties.

2. Increase Transparency  

Another important reason for having a project plan in hand is the level of transparency it offers regarding your project. Even if you miss out on some points while discussing the project, the outline of your project will have those covered! There’s always a place where stakeholders and team members can look for a bit more information.

3. Keep Things Organized

Many projects, when broken down into parts, have hundreds of milestones to achieve, tasks to accomplish, etc. At times tracking these can be quite difficult, especially when your team members have a busy schedules. Missing out on certain tasks can have a huge impact on the overall performance of the project. Hence, it is extremely important to have a project plan that keeps things organized.

How to Create a Project Plan in Excel (Step-By-Step)

You might have been wondering for a long time how to make a project plan in excel. Here are some step-by-step instructions with an Excel project management template. We'll show you how to make your project timeline after you've created the table with your project information.

1. Add Headers to the Table 

To begin, you must add some headers to your table.

  • In your spreadsheet, leave the first-row blank. Fill in the headers on the second row. Tasks, Responsible, Start, End, Days, and Status are used in this example. You could also include more headers for granularity, such as Budget, Cost, etc.
  • To center the text in the headers, highlight the text and click the center icon in the Alignment group.
  • To format the headers for proper spacing, highlight the text you just typed and click Format on the Home tab in the Cells group. Next, choose Column Width and set the width to around 15-20 to allow enough space to enter your project information.

how to project excel

2. Add Your Project Information

  • Begin by filling up the Task column with the tasks for your project plan. You are free to input as many or as few assignments as you choose. To visually arrange your project plan, give each collection of activities or stages a label. In this example, the terms prerequisites, inception, development, operations, and launch are employed.
  • Then, fill in the person in charge of each job, as well as the start and end dates.
  • To add the computation of days automatically, pick the ays column cell and enter "=". Following this, pick the cell containing the End Date and enter a Minus (-) there. The last step is to choose a start date and enter the code. Following that, choose the cell's bottom right corner and drag it down the entire column. That's all! The values will be computed automatically for you using the specific formula.
  • Enter the task's current state. Terms such as pending, in process, under review, completed, and so on can be used.
  • Enter the task's current state. Terms such as pending, in process, under review, completed, and so on can be used. 
  • Make sure all of your data is in the table, although the spacing will be wrong depending on how long your text is. To fix this, select all of your data and then, under the Cells group, click Format. Next, choose Autofit Column Width to have the column width altered automatically to fit your content.
  • To centre your content, select it and then click the centre symbol in the Alignment group.

how to project excel

3. Add Colors to Convey Project Status at a Glance

Colors and visual hierarchy can be easily added to your project plan. Floor the steps mentioned below to revise your color and visual effect in the excel sheet:

  • To change the color of the typefaces, choose the cell containing the text to be changed. Then, choose the Home tab and select the suitable color from a dropdown menu with a variety of color possibilities.
  • To change the background color of one or more cells, first select the cell (s). Then, using the paint bucket icon, pick the fill color.
  • Select one or more cells to format fonts. You may change the font style and size, as well as make the title bold, italicised, or underlined, on the Home tab. 

Aside from this, backdrop colors might be included in project designs. Furthermore, the status column's typeface may be changed to highlight the project's current state or milestones that have been met. For further information, you can always take a Professional Project Management course for more details. 

how to project excel

4. Create the Project Plan Timeline

You've already entered your project information into the table; now it's time to create the project timeline template in excel. Dates can be added and formatted. 

  • In another column adjacent to the previous one, enter the two project timeline dates. Please keep in mind that this must be on the same row as your table headings. The next step is to hold Shift, pick both dates, and drag them from the first to the last. 
  • The cells are rather huge, as you will discover. To make the timeline more compact, select all dates and lower the text size. In this instance, we've gone with font size 9. 
  • By clicking on the dates again in the cell groups, you may select the format choice. In addition, by selecting the autofit column width option, one may change the width of a column. 

how to project excel

5. Make the Project Timeline More Colorful

  • First, make your timeline have the same background colors and text formatting as your table. 

how to project excel

  • You have now generated a matrix of sorts. You have a row for each task, and you just fill in the cells on the right side of your timeline with the start and finish dates for each job. Click the paint bucket symbol after selecting a cell (or many cells). Choose your preferred color. 

how to project excel

How Do I Make a Gantt Chart in Excel?

A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart that is commonly used in project management. It provides a graphical representation of the project schedule template Excel, which aids in the creation and tracking of deadlines as well as the resources needed to complete the project. 

To make a Gantt chart in Excel, follow these steps: 

1. Set up a project table 

Each task is listed in its own row, along with the start date and duration (number of days required to complete that task). 

how to project excel

2. Create a bar chart in Excel

  • Choose a start date range, B1:B11. 
  • Select the bar chart group from the Insert tab. 
  • Then, in the 2-D Bar chart group, choose a stacked bar. 

how to project excel

  • As a result, we'll have a bar graph like the one shown. 

how to project excel

3. Including a tenure column in the chart 

  • Click anywhere on the chart with the right mouse button. 
  • From the dropdown menu, select "Select Data." 

how to project excel

  • The "Select Data Source" dialogue box will appear. 
  • The start date is already specified in the entries. 
  • To enter the tenure, click the "Add" button. 

how to project excel

  • Enter "Tenure" in the Series name field. 
  • Then, select the "range selection" icon. 

how to project excel

  • Then choose the tenure from the first cell in C2. 
  • All of the relevant cells should be dragged. 

how to project excel

  • In the dialogue box, click "OK." 
  • This bar graph appears on the screen. 

how to project excel

4. Inserting a task description into the Gantt chart

  • Navigate to the "Select Data Source" dialogue box. 
  • As shown in the figure, select the "Edit" option. 

how to project excel

  • Now you can see the tasks on the left side of the Gantt chart.

how to project excel

5. Switching from a bar graph to a Gantt chart 

  • Select "Format Data Series" by clicking on the bars. 

how to project excel

  • In the "Format Data Series" dialogue box, select "No Fill." 

how to project excel

  • Based on the data you entered, you can see the Gantt chart. 

how to project excel

  • Select the task panel. 
  • From the "Format Axis" dialogue box, select "Categories in reverse order." 

how to project excel

  • The tasks are now in the proper order, and you have this Gantt chart. 

how to project excel

  • The dates on the Gantt chart, as you can see, are from 11-Dec, whereas the dates have been entered are from 01-Jan. 
  • In any box, copy the first date. 

how to project excel

  • Click on the copied date and select the dialogue box shown in the "Home" menu. 

how to project excel

  • In the dropdown menu, select "Number." 

how to project excel

  • You can now see a number in the selected box. 

how to project excel

  • Now, click on the dates in the Gantt chart to bring up the "Format Axis" dialogue box. 
  • We'll enter the number from the previous slide into the "Minimum" box here. 

how to project excel

  • This is the final Gantt chart you will receive: 

how to project excel

6. Improving the Gantt chart's design

  • You can change the color of the bar or add effects to it. 

how to project excel

The Top Project Plan Excel Templates

A project plan is most commonly used in the context of project management, with Gantt charts used to plan and report progress as the project changes. The Gantt chart distinguishes a project plan from a work plan template in excel, making it a more integrated project plan with a way to track tasks against timelines. A Gantt chart is a dynamic, horizontal bar chart that visualizes a project schedule and is useful for communicating project status to stakeholders. This type of template is intended for project managers who are in charge of large projects involving a large number of people. 

Complete with a Gantt chart, project plan templates are most commonly used in situations such as construction project management or where a more agile project plan is required. However, when creating more complex project plans, some people prefer to use project management software, allowing them to update and manage their plans more flexibly easily. 

  • A work plan template is intended to help you break down large project goals into smaller, more manageable steps. This template specifies what must be done, by whom, and when. A timeline is also included to help set expectations and improve transparency, keeping everyone on the same page about deliverables and deadlines. A work plan template is ideal for larger teams working on complex projects with numerous tasks and deadlines. 
  • An action plan outlines all of the steps that must be taken to accomplish a specific goal. The template contains information about the actions that must be taken, the people who will carry them out, the due dates, priority, and status. While an action plan and a work plan are similar, an action plan focuses on goals. In contrast, a work plan template focuses on task phases, which are typically listed in chronological order. Individuals or small groups best use an action plan template. 
  • A business plan template emphasizes business objectives and the strategy for achieving them. It focuses on your company's future and how you intend to achieve your goals. Business plans are much more strategic than work plans or action plans, and they frequently include a vision statement, business profile, economic assessment, and other elements. A business plan is best suited for people starting their own business, expanding their existing business, or seeking outside assistance.

Download the Project plan template here!

1. Project plan template (xlsx)

2. Project plan template (xlsx)

Project Plan Template

Limitations of Using Excel to Create a Project Plan

1. extremely time-consuming.

It's easy to waste time finding, updating, and double-checking project information Because Excel is only suitable for certain data types , key documents such as the project statement and status reports must be found elsewhere. As a result, obtaining a comprehensive view of the project is impossible, including key decisions. 

2. Inadequate project information

Spreadsheets are prone to errors, especially when shared by multiple team members. It's impossible to know if you're using the most recent spreadsheet version, if the formulae are right, or if any data was modified or erased by mistake. In highly regulated in finances and healthcare sectors where the lack of transparency leads to serious issues.   

When spreadsheets are saved in different locations, inconsistent data is kept in separate silos. You might consider the case where people save a particular document that is extremely important for a project in their local documents and forget to share it. In that case, the project work plan template excel could be put on hold for several weeks! 

A lack of ownership adds to these frustrations; while many people may use the file, no one is in charge of ensuring its accuracy. 

3. Excessive information

It's a fact, that leading a team means tons of views or perspectives. For example, the information that a stakeholder looks for is quite different from what your team member might require. It's impossible to cater to all the requirements on an excel sheet. Furthermore, one has to spend their valuable time figuring out which relevant information to leave out and the ones to include. 

4. Lack of cooperation

Excel lacks essential collaborative capabilities like task lists, discussion boards, file sharing, and conversion tracking. As a result, team members find it difficult to verify the status of a work. They get confused on how to proceed with the task.   

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Pros and Cons of Excel Project Plan

Advantages of using excel.

  • Excel is best suited for simple and singular projects. 
  • Significant time and money savings 
  • Comprehensive Spreadsheet Data Warehousing 
  • To-Do Lists and Project Schedule 
  • Instant Project Data Reporting with a Single Tool 
  • Graphs, charts, and three-dimensional maps 
  • Simple Work Scheduling Templates 

Disadvantages of Using Excel

  • Collaboration Is Ineffective 
  • Fewer Real-Time Project Update Options 
  • The lack of an instant communication feature 
  • Obstacles to Ensuring Data Integrity 
  • Ineffective Issue Management 
  • Inadequate Time and Team Management 
  • Absence of Dedicated User Interface and Features 

Excel project plan template has proven to be an effective and growing method for achieving successful outcomes for projects worldwide in hundreds of industries. When a professional decides to learn more about a solution, they are preparing themselves for success—and potentially putting themselves in a better position for leadership roles. There are several project managements excel template free and to learn more on how to use excel for project management you can surely take up the best PRINCE2 course online.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. is there a project plan template in excel.

Yes, there is a project plan template in excel. This is a screenshot of the project plan template excel free download. It is based on the Interactive Project Plan Microsoft Excel Template. The free project plan template excel can be downloaded at the end of this topic.

2. What are the 7 steps of project planning?

1: Establish clear project goals 2: Establish clear expectations 3: Outline potential risks and how you'll manage them if hazards arise 4: Reduce the number of meetings 5: Arrange the ideal kickoff meeting 6: Throughout the project, pull reports.

3. What is a project plan template?

A project plan template can be a simple project plan template excel or a complex one as per the requirement. For example, you can include a static timeline or a dynamic Gantt chart and concentrate on action items or business goals. Complete with a Gantt chart, project plan templates are most commonly used in situations such as construction project management or where a more agile project plan is required.

4. How do I keep track of multiple projects in Excel?

Excel is handy for tracking multiple projects, and there are several project plan template excel free download xlsx files. You can open and create new projects after downloading our multiple projects tracking template excel free download. Then add project plans and resources. This simple and easy-to-use template makes multiple managing projects a breeze.

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Kevin D. Davis is a seasoned and results-driven Program/Project Management Professional with a Master's Certificate in Advanced Project Management. With expertise in leading multi-million dollar projects, strategic planning, and sales operations, Kevin excels in maximizing solutions and building business cases. He possesses a deep understanding of methodologies such as PMBOK, Lean Six Sigma, and TQM to achieve business/technology alignment. With over 100 instructional training sessions and extensive experience as a PMP Exam Prep Instructor at KnowledgeHut, Kevin has a proven track record in project management training and consulting. His expertise has helped in driving successful project outcomes and fostering organizational growth.

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How to create a project plan in excel (with templates), what’s a rich text element.

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Creating a functional project plan is an essential first step in launching a new project. A project plan contains all the necessary information and steps for successful execution. Since inadequate project planning is often cited as a key contributor to project failure, it’s imperative to invest time into creating a project plan before beginning a new project.

Getting started with a project plan

Experienced project managers recognize the importance of project planning , but for those just starting out, it can be overwhelming to map out everything that should be included in a project plan. Strong project plans describe the project’s goals and objectives, involved stakeholders, budget, timeline, deliverables, and resources available for the project.  

Organizing all of a project’s information together can be challenging without the help of technology. And despite the availability of professional project planning software , most companies still use Excel to plan and track projects. Here are some examples of Excel project management templates from Vertex42 that can be used to create the different components of a project plan. However, if you’re looking to manage more complex projects, Spreadsheet.com offers a variety of project planning templates .

Defining the goals and objectives

The first step in building a project plan is identifying the goals and objectives of the project.  This Project Planner Template from Vertex42 provides an easy way to list all the objectives in your project so you can begin outlining the associated tasks:

Project Planner Template

Alternatively, you can use Spreadsheet.com's Project Planning template .

Identifying project stakeholders

Project stakeholders are individuals with a vested interest in the project. Stakeholders may include your management team, internal teams working on the project, and individuals who may be responsible for a specific project task. The easiest way to identify project stakeholders is by using a RACI matrix template . A RACI matrix identifies who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed at every stage of the project.

RACI Matrix Template

As an alternative to this Spreadsheet.com template, you can use an Excel RACI template to ensure all project stakeholders are kept up to date on the project’s progress.

Creating a project budget

One of the most important pieces of a project plan is the budget, which outlines how much money is allocated to each step of the project. The failure to track the budget during project implementation can have serious consequences for your company and/or your client — depending on who is accountable for overruns.

There are several Excel Project Budget templates available, and Spreadsheet.com also offers multiple customizable budget templates that can be used for any type of project and industry.  

Establishing a project timeline

Project schedule or timeline is another key component of a project plan. This is where you can track tasks that are due and monitor progress toward your milestones. The most common way to set a project timeline is by using a Gantt Chart, which provides a visual layout of each task and the dates by when project tasks must be completed. Gantt charts are popular with project managers because they provide a clear picture of the entire project, and can help identify at-risk dependencies that could lead to project delays. A Gantt Chart template , like this one from Spreadsheet.com provides a comprehensive view of your entire project schedule, from start to finish.

Gantt Chart Template

An Excel Gantt Chart Template can also be used to oversee your project delivery dates.

Managing project resources

A skilled project manager knows that the team members assigned to the project are their most valuable assets. They understand that the project will not be completed in the most efficient way if some team members are overloaded with tasks while others have little on their plates. Managing project resources is all about tracking the work that has been assigned to team members and reassigning tasks as needed to meet the project timeline. Project resources can be easily managed with an Excel Task List Template , or, if you’re looking for additional features, this Project Status Report template from Spreadsheet.com can help you track each team member’s workload in great detail.

Project Status Report Spreadsheet

When to use Excel for project planning

Using Excel to plan your project might be sufficient if…

  • You’re working independently: Project management software comes with advanced features that are ideal for teams and organizations working with multiple internal and external resources. If you work by yourself or with a small group, Excel can work just fine.
  • You’re just starting out: If you’re in the early stages of building your business and you’re managing simple projects, Excel project plan templates will do the job. Spreadsheet.com pricing is comparable to Excel online, so your budget won’t suffer with either option.
  • You need to analyze and manipulate data: Since Excel was originally created for data analysis by sorting and organizing data, working in Excel can be a great option.

Creating a solid project plan is the first step in managing any project, regardless of its size.

You can easily customize an Excel template and effortlessly import it into Spreadsheet.com to enjoy the same spreadsheet features. Or, for more complex projects, choose from a gallery of templates available from Spreadsheet.com .

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The Top Project Plan Templates

By Kate Eby | June 8, 2018 (updated October 24, 2023)

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A project plan is an essential part of any project manager’s toolkit. While it can be tempting to get started on completing tasks as soon as possible, taking the time to map out your strategy can help you save money and resources. Your project will constantly be shifting, and you need a project plan template that can keep up. 

But, with so many available templates, how do you know which one to use? We’ve sorted through them all and found the best project plan templates in Excel and Microsoft Word. We’ll explain the different types of templates and when you should use each one. We’ll also provide a selection of free downloads of project plan templates in Microsoft Word and Excel. You’ll learn what a project plan is and how to make one from scratch in Excel. Or you can try a pre-built template in Smartsheet, a project management platform that empowers you to efficiently manage projects with real-time collaboration and process automation.

Project Plan Templates

A project plan template can be as simple or as complex as you need, depending on your style of project management and the requirements of your project planning . You can choose to include a static timeline or a dynamic Gantt chart, and focus on action items or business goals.

A project plan is most often used in a project management context, with Gantt charts to plan and report progress as the project changes. The main difference between a project plan and a work plan is the Gantt chart, making it a more integrated project plan complete with a way to track tasks against timelines. A Gantt chart is a dynamic, horizontal bar chart to visualize a project schedule and is an important asset to share with stakeholders to communicate project status. This type of template caters toward project managers who are managing larger projects with many people.

project plan template excel

‌   Download Excel Template   Try Free Smartsheet Template   ‌

Project plan templates, complete with a Gantt chart, are used most often in instance like construction project management , or where there’s a need for a more agile project plan . Sometimes, people prefer to use  project management software to create more complex project plans, enabling them to easily update and manage their plans with greater flexibility.

Simple Project Plan Template

Track project details, manage timelines, and visualize how your project is progressing with this simple project plan template. Document all key details, like task start and end dates, resources needed, and budget details, with this comprehensive, easy-to-use template.

how to project excel

‌   Download Word Template   Try Free Smartsheet Template   ‌

Work Plan Templates

A work plan template is designed to break down your large project goals into smaller, actionable steps. This kind of template outlines what needs to be done, by whom, and when. It also includes a timeline to help set expectations and improve transparency, keeping everyone on the same page about deliverables and deadlines. A work plan template is best for larger teams working on big projects with many tasks and due dates.

work plan template excel

Project Implementation Plan Template

Ensure you don’t miss or overlook any key steps and that all your bases are covered as you move through your project. Use this professionally designed template to keep key internal and external stakeholders, clients, and upper management in the loop on all phases of the project.

how to project excel

‌   Download Word Template

Action Plan Templates

An action plan lists all the steps that must be taken to achieve a specific goal. The template includes information about the actions that need to happen, the people that will complete them, due dates, priority, and status. While an action plan and work plan are similar, an action plan focuses on goals, whereas a work plan template focuses on phases of tasks that are usually listed in chronological order. An action plan template is best for individual use or by smaller teams.

action plan template excel

Project Action Plan Template

Establish the main goals of your project, identify the actions needed to achieve those goals, and assign a person to be responsible for each task with this complete project action plan template. Assign priority to tasks, view status, and list start and end dates to keep your project moving forward.

how to project excel

Business Plan Templates

A business plan template highlights business goals and the plan for achieving them. It focuses on your business’ future and how you intend to reach your objectives. Business plans are much more strategic than a work plan or action plan and often include a vision statement, business profile, economic assessment, and more. A business plan is most appropriate for people who are starting their own business, growing their business, or seeking outside help.

business plan template excel

Get started quickly with project plan templates in Smartsheet

Your projects may be complex, but your project management tool doesn’t have to be. Combine a rich set of features with flexibility, simplicity, and ease of use to deliver projects quickly. Try Smartsheet free for 30 days and get access to hundreds of pre-built, easily customizable templates to jumpstart your project. After your trial, you can choose the plan that best suits your needs or opt for the Free Plan as a no-cost alternative.

Try Smartsheet for Free

What is a project plan?

A project plan is designed to deliver the intended scope of a project, facilitate communication among stakeholders, and track planning assumptions and decisions. It is a living document that can include a stakeholder list, a scope statement, a project schedule, schedule and cost baselines, baseline management plans, communication plan, and it can change over the course of a project. It is worth noting that a project plan is not just a project timeline, although that is an important component of the plan.

You should always create a project plan before starting a new project. Start with what you want to achieve from the project and break it down into the things you need to do in order to accomplish the goal. Then, once you have a high-level plan of all the things that need to be done, you can think about timing, budget, resources, and more.

At the very least, a project plan should answer the following questions about a project:

  • Why? - Why are we starting this project? What is the problem that this project will address or solve?
  • What? - What are we working on? What are the major deliverables and goals?
  • Who? - Who will be involved in the project and what will be their responsibilities?
  • When? - When should the project start and end? What are the milestones?

What to include in a project plan

Project plans differ, but they all contain similar information. In your project plan, include an executive summary, project goals, milestones, deliverables, an estimated timeline, potential risks, and budget details. We’ve outlined some common topics covered by a project plan below:

To learn how to create your own project plan, check out our comprehensive guide to project planning.

  • Executive Summary: The executive summary should summarize the information contained within your project plan onto a single page for easy reading.
  • Project Goals: Outline the end goals of your project and how you will measure its success.
  • Target Audience: Identify the target audience of your project, or who it will affect and who will use the results.
  • Key Responsibilities: Outline the roles and responsibilities of each team member.
  • Key Tasks and Deliverables: Highlight the most important tasks and deliverables throughout the project, with estimated deadlines.
  • Available or Needed Resources: List the resources you will need to secure to complete the project.
  • Risk Analysis and Mitigation Plan: Identify possible risks and put a plan in place to manage them before they become problems.
  • Key Milestones: Identify the key milestones you will use to measure progress.
  • Proposed Project Timeline: Create an estimated timeline for tasks, milestones, and deliverables.
  • Costs and Budget Details: Create an estimated timeline for tasks, milestones, and deliverables.
  • Contingency Plans: Include any contingency plans for project elements that don’t pan out as planned.
  • Communication Strategies: Create a communication plan for reference throughout the project’s lifecycle.
  • Evaluation Strategy: Determine how you will evaluate the successes and failures of your project.

To learn more, check out our comprehensive  Project Management Guide .

What is the purpose of a project plan?

A project plan is one of the most important ingredients for a successful project. It is used to document and communicate expectations, to control schedule and delivery, and to calculate and manage risks. In general, it acts as a roadmap for everyone involved in the project.

Here are the four biggest benefits of a project plan:

  • Improves communication : By outlining your whole plan for everyone to see, stakeholders can provide feedback early in the process if things are going in the right direction. A project plan also helps facilitate expectation management by letting you update milestones and timelines as the project progresses.
  • Increases transparency : With a project plan, stakeholders and team members know exactly where to look to get information every step of the way. Expectations and the project timeline are clearly defined, so everyone is on the same page about priorities and objectives.
  • Increases organization : Many projects have dozens of tasks, dependencies, and milestones, and it can be hard to track how everything is progressing. A project plan makes you think through the timing of each activity and how it affects the rest of the project. You always know how much time to spend on each task and how many things you can accomplish at the same time.

The project planning process

The project planning process involves thoroughly mapping out your project from start to finish. At this time, determine your goals, estimate a timeline for key deliverables, create a budget projection, and assess your risks before launching your project.

  • Concept and Initiation: Start by determining the overall concept of your project and how you plan to complete it.
  • Roadmap Creation: In this phase, determine a rough timeline of the tasks necessary to complete your project.
  • Deliverable Listing: Each project must have specific deliverables, which you should identify during the beginning portion of your planning phase, so each team member is aware of what is expected of them.
  • Project Milestone Identification: Figure out specific points in the project that you consider to be key milestones. These milestones can consist of certain tasks that you complete, a budget target that you reach, or a team that you assemble.
  • Budget Creation: Creating a predetermined budget is one of the most important parts of a project plan. You should adhere to that budget as your project moves forward. This way, you can allocate specific resources and budgets to certain tasks, without exceeding spending projections.
  • Team Member Identification: As with any project, you’ll need to assemble a team of people to implement the project. Work with others to target the specific people who will be most helpful in carrying out the project.
  • Risk Assessment: You must identify all potential risks or threats to your project, including those that could cause budget issues, project delays, and more. List all those potential risks, and detail how you plan to mitigate the issues if they do occur.
  • Project Communication: Once you’ve outlined the key components of your project, you need to communicate these plans and goals to the greater team — including key stakeholders and any external parties. Develop a way to appropriately and efficiently communicate the project plans to everyone involved.
  • Project Launch: At this point, your project should be ready to launch. Ensure that you’ve covered all your bases and outlined all the details before starting. Then, you’re set to begin.

How to create a project plan in Excel

Here are some step-by-step instructions for making a project plan in Excel. You’ll first create the table with your project information, then we’ll show you how to make your project timeline.

1. Add Headers to the Table 

First, you’ll need to add some headers to your table.

  • Leave the first row in your spreadsheet blank. On the second row, type in the headers. In this example, we’re using Tasks, Responsible, Start, End, Days , and Status . You could also add more headers for extra granularity, like Budget, Cost , and more. 
  • Highlight the text and in the Alignment group, click the center icon to center the text in the headers.
  • To format the headers for proper spacing, highlight all the text you just typed and on the Home tab, in the Cells group, click Format . Select Column Width and set the width for around 15-20 so you have enough space to enter in your project information.

Create Table Headers

2. Add Your Project Information

  • Start with the Task column and enter the tasks for your project plan. You can enter as many or as few tasks as you want. To visually organize your project plan, we recommend adding a title for each group of tasks or each phase. In this example, we use Prerequisites, Initiation, Development, Operations and Launch .
  • Then, enter the person responsible for each task and the start and end dates.
  • To automatically calculate the number in the Days column, click on a cell in the Days column and type =, then click the End date cell, type the minus (-) symbol, then click the Start date cell. Click enter. Drag the bottom right-hand corner of this cell down the entire column and the rest of the values will be automatically calculated for you with this formula.
  • Enter the status of each task. We use Complete, In progress, Overdue , or Not started .
  • All the information should now be in your table, but you’ll notice the spacing is off depending on the length of your text. To fix this, highlight all your information and in the Cells group, click Format . Select Autofit Column Width to automatically adjust the column width to your content.
  • To center your content, highlight the text and in the Alignment group, click the center icon.

Add Project Details to Chart

3. Add Colors to Convey Project Status at a Glance

It’s easy to customize your project plan with colors and visual hierarchy. By changing the styling and font sizes, you can highlight key information and convey project status at a glance.

  • To change font color, click on the cell with the text you want to change. In the Home tab, select the color you want from the color drop-down list.
  • To change the background color of one or more cells, select the cell(s) you want to change. Click the paint bucket icon and select the fill color.
  • To format fonts, select one or more cells. In the Home tab, you can change the font type, font size, and make the title bold, italicized, or underlined. 

We recommend adding a background color to the main header and to each group or phase of tasks, as well as your target completion date or launch date. You can also change the font color of in the Status column to reflect current progress (in this example, red represents Overdue , green represents Complete , etc).

Add Chart Colors

4. Create the Project Plan Timeline

You’ve already added all your project information to the table, now it’s time to make the corresponding project timeline. Including a timeline in your project plan will help set expectations and increase transparency, keeping everyone aligned around priorities and due dates.

Add and Format Dates

  • On the same row as your table headers, in the next available column, enter the two dates of your project timeline. Then, hold down Shift, select the two dates, and drag the bottom right-hand corner across the row until you’ve reached your end date.
  • If you’d like to change the format of dates, select all the dates and right-click. Select Format Cells .
  • In the pop-up box, select Date under the Category section and select the date type you’d like.
  • You’ll notice that the cells are very wide. To make the timeline more compact, select all the dates, and select a smaller font size. In this example, we’ve selected font size 9.
  • Then, select all the dates again and in the Cells group, click Format . Select Autofit Column Width to automatically adjust the column width to the dates.

Add Project Dates

Add Colors to Make the Project Timeline

  • First, extend the same background colors and font formatting from your table to your timeline.

Add Colors to Timeline

  • Now, you’ve created a type of matrix. You have a row that corresponds to each task, and on the right-hand side, on your timeline, you can simply fill in the cells that represent each task’s start and end date. To do this, select a cell (or more than one cell) and click the paint bucket icon. Select the color you’d like to use.

Create Task Bars

5. Final Touches

  • To add grid lines to the project plan, select the entire project plan, both the table and the timeline, and in the Font group, click the borders icon. Select All Borders .   
  • If you want to add more project information, select the first column, right-click and select Insert > Entire Row . Repeat until you have 8 empty rows.
  • Then, in the first column, enter the following: Project Name, Project Manager, Project Deliverable, Start Date, End Date , and Overall Progress . Then, fill in the corresponding information.

Add Additional Project Info

How to create a project plan in Smartsheet

Smartsheet’s pre-built project template with a Gantt chart makes it even easier to organize tasks, foster communication, and improve transparency. In this template, duration is automatically calculated for you and the interactive Gantt chart lets you drag-and-drop task bars to adjust dates. Smartsheet’s powerful collaboration features let you have discussions directly in the project plan, attach files, and set alerts and reminders.

Here’s how to use a project plan template in Smartsheet:

1. Select a Project Template

  • Go to Smartsheet.com and login to your account ( or start a free 30-day trial )
  • From the Home tab, click Create and choose Browse All Solutions .
  • Type “ Project with Gantt Timeline ” in the Search box or select Projects from the category list.
  • Click on the  Project with Gantt Timeline  tile, then click the blue Use  button.
  • Name your template, choose where to save it, and click the Ok button.

Project Template with Gantt in Smartsheet

2. List Your Project Information

A pre-made template will open, with sample content filled in for reference and the sections, sub-tasks, and sub-sub-tasks already formatted. With Smartsheet, it’s easy to add or delete columns depending on the scope of your project.

Simply right-click on a column and select Insert Column Left/Insert Column Right to add a column or Delete Column to remove a column.

  • Add your tasks under the Task Name column. You’ll notice that the hierarchy is already formatted for you. So, be sure to enter the project phase name or group name to the Section 1, Section 2, and Section 3 fields (this is called the parent row. For more information about hierarchy, click here )
  • Enter your tasks and sub-tasks under the parent rows.
  • On the left side of each row, you can attach files directly to a task (perfect for attaching stakeholder lists, budgets, and more) or start a discussion about a certain item.

Fill in Gantt Project Details Smartsheet

3. Add Start and End Dates

  • Add start and end dates for each task. If you click and drag either end of the task bars in the Gantt chart, Smartsheet will automatically adjust the dates in your table.
  • Click a cell in the either date column.
  • Click the calendar icon and choose a date. You can also manually enter a date in the cell.

Add Start and End Dates in Smartsheet

4. Enter % Complete and Assigned To Information

The % Complete and Assigned To columns provide more information about your project and improve transparency by allowing team members to see who is doing what and the status of each task.

On the Gantt chart, the thin bars inside the task bars represent the percentage of work complete for each task.

  • In the % Complete column, enter the percentage of work complete for each task. Enter a whole number and Smartsheet will automatically add the percentage sign. 
  • In the Assigned To column, choose a name from your contact list (in the drop-down menu) or manually enter a name.

Contact column in Smartsheet

Customize your project plan in Smartsheet

With just a couple clicks, you can customize the appearance of your project timeline.

1. Customize Fonts and Colors in Your Project Plan

  • To change the font type and size, or bold, italicize or underline text, click the cell with the text you want to change. On the left-hand toolbar, you will find all the text formatting options.
  • To change the background color of a row, click the far left gray cell to highlight the entire row. Then, click the paint bucket icon and select the color you’d like to use.

Add background color in Smartsheet

2. Change the Colors in Your Gantt Chart

  • Right-click on a task bar and click Color Settings .
  • Select the color you’d like to use from the color palette.
  • If you want to apply the same color to more than one task bar, click the bars while holding down the Shift key. Then, release the Shift button, right-click on any of the selected bars, and click Color Settings .

Customize gantt chart bar colors in Smartsheet

Discover a better way to manage your project plans with Smartsheet

From simple task management and project planning to complex resource and portfolio management, Smartsheet helps you improve collaboration and increase work velocity -- empowering you to get more done. 

The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed.

When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time. Try Smartsheet for free, today.

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Tactical Project Manager

These are the Project Management Excel Spreadsheets I use EVERY DAY to manage high-stakes projects

The Project Management Templates I use to manage projects entirely in Microsoft Excel

Join me on a tour of my Project Template Pack — a complete set of spreadsheets for planning and managing all aspects of a project - including timelines, tasks, cost, risks and customer requirements.

Here’s the thing:

None of the companies I worked for provided any PM applications that would simplify the planning and ongoing project tracking. I never regarded this as a limitation. In fact, had I asked for a Microsoft Project license, I would probably have gotten one.

But I was totally okay with managing my projects entirely within Excel. The projects generally were big IT implementations such as SAP migration projects. Nothing small, but million-dollar projects!

Hi, I'm Adrian, founder and CEO of Tactical Project Manager

Adrian Neumeyer

I have been managing projects in the corporate sector for more than 10 years. Mostly large IT implementations such as SAP rollouts but also finance, engineering and logistics projects involving a diverse group of team members located in different timezones. In 2017 I started Tactial Project Manager to share the strategies and tools that enabled me to deliver intense projects with success. Read more about my story

As the founder of Tactical Project Manager, I’m in touch with project managers from basically any industry, and it’s interesting to see how widespread Microsoft Excel is among project managers. It’s fair to say that Excel is the most popular project management tool, for good reason I believe.

Because the thing is:

Managing projects in Excel is a great choice

A major part of our job as Project Managers is to organize information: We need to break down large complex activities into smaller achievable steps. We need to track dates and tasks on a detailed level.

We also heavily work with numbers, whether it’s when planning out the project budget or for benchmarking our projects against others. We need to generate visual graphs for those numbers so that we can share financial data in an executive-friendly format. We need to do all those things – organizing information, mathematics, data visualization – and this is exactly what Excel does better than any other tool!

Another reason why I keep using Excel for managing projects is that I can do my work offline. I am not dependent on internet access. Therefore I’m able to review my task lists and schedules conveniently from my PC and from any location – from the train, on the bus or on the airplane.

Sure, there are limitations to using Excel for project management. There is no out-of-the-box way for creating dependencies between tasks. But with a good project management template for Excel even adding dependencies becomes possible (my Excel Gantt Scheduler supports dependencies).

Whether you are having success managing projects in Excel or not is a question of what templates you use. You can find tons of free project management templates on the web, but many of them are either incomplete or they simply don’t meet the standards of a high-stakes project environment.

That’s why back in 2012 I decided to build my own set of project management templates for Excel

After having tried many other templates from the web and being frustrated by their limitations (some even had password protection which I could not get rid of) I made a decision:

I decided to create a complete set of project management templates from scratch. Templates that would allow me to perform all my duties in an efficient and non-overwhelming manner (I hate when spreadsheet templates are over-engineered).

Once I had built the templates, I shared them with my readers – people from all industries who manage simple and complex projects in-house and for external clients.

The feedback I received from people who tried my templates was overwhelmingly positive. It’s not that I didn’t expect so much good feedback, what struck me was how much people valued the simplicity and clean layout of the templates. I intentionally did not make them too complicated: The amount of automation (formulas) is fairly small. The templates don’t have hundreds of data columns which just take up space and are not relevant for most people.

The templates are designed for efficiency and ease-of-use. This is what makes them so powerful.

Here are some of the comments I received. The first one is my favorite, because knowing that my templates are saving people so much time makes me super happy:

"Your templates save lots of time as opposed to chasing the organization to provide the application tools.
"Your templates proved incredibly useful at managing my day-to-day involvement in many projects.”

So I am super excited to share the templates with a larger audience. You can get them here and try them in your projects!  Many of my readers tell me these are the best project management template for Excel.

The Project Management Templates for Excel I use to manage high-stakes projects

In the following section I provide an overview and screenshots of each template.

My Project Template Pack includes:

  • Project Schedule
  • Gantt Scheduler
  • Project Budget Template
  • Task Tracker / Project Tracker
  • RACI Matrix
  • Stakeholder Analysis Spreadsheet
  • Project Dashboard
  • Project Charter
  • Project Kickoff Deck

1) Project Schedule

Image of project schedule template for Excel

Every project must have a schedule, obviousy. What mattered for me also was to have a simple respresentation of the project timeline. A version which can be shared easily with team members, stakeholders and clients. Keep in mind that a project timeline is not just a planning tool. It is also a communication tool used to inform project contributors and stakeholders about their commitments.

My Project Schedule Template  for Excel serves these two purposes: It allows you to quickly plan out the sequence of steps on a weekly basis. You simply color the relevant cells in blue to add a task. Once you have finished the plan, you can easily share it with your team members and client. Sharing the timeline spreadsheet is easy. The only app people need to open the timeline is Microsoft Excel.

I only want to buy this template

2) Gantt Scheduler

how to project excel

The Gantt Scheduler enables you to plan out projects using task dependencies. It basically provides the basic scheduling capabilities of Microsoft Project – but all in the familiar interface of Excel. It works great for projects with up to 150 tasks.

How exactly does the scheduler work? You enter a project start date and then add tasks and link them with each other. Each task can have up to 3 predecessors. Based on the predecessors, the Scheduler will automatically shift tasks to the earliest possible start date. You can also add WBS numbers! The Scheduler will automatically number all tasks with a depth of up to 5 levels (E.g. 1., 1.1, 1.1.1, 1.1.1.1 etc.)

3) Project Budget Spreadsheet

The Project Budget Template allows you to quickly plan out budgets even for large projects. The feature which makes this possible is that you can define standard cost rates for your project resources. What this means: When any of the cost rates change, you do not need to manually replace the old rate with the new one in every formula. Just go to the Rates tab and enter the new cost rate. Boom! The Project Budget Spreadsheet has automatically re-calculated the project budget.

Enter planned effort & track actuals side by side

Work effort entry in the project budget template (weekly level)

Labor costs are calculated automatically using your cost rates:

Corresponding labor costs shown in the budget template

Example: Sheet for entering material costs:

Separate cost sheets for each cost type in the weekly project budget template

For a better overview of the cost information, the budget template has separate tabs for each cost type. Cost types supported are labor cost (you can specify hourly or daily rates for team members), equipment costs, material costs, service costs and travel costs.

The cost planning and tracking is done on a month-by-month basis. The reporting view provides you an instant and up-to-date picture of the planned and actual costs incurred.

Cost chart of the Project Budget Template

4) Task tracking sheet

A project task list is one of the core parts of good project templates

The Task Tracker (or Project Task List) is the most important tool in project management, and it is the spreadsheet I spend most of my time with. In the end, our focus as Project Managers should be to ensure work gets done on time and issues are being taken care of (I track issues also in the Task List and not in a separate spreadsheet, but you can also use the RAID Log for issue tracking). The Task Tracker is straightforward to use and it contains all the columns you would find in other task trackers. The Comments column is helpful for tracking the history of a task! Whom have you been in contact with regarding the task? Why is the task not moving forward? What needs to be done before the task can be closed? I like to track those details in the comments column so I always know where to continue.

5) RAID Log Template

RAID Log Template for tracking risks, issues, dependencies and assumptions in project management

Good project management is all about regularly evaluating the risks and potential pitfalls, and taking smart measures to prevent bad things from happening — or at least being prepared for the worst.

The RAID Log Template is a wonderful tool for gathering potential problems in an easy-to-understand format. Sure, a RAID Log does not solve any of the problems being recorded in it, but at least it provides transparency over those problematic areas. These could be newly identified issues, risks that may interfere with our plan, any assumptions the project is based upon as well as dependencies between tasks.

From my experience I can say the RAID Log has been most helpful as a tool for creating problem awareness on the side of the client. Whatever items you record on the RAID Log the client should treat with the necessary level of importance.

6) Risk Log (also called 'Risk Register')

Risk Log Template for Excel with sample data

A risk assessment should be done for every project, even if you have done similar projects for other clients. The circumstances can vary greatly from client to client because you are working with different people from another organization.

The Risk Log Template provides an easy format to guide you through your risk assessment workshop. You sit together with the sponsor / client, (co-) project manager and other major stakeholders, and you brainstorm potential risks the project may be facing. Using the drop-down menu you assign a risk category (resource risk, schedule risk, business risk etc.).

Then you qualify the probability of the risk to materialize and assign an impact factor – what will be the level of damage if the risk does materialize? The Risk Log Template supports up to 5 levels for probability and impact: 1=low up to 5=very likely/high impact. The most important step with the Risk Log is to assign a risk owner who will be responsible for monitoring the risk and/or for taking mitigating actions.

Risk assessment meetings can often drag on for hours when the participants try to compete over who can think of more risks. Sure, the sun may blow up in a supernova explosion and we’ll all be dead, but what are the chances of this happening? Remind the team that good risk management is about focusing and managing the biggest risks and then getting the job done.

7) Change Log

Change Log Template for Microsoft Excel

“Is this part of the project scope or not?” That’s the first question to ask yourself whenever the customer asks for a change or extension to the product or deliverable you are building. If what the customer wants is not covered by the original project scope it is a change request, and it must be tracked separately from the overall project budget.

The Change Tracker Template is your little helper for maintaining overview over all change requests. As soon as a new request comes in, you add it to the spreadsheet and discuss it with the relevant subject matter expert.

You evaluate the effect of the change request on the overall project and concept and you ask your experts for a cost estimate for implementing the change. All details should be tracked in the Change Tracker. The tracker also lets you track the status of a change request – is it open, in work or closed? – and you can add comments to maintain a complete picture over discussions you had or approvals received in relation to the change.

Download this template only

8) RACI Matrix Template

RACI example

I feel that the RACI Matrix is the most underrated but also most helpful tool for clarifying questions about responsibilities in projects with many stakeholders.

You may have a group of five people who should collaborate to complete a certain task. But because their roles are somewhat similar or overlapping (think of Marketing and Sales), confusion over who should do exactly what results in the job not getting done at all. Deadlock!

A RACI Matrix will help you solve such issues about ‘who should do what?’ You bring all contributors from the group together, explain what result you are looking for and then you assign specific responsibilities to each group member: Who should do the research? Who should create a first proposal? Who should discuss the proposal with your other stakeholders? And who needs to be consulted or informed? This is exactly what you specify in a RACI Matrix.

The RACI Matrix Template in my Project Template Pack comes pre-filled with a real-life scenario, allowing you to quickly map out your responsibility scenario within minutes.

9) Stakeholder Matrix

Stakeholder Analysis Spreadsheet

“ It’s not the project itself that is hard, it is the people that make it all extremely difficult” – How true! The reader who sent me this comment really hit the nail on the head.

The “problem” with stakeholders is twofold: A) We need to make sure we’ve got all stakeholders on board and nobody important is missing and B) We need to manage the expectations of our stakeholders carefully throughout the entire project.

The Stakeholder Analysis Spreadsheet helps you with precisely those two steps. You list all known stakeholders and you show the list to your team. Anybody you didn’t consider that needs to be included?

Next, you assess the impact of each stakeholder. You document how the stakeholder is affected by the project and you define an engagement strategy. In the last column, you enter all the insights, impressions and feedback you took away from the conversation with your stakeholder. If you put some effort and thought into your stakeholder management, you’ll also have to worry less about stakeholders bringing your project off track.

10) Project Dashboard

Project dashboard used for reporting of open issues

I created this Project Dashboard template for a project I was doing for a major construction firm consisting of several legal entities. My job was to implement S/4HANA for the organization, but the project turned out to be a real struggle because the client team was not committed. Tasks were not getting acted upon and we had to push hard to keep our milestones. So I asked myself: “What’s an effective but tactful way for me to show the client they are not doing their job?”

So I came up with this dashboard layout which breaks down open tasks by owner. I show the dashboard to the executive sponsor who will    immediately  face the facts: “Oh shit, there are 146 open tasks and 65% of these tasks we are responsible for. Let’s get those closed as quickly as possible” . The nice thing is that I don’t have to beg the sponsor to look into the matter. They will immediately call up their team and have a frank discussion and push for the work to get done ASAP.

Other key information on the Project Dashboard includes the budget status (plan vs. actual) and an RAG indicator ( what is this? ) for the overall project status (are we on track or not?). The dashboard is kept simple, and that makes it so effective.

11) Project Charter

Image of the Project charter which is included in the project template pack

The creation of the Project Charter marks the official start of a project. Most of the information that goes into the Charter you may already have collected via a project request form: the project goal, key objectives, the high-level scope and the desired finish date.

This Project Charter Template for Word provides a clear structure for detailing the key parameters of a project. The template includes the following sections: Version tracking, executive summary, project overview and goal, scope, project organization, schedule, budget, key risks, assumptions. I have included sample data and comments to help you come up with a Project Charter for your specific project.

Once the project charter is approved and signed, store a PDF copy in your project folder.

[Buy this template only]

12) Project Kick-off Deck

Project Kick-off Deck Template for Powerpoint

The Kick-off deck is a complete 14-page PowerPoint deck featuring a real-life project . 

This is from a project I did a while ago that focused on introducing electronic invoicing. Essentially replacing paper invoices with PDF invoices as a measure to save costs. It’s not too technical, so you’ll be able to understand what is being covered in the kick-off meeting. 

Even if you already have your own deck, this kick-off deck template will give you new ideas for communicating the purpose and approach of a project in a kick-off.

  • Project overview
  • Project organization
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Miscellaneous (e.g. link to project folder)

What people are saying about the templates

“Your templates save lots of time as opposed to chasing the organization to provide the application tools. — Wally R.

“Another project manager encouraged me to buy your template pack. It proved incredibly useful at managing my day-to-day involvement in many projects.” — Brandon B.

“I planned out the budget for a very large project in just one hour, normally this would have taken me all day.” — Jessica F.

“I’ve been using your templates for a while now — they have been absolute lifesavers!” —Richard S.

No risk for you

No-risk guarantee: You can get a refund within 30 days after purchase if you are not satisfied with the EVM Guide

Your Questions Answered

Can I use the templates in Google Suite? No, the templates are designed exclusively for Microsoft Office

What if I’m not happy with the templates? If you feel that the templates aren’t what you were looking for, I’m happy to return your investment within 30 days after your purchase. Just send me a note via the contact form .

What are the licensing terms? You can use the templates also for commercial purposes. This means you can share them with your team members and clients at no additional cost.

Are the templates restricted in any way? No. You can add as many entries as you like, and there is no password protection.

Can I adapt the templates to my needs? Sure. There are no limitations. Add your own logo, add more columns etc.

I have another question about your templates. How can I contact you? Send me your question via this form:

The Project Template Pack : Manage your projects confidently in Excel, Word and PowerPoint

You will get:  Project Timeline, Gantt Scheduler, Project Budget, Risk Log, Stakeholder Analysis Template, Project Dashboard, Project Charter, Change Tracker, Task Tracker, RACI Matrix, RAID Log, Requirement Specification, Kick-off deck, Lessons Learned Workshop Template

Link to project templates

  • Used at world-class companies like Apple and Amazon
  • No limitations of any kind, no password lock
  • Completely editable and customizable
  • No license restrictions: Share the files with your team and clients
  • File formats: Excel, Word, PowerPoint
  • 30 day money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied
  • Secure payment via FastSpring, a US payment provider
  • You will receive an email with the templates as a ZIP file
  • Contact form for support or questions

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How To Create A Project Plan In Excel (Step-by-step Guide)

Tips-How To Create A Project Plan In Excel

What Is A Project Plan?

Warning

A Step-by-step Guide To Create A Project Plan On Excel

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How To Create A Project Timeline In Excel (With Templates!)

Content Manager

March 24, 2023

Want to learn how to create a timeline in Excel ?

A project timeline is a record of all the important events and milestones in a project. 

And like it or not, Microsoft Excel is still a commonly used tool for this purpose.

In this article, you’ll learn about what a project timeline is, how to create one in Excel, and a better alternative to the process!

What Is A Project Timeline?

How to create a project timeline in excel, 3 excel project timeline templates, 3 limitations of using excel to create a project timeline , create effortless project timelines with clickup, the time’s up for excel project timelines.

Let’s get started!

ClickUp Gantt Chart Timeline Template CTA

A project timeline chart is a visualization of the chronological order of events in a project. It’s a series of tasks (assigned to individuals or teams) that need to be completed within a set time frame. 

Here’s what a comprehensive project timeline chart contains:

  • Tasks in various phases
  • Start date and end date of tasks 
  • Dependencies between tasks

In short, it’s something your project team will refer to track what’s done and what needs to be done . 

There are two main approaches to create a timeline in Excel. 

Let’s dive right in. 

1. SmartArt tools graphics

SmartArt tools are the best choice for a basic, to-the-point project timeline in Excel. 

Here’s how you can create an Excel timeline chart using SmartArt. 

  • Click on the Insert tab on the overhead task pane
  • Select Insert a SmartArt Graphic tool
  • Under this, choose the Process option
  • Find the Basic Timeline chart type and click on it
  • Edit the text in the text pane to reflect your project timeline

SmartArt tools graphics

Add as many fields as you want in the SmartArt text box by simply hitting Enter in the text pane to open up the respective dialog box.

Excel also lets you change the SmartArt timeline layout after you’ve inserted the text. 

You can change it to a:

  • Basic bar chart
  • Stacked bar chart

And of course, feel free to play around with the Excel chart color schemes in the SmartArt Design tab. 

Excel chart color schemes in the SmartArt Design tab

A SmartArt graphic is perfect for a high-level project timeline that displays all the important milestones. However, it may not be sufficient to display all the tasks and activities that lead up to them. 

For this, your Excel dashboard will need something more complex: like a scatter plot Excel chart. 

2. Scatter plot charts

Scatter plot charts display every complex data point at one glance. 

First, lay the foundation for the chart by making a data table with basic information such as:

  • Task (or milestone) name
  • Priority level (1-4, in increasing order)

When you add dates, make sure your cells are formatted to reflect the correct date format. For example, DD/MM/YYYY, MM/DD/YYYY, etc.

Here’s what a sample data table looks like:

scatter plot in excel

To generate a scatter plot chart from this:

  • Drag and select the data table
  • Click on the Insert tab in the top menu
  • Click on the Scatter chart icon
  • Select your preferred chart layout

making a scatter plot excel

Format this basic scatter chart to show your data even more clearly:

  • Select the chart
  • Click on the Chart Design tab on the overhead task pane
  • Click on the Add Chart Element icon in the top left corner
  • Add a Data Label and Data Callout
  • Edit the chart title

scatter plot in excel

Keep exploring to customize the scatter plot chart further. 

While scatter plot charts are slightly more complex than a SmartArt graphic, they may still not be enough for your horizontal timeline. 

And let’s not forget that the purpose of a project timeline is to manage time on a project. How’s one supposed to do that while attending Excel 101 classes to create a simple chart?

The answer lies in using a project timeline template :

Don’t we all know an Excel wizard? 

Someone who makes us feel like we skipped a class?

Well, now you can be one of them too!

Thankfully you won’t have to read moth-eaten books and sit in ancient libraries to become an Excel expert. 

Just let an Excel project timeline template do the magic. 

1. Excel Gantt chart timeline template

Excel Gantt chart timeline template

2. Excel timeline template for milestones

Excel timeline template for milestones

3. Excel project schedule template

Excel project schedule template

An Excel template should ease your project timeline worries. For some time . 👀

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on the long-term issues of Excel project management : 

Excel is like the old t-shirt that you never want to give away. 

Why should you? 

It fits you just right and has the coolest hashtags!

But if you want to achieve audacious goals, you’ll need to move beyond both of them. 💔

Here’s why you need to move on from Microsoft Excel for your project timeline needs. 

1. No individual to-do lists

Sure, being able to access gigantic spreadsheets and data series with conditional formatting is great. 

But you know what’s better? 

Something that tells you what you need to do. 

After all, Excel can’t help you build a functional to-do list and assign it to individual team members. 

Unless your idea of a team meeting is looking into your spreadsheet’s soul with a magnifying glass, Excel won’t cut it for to-do lists . 

However, let’s say you physically type out each person’s deliveries in a sheet, you still have the problem of…

2. Manual follow-ups

In the age of customized app notifications and uber-smart reminders , Excel project management depends on manual follow-ups. 

What will your strategy be? Email colleagues, conduct hourly check-ins, or tap on everyone’s shoulders to ask if they’re done with their task. 🤯

Not only is it terribly inconvenient (and frankly annoying) it gives you no idea about your project’s progress. 

3. Non-collaborative

Do you work in a non-hierarchical Agile environment where the whole team is involved in the decision-making process?

Well, guess what? 

An Excel file can’t handle this. 

Microsoft Excel (and other MS tools like Powerpoint) believe in single ownership of documents with limited support for collaboration. 

And that’s hardly the complete list of why Excel can’t deliver. 

Read all about why Excel project management SHOULDN’T be your go-to solution . 

Luckily, we can point you in the direction of smoother workflows and efficient project management. 

Check out ClickUp!

Excel is a smart, handy tool that’s also occasionally clunky and very intimidating. 

But what if you could have a tool that can do everything Excel does, except far better? 

The answer is ClickUp!

It’s an award-winning project management tool that ensures end-to-end project management without the need to toggle between windows. 

Just use the Timeline view , Gantt Chart , and Table view to get a complete picture of your project timeline on ClickUp. 

1. Timeline view 

ClickUp’s Timeline view is for those who want more from their timelines!

It gives you more tasks per row and more customization options than you can imagine. 

ClickUp’s Timeline view

2. Gantt chart view 

If you’re plotting a project timeline, chances are you’re also plotting a Gantt chart. 

It’s one step above a linear timeline as it lets you visualize project progress (as opposed to just the scheduled tasks) and trace dependencies clearly.  

And with ClickUp on your side, it’s never been easier to create a Gantt chart!

Simple Gantt Chart Template by ClickUp

Visualize projects, timelines, and more with this Gantt Chart template

Use ClickUp’s Simple Gantt Chart Template is a great way to plan out tasks and estimate how long they will take.

Easily view the relationships between tasks in an easy-to-read timeline, so you can quickly adjust resources when needed. Plus, all changes are synchronized across teams, making it simple to stay up-to-date with everyone’s progress.

Make the most of your Gantt chart experience by managing Dependencies . 

  • Draw lines between tasks to schedule project dependencies
  • Reschedule them with drag and drop actions
  • Delete them by hovering over and clicking on the dependency line and then selecting Delete

Find out the progress percentage of your project by hovering over the progress bar. 

 Gantt chart view

3. Table view

You may be wondering, “Hey, that all sounds good, but Microsoft Excel feels like home.” 

That’s why we have the ClickUp’s Table view . 

 Table view

It’s a condensed look at your project timeline. 

But you can also enhance it to show as much background information as you want. 

Amp up your spreadsheet experience with these functions:

  • Drag to copy your table and paste it into any Excel-type software
  • Pin columns and change the row height for handy data analysis
  • Navigate the spreadsheet with keyboard shortcuts

Deadlines, coordination, reviews.  Project time management is an endless struggle. And your project timeline is the one tool that helps you consistently navigate this. 

Excel may seem like a simple way out, but it’s not the friendly, long-term companion it promises to be. 

Try ClickUp for free today . 

Related readings:

  • How to create a timesheet in Excel
  • How to calculate time in Excel
  • How to create a form in Excel
  • How to make a calendar in Excel
  • How to create a Kanban board in Excel
  • How to create a mind map in Excel
  • How to create a KPI dashboard in Excel
  • How to create a flowchart in Excel
  • How to create a database in Excel
  • How to Display Work Breakdown Structures in Excel

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The 9 Best Project Management Templates for Excel (Free)

Project managers are known for their decisiveness and time management.

A project’s success depends on how a project manager identifies, plans, and employs the resources available for any given project (especially the timespan).

If you, too, have a complicated project ahead of you that requires sophisticated planning – don’t sail all the way along alone. 😃

Bringing you the best templates, Excel consistently provides a solution for everything. It offers a wide variety of project management templates that make your job all the easier.

To learn what these templates are and how you may use them, continue reading.

Table of Contents

Why Project Management in Excel?

Template 1: Gantt Chart

Template 2: Project Budget

Template 3: Action Item Report

Template 4: Project Dashboard

Template 5: Multiple Project Tracking

Template 6: Status Report

Template 7: Critical Path Method

Template 8: Project Timeline and Budget

Template 9: Content Calendar

There’s no denying the plethora of software for managing projects in the market. A new project management software comes out daily, better than the previous versions.

But even with all the excellence. Not a single software has been able to take the place of Excel project management – and there’s no wonder why.

Microsoft Excel is by far one of the most efficient software for managing tasks. And a huge number of project managers all around the world only use Excel for their work.

Their familiarity with the Excel spreadsheet greatly contributes to the software’s favor. Excel offers so many wonderful project management templates, and a lot of them are for FREE! 🤩

However, know that you can always switch to Microsoft Project software. That is if you prefer more advanced project tracker template options.

Now, let’s see the templates Excel has to offer.

1. Gantt Chart Template

The Gantt Chart template is a very helpful visual tool. It gives you an overview of the project schedule of your team at all times.

A typical example of its use can be a small content creation agency. It needs a system to assign tasks and keep a record of the deliverables. This way, you are never behind schedule.

In the Gantt chart, all the data is represented in color-coded bars. And you can customize them for different teams and individuals by changing the colors, elements, and more.

You can divide the tasks into phases or milestones with a summary of their progress. The chart also offers different layouts, and you can choose any one that suits your needs and appeals to the eye.

Excel has different variations of the Gantt chart template, from simpler ones to advanced charts. One of the most used Gantt chart templates includes the  Vertex42 Simple Gantt Chart .

You can get it from Excel templates as well. And if you don’t understand  how to create a Gantt chart , try watching this YouTube tutorial.

In addition to the simple template, you can also use the  Ultimate Excel Gantt Chart . That is if you are a business that is constantly expanding. This graph can be a bit difficult to understand, but nothing a  YouTube video  can’t solve.

2. Project Budget Template

Finalizing the budget is the first step toward successful project management. And you wouldn’t want to make any mistake here as it sets the base of the project.

You must keep track of all the expenses from start to end, and the project budget template helps you do just that.

It color-codes Balance when you are exceeding your project’s budget. This is your cue to reconsider the expenses. The best part is that you can set expenses per team, phase, equipment, travel, and others using this.

You can get the all-in-one Project Budget template from  the Project Manager . It can even help you set an estimate for all the project resources and costs. The template comes with two sheets, including a how-to guide.

But it isn’t limited to that. You can explore other options. And even customize a project budget template using  SmartSheet .

3. Action Item Report Template

The Action Item Report is one of the most useful Excel templates. Every company has a to-do list of items assigned to its team.

The Action template lets you organize the tasks and keep the workflow going swiftly. It lets you set the task status as high, low, or medium and shows each task’s progress in one glance.

You can rank tasks, update deadlines and pay special attention to team members who need help.

It is the perfect template for effective project management. You can get the Action template from Excel or from  Vertex 42  – both work wonderfully. 😉

4. Project Dashboard Template

The project dashboard template gives you a bird’s eye view of all the tasks and their statuses.

It gives you a visual representation of where your team stands. And gives you the latest key performance metrics every time.

You can also choose the layout or style you want in your Excel project management template. This makes it easy to understand the project phases.

And the best part is that this  Project Dashboard template  is 100% free – the only fee is your Email.

Protip: Check out my top-6 dashboard templates here !

5. Multiple Project Tracking Template

Being a project manager is not an easy task. Managing multiple tasks and supervising the team spells difficult. And on top of that, sending daily reports to authorities is enough exertion.

A little help in the form of a reliable project planning timeline template is necessary. It can be a tad bit complex to understand, but once you get a hold of it, you should be able to do it with your eyes closed.

The  Multiple Project Tracking Template  lets you manage all the tasks in one go. You can add as many projects as you like, manage over 40 tasks at once, and you get all this for free! Isn’t that amazing?

Download yours today and manage your daily tasks with a few clicks only. 😃

6. Status Report Template

There is nothing more embarrassing than being the project manager and not having the correct project details. Luckily, we have the Status Report template to save the day.

It lets you keep an eye on your progress as a team and identify challenges. So you can prepare for the next project while keeping the data compact and concise.

You can also keep strict and clear intel on the workflow. And this is so important while managing different projects.

If you are not already using the  Status Report template , you are working blind-eyed. And the resources of the project are subject to threat.

Using the Project Status Report template, you will know where the team members lack and how you can help them. This helps construct more relevant and purposeful follow-ups than simply increasing the bottlenecks.

7. Critical Path Method Template

CPM has a special place when it comes to project management.

With the Critical Path Method, you can pay special attention to tasks that are long overdue. Provide extra resources, and determine which task requires more consideration with increased proficiency.

Usually, you’d need specialized software to keep track of such details. But now all you need is the CPM software.

The best part is that it’s so simple you don’t need to learn any new formulas or terms to perform a critical analysis. Moreover, you can simply copy and paste data acting upon a few guidelines.

The CPM uses a Gantt chart that works like a bar chart . But offers more benefits with increased ease of use and low cost.

Creating and designing a CPM is truly a challenging task. But with this new, free version of  Critical Path Method , provided by Vertex42, you can set it up in minutes. 😀

8. Project Timeline Template

Project timelines are great for having an overview of all important tasks. They give you an insight into the project plan that you and your team can follow timely.

This way, there are no communication gaps. And everyone is well aware of their tasks and the deadlines approaching. It really adds to a more peaceful and organized working environment.

You can also customize the template as you like. You change the color bars from 6 different colors. And quickly insert and delete milestones.

Although this template is very resourceful, creating it can be tedious. This is why we’ve brought you the  free Project Timeline template  that has everything prepared for you. Just erase the existing text and add your own – you’re good to go!

9. Content Calendar Template

If you’re a blogger or a social media person, a content calendar is your go-to tool. And without a calendar, you’re knee-deep in trouble. 😬

But thank God we have Excel to our rescue.

The brilliant  Content Calendar template  of Vertex42 is tailor-made for your needs. It will take you through all the chaos – from planning content to publishing it.

It will not only help you plan your content but also track its progress and schedule content to post.

Once you get a hold of it, it will really be your best friend in times of urgency. A single glance at your calendar in the morning, and you’re well prepared for the tasks of the day.

And the best part is that it’s free to use, unlike the other expensive, good-for-nothing project management software. So get your free Content Calendar template today!

That’s it – Now what?

This article helped us learn a lot about project management Excel templates. And how they can help you better organize and manage your projects.

But it doesn’t end here. You can choose any project schedule template from the Microsoft Excel templates. And even customize one to fit your needs.

If you are new to Excel, try our Excel course designed specifically for you. Where you learn some core Excel functions like the VLOOKUP, IF, and SUMIF functions.

To become a pro at these functions (and others),  enroll in my 30-minute free email course  today. 😃

Other resources

Excel has been a major hub of project management templates for years now. And it is improving with each passing day.

All these advancements make it a more reliable software for managing project tasks.

You can use Excel not only for project management but also to create  Dashboard ,  Budget , and  Power BI templates .

To read more such interesting articles, head on to our website. See you there! 😉

Table of Contents

What is a project plan, take your project plans to new heights, what to include in a project plan, what is the purpose of a project plan, the project planning process, project management with excel , why use microsoft excel, how to create a project plan in excel, how to make a gantt chart in excel, microsoft excel templates, choose the right program, learn how to create a project plan in excel.

Learn How to Create a Project Plan in Excel

The project plan in excel is the most critical part of project management. An effective project plan involves the definition of scope and a feasibility study. After a successful plan is laid out, only then can execution begin. 

There is different project management software that can be used for effective project planning, and one of the easiest and most popular is the project plan in excel. 

Related Learning: PMP Certification Training Course Online

Microsoft Excel is one of the most widely used spreadsheet software programs in the world. It's used by people of all age groups—in schools, colleges, homes, and offices. Excel is an integral part of a majority of organizations for generating progress reports and managing business data.

The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines a project plan as a formal document that is approved by all parties involved, and that provides guidance as to how a project is executed and controlled.

The following questions need to be answered by a project plan:

  • What: What are the major deliverables of the project ?
  • How: Are we supposed to get our deliverables early or on time?
  • Who: Who will be involved in the project, and what will their responsibilities be?
  • When: When will the project begin and when is it supposed to be complete?

Now, let's check out the process of project management with Excel.

To learn more about project planning, watch our Project Planning in Excel video. This video will help you understand the process of project planning with Microsoft Excel. In it, we explain the process of project management in Excel and elaborate on the reasons why we should use the tool for effective project management.

Learn for Free! Get access to our library of over 2000 learning videos. What are you waiting for?

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Creating a project plan can be dictated through a generalized approach. But the constituents make it customized for specific domains and projects. The inclusions should be: 

Executive Summary

It is a short, one to two-page, highly informative part of the project plan. The aim is to brief the reader about the business, key points, reason for investment, and the project's existence. It should begin with an attractive point seeking the reader’s attention. The executive summary should keep the readers' interest alive and urge them to continue reading. The information flow should be as follows: 

  • Descriptive summary
  • Market analysis 
  • Products and services 
  • Distinguish the current business. 
  • Business finances 
  • Investment utilization 

Project Goals

The project goals are the ultimate aims to be achieved while working on a project. It gives a direction for proceeding rather than unintentionally and mindlessly working on the project. The goals are broader than the objective. While writing, project goals should precisely indicate the project's purpose and align with the problem statement. The project goal should reflect the organization’s vision in simple language. Most importantly, the project plan should have a single goal. 

Target Audience

The project plan must point out the key highlights suitable for different audiences. It should be customized for the target audience , thus attracting their interest. A generalized project plan is more likely to be skipped as the reader loses interest in reading further. 

Key Responsibilities 

The project team is generally employed at certain levels. Indicating the determined responsibilities of each helps the reader imagine the actions. It also provides a brief idea of the workforce and hence should be indicated. 

Key Tasks and Deliverables

These are among the significant reader’s interests. It should meet their expectations. Indicate the task and deliverables with deadlines. Determine this information considering manpower, progress, and challenges in mind. 

Available or Needed Resources

The project plan is incomplete without listing the required things. It is a pre-planned component of the project which helps in proper management. It also ensures that the project does not need to be stopped at any point due to a lack of resources. 

Risk Analysis and Mitigation Plan 

Numerous reasons lead to the inability to follow plans. Proper planning includes potential risks and methods to overcome them. The expert-designed project plan must contain the strategy to act according to possible risks and the methodology to work out things if they go wrong. 

Key Milestones 

The key milestones are indicative of the project’s progress. Besides the project manager and team, the investors should also know the milestones to understand the team's progress. They can suggest the modification accordingly as per their will. 

Proposed Project Timeline

The timeline states the expected delivery of the project. It also contains the delivery date of the goals, milestones, and other essential project parts.

Costs and Budget Details

The estimated cost for the human resources, equipment, software, and other expenditure should be utilized to make up the budget plan. The project plan will include the same for investors' knowledge. 

Contingency Plans

Businesses are full of uncertainty. Proper steps must be taken to tackle such situations. There should be separate planning indicating the backup information to overcome such hurdles. 

Communication Strategies

A mindful communication setup is crucial as no one wants to miss the update. The commonly used mode of communication should be researched and stated beforehand for the efficient functioning of the project. It should also be in direct knowledge of the reader to analyze their compatibility. 

Evaluation Strategy

The business's progress, success, and failure must be measured. Certain well-researched controls should be decided for evaluation. The standard should be up to the mark for comparison. 

Project planning is one of the preliminary steps while considering the beginning of work on a project. But knowing the reason to do so adds to its value and lets the users understand its importance. The project plan serves multiple purposes, such as:

Provides Opportunities to Succeed 

The lack of planning is often linked to the failure of projects. The reason is the lack of information on the decision of the appropriate next step. The absence of workflow or the next milestone creates confusion, where everyone takes up the most accessible or most suitable task rather than the important or priority task. The project plan maps the pathway and organization regarding tasks, schedules, and resources. 

Saves Money 

The project's failure results in a loss of spent money, hard work, funds, and other expenses. As stated, the lack of project planning is crucial in defining its success. Poor planning can fail to deal with mistakes or meet deadlines. The project might also end up scaling up, which will again throw the team off balance. 

Enhanced Team Communication 

The planning endeavor requires the participation of different involved parties, which eventually enhances communication. The discussion on simple details brings up innovative approaches and new ideologies. The project plan also focuses on the important aspect of communication between team members of different time zones. It also selects suitable communication apps that are effective for all parties. 

Avoids Wastage of Resources

The planning allows for calculating the requirements. It checks the expertise of resources and requirements of worldly things and subsequently decides the flow and working of the project. It avoids wastage by requesting the appropriate amount for allocation enough for usage and backup. 

Helps to Track

The project plan contains all the milestones, achievements, goals, and objectives. It is the right guide to check the project and the company's progress. It provides information on the direction of the company’s progress. The project plans of all the previous projects indicate the progress and growth of the company. 

Collaborates the Team 

Teamwork is responsible for the success of projects. Failure of employees to work as a team and understand their responsibilities often results in the failure of the project. Project plans clearly define the roles, responsibilities, expectations, and deliverables. The combination of expectations with deadlines and timelines helps in getting efficient results. 

Enhances Employee Relations

The employees are more likely to trust and respect a manager who knows the importance of workload management. The employees would enjoy working on projects where they get the proper work and that utilize the skills of employees. This scenario leads to valuing the employee's work, which is possible through project planning only. 

The project planning is the guidance module to be followed by the project team. The process of planning must consider different aspects which come through experience. The generalized method of planning the project contains 

  • Know the Concept: The primary step should be to know the concept and basics of the project. It involves answering questions like what, how, and why. 
  • Create Workflow: This includes creating a rough project timeline. The focus should be on adding every aspect necessary to the project. 
  • Set Expectations: Knowing what is expected at a specific time period is one of the driving factors of the project. Decide the date, week or month and the project component that should be ready by then. 
  • Identify Milestones: Set up the significant achievements as milestones to track the progress and motivate the involved members. 
  • Create a Budget: It helps decide multiple project components like team, equipment, and fund requirements and subsequently estimate the quality of work possible. The project managers or companies must stick to the set budget. Consider essential points to create a realistic budget. 
  • Select Team Members: The project will require different teams containing specific skill sets suitable for the task. It should be a mutual decision if possible. Else, discussion with involved parties must be there. 
  • Assess the Risk: The process also involves assessing the potential risks. It allows getting back on track without messing up with the flow. The step is crucial to avoid useless delays or financial issues from improper planning.
  • Set Up the Communication: Communication is among the significant aspects that need focus. The team members, stakeholders , or external parties may have different time zones. Meeting all of them at a specified time requires consideration. Moreover, the preferred communication pathway must be set to prevent any notification from being missing.
  • Launch the Project: The project can be launched safely with everything in place and worked out realistically and in collaboration. The process should have covered all the basics and critical points crucial for the project.

Microsoft Excel is often used as a simple project management tool by project managers working on small- or mid-sized projects to help visualize, plan, and monitor progress. 

Excel enables project managers to plan each task with the help of spreadsheets that include columns with the list of tasks, their owners, and the start and finish date of each task. Among other uses, most businesses rely heavily on spreadsheets to record income, expenditures, and overhead charges—primarily, everything a business does to manage its respective budget.

  • Simple data manipulation. There are several tools in Excel that can be used to sort and search for data. This makes project management with Excel more effective and efficient.
  • Analytical tools for efficient analysis. Excel helps professionals analyze large amounts of data and visualize it with graphs and charts. 
  • Easy tracking and monitoring of project status. You can create graphs and timeline charts that help track the project status. 
  • Project management templates that help to collect data and identify dependencies. These help you track the progress of the work, and compare estimated dates with the actual dates.

The project plan can be created in Excel for easy sharing. The instructions for action are stated below: 

1. Add Headers to the Table

  • These are the headings defining the information in a particular column. The users must begin writing the headers from the second row.
  • The headers can be Tasks, Assigned To, End, Duration, Status, and other such headings. 
  • Highlight the headers to attract attention and align them centrally. Go to the Alignment and select the center icon. 

Project_Plan_in_Excel_Step_1

Highlighted and Centrally Aligned Headers

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2. Add Your Project Information 

  • Divide the first column into sub-sections and enter the tasks. Head on to fill in the accountable employees associated with the team for each task. 
  • The next action will be to fill in the duration. Set the duration by going to the Days column and pressing the ‘=’ sign. Next, click on the End Date cell, type the ‘-’ sign, and click on the Start date cell. Press enter and then drag the bottom right-hand corner of the present cell till the end of the written column. The automatically calculated duration will be visible when you leave the mouse button. 
  • The status can be any of the four options: Complete, In progress, Overdue or Not started. 

Project_Plan_in_Excel_Step_2

Adding Relevant Information 

3. Add Colors For Clarity 

  • Beginning with the font color, select the text, click the Home tab, and select the preferred color.
  • Change the background color by selecting the desired cells and clicking on the paint bucket icon, then selecting the fill color. 

Project_Plan_in_Excel_Step_3

Different Colored Sections for Clarity

Adding the background color in chronological order to headers and sub-sections is a great method to catch attention. Highlight the status in different colors to convey the information. 

4. Formulate Project Plan Timeline

  • The project plan timeline assists by clearly outlining the expectations, priorities, and due dates.
  • You can create the timeline by adding and formatting due dates and adding colors to the project timeline.  

5. Conclude the Project Plan 

Finish the project plan timeline by adding grid lines. Select the complete table and head over to the Font group and select All Borders there.

A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart used in project management. It provides a graphical representation of the project schedule in Excel that helps to create and track deadlines, as well as the resources required to get the project done.

Here are the steps to create a Gantt Chart in excel:

1. Make a Project Table

Each task is mentioned in a separate row, with the respective start date and tenure (number of days required to complete that task).

project-table

2. Make an Excel Bar Chart

  • Select range of start date, B1: B11
  • Click on the Insert tab, select the bar charts group.
  • Then select a stacked bar in the 2-D Bar chart group.

how to project excel

  • As a result, we'll have a bar graph as shown.

bar-graph

3. Adding a Tenure to the Chart 

  • Right-click anywhere on the chart
  • Select the "Select Data" option, from the drop-down menu

data

  • The "Select Data Source" window will open
  • The start date is already in the entries
  • Click on the "Add" button to enter the tenure

tenure

  • Type "Tenure" in Series name
  • Then click on the "range selection" icon

range-selection

  • Then select the Tenure from the first cell from C2
  • Drag all the relevant cells

relevant-cells

  • Click on "OK" in the dialog box
  • We get this bar graph on the screen

graph-on-screen

4. Adding a Task Description to Gantt chart

  • Open the "Select Data Source" dialog box
  • Click on the "Edit" option as shown in the figure 

select-data-source.

  • Now we can see the tasks on the left side of the Gantt chart. 

left-side

5. Changing From Bar Graph to the Gantt Chart

  • Click on the bars and select "Format Data Series" 

format-data

  • Select "No Fill" in the "Format Data Series" dialog box

format-data-series

  • We can see the Gantt chart based on the data we entered.

gantt-chart

  • Click on the task panel
  • Select "Categories in reverse order option from the "Format Axis" dialog box

format-axis

  • Now the tasks are arranged in the right order, and we have this Gantt chart

how to project excel

  • As we can see the dates on the Gantt chart are from 11-Dec, while the dates we have entered are from 01-Jan
  • Copy the first date in any box

first-date

  • Now click on the copied date and go in the "Home" menu to select the dialog box shown

dialog-box.

  • Select the "Number" option in the dropdown menu

number-option.

  • Now, we can see a number displayed in the selected box 

number-displayed

  • Now, click on the dates on the Gantt chart and the "Format Axis" dialog box opens
  • We'll put the number received in the previous slide, here in the "Minimum" box

minimum-box

  • This is the final Gantt chart that we get:

final-gantt-chart

6. Improving the Design of the Gantt Chart

  • We can change the color or put effects on the bar

put-effect

Finally, let's look at some Microsoft Excel templates that further eases the process of project management.

Microsoft Excel templates give direction on ways to manage and monitor tasks, subtasks, and their progress in a project. 

Let's look at a few standard Microsoft Excel templates .

1. Excel Project Review Template

review

  • The Project Review Template gives a clear overview of all the planned, outstanding, and completed tasks
  • This template enables project managers to measure project progress and share with stakeholders

2. Excel Budget Template

excel-budget

  • The Budget Template keeps track of all the expenditures in a project to manage the budget accurately
  • This template helps project managers compare the planned budget for each project phase with the actual cost

3. Excel Sprint Project Tracker Template

project-tracker.

  • The Sprint Project Tracker is used for agile projects to plan and prioritize different sessions or sprints of it
  • This template includes the start date, end date, duration of each task, and percentage of completion rates

4. Excel Project Tracker

excel-project.

  • The Project Tracker includes all tasks with their status and owners, the percent complete and planned, and planned duration versus actual duration
  • This template tracks all scheduled tasks and tracks them against the original plan

5. Excel Project Schedule Template

project-schedule

  • The Project Schedule Template provides a clear view of all the work associated with project delivery
  • This template helps in the efficient management of the project, keeping track of time and any work overdue

6. Excel Project Status Report Template

project-status.

  • The Project Status Report Template lists the deliverables, developments, and risks associated with the project
  • This template gives project managers a way to inform everybody involved with critical project activities

7. Excel Milestone Tracker

milestone-tracker

  • The Milestone Tracker helps track the progress of different events in a project
  • This template helps project managers list their critical milestones and monitor their performance against the project timeline in Excel

8. Excel Project Planner

project-planner

  • The Project Planner includes the list of tasks and its owner, along with the start and finish date of each task
  • This template helps keep track of project progress while comparing estimated task dates versus actual dates

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Project plan in Excel has proven to be an effective and growing method to produce successful results for projects all around the world in hundreds of industries. When a professional decides to learn about the solution in-depth, they equip themselves for success—and potentially put them in a better position for leadership roles.

Simplilearn is a leading organization that provides training for work in the digital economy. We drive innovation and accelerate careers for thousands of professionals like you. Today, you can sign up for the PMP® Certification Training Course . When you use effective tools like Microsoft Excel templates, you can raise your career to a whole new level.

Our Project Management Courses Duration And Fees

Project Management Courses typically range from a few weeks to several months, with fees varying based on program and institution.

Get Free Certifications with free video courses

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Recommended Reads

An Introduction to Project Management: A Beginner’s Guide

How to create a project plan in MS Project?

What is Project Planning: Tools and Fundamentals

Project Management Interview Guide

Project Management Plans in Project Environment

How to Create a Maven Project in Eclipse

Get Affiliated Certifications with Live Class programs

  • PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

Four tips to track projects in Excel

november 15, 2023

A woman with brown hair smiling at the camera, wearing a purple top against a green background.

by Farizat Tabora

As a small business owner, I know how important it is to stay organized and keep track of projects. Excel is an excellent tool for project management. In this video, I'll be sharing my top Excel tips for managing projects effectively.

Let’s open the Excel project tracker template that I got from the Microsoft Create website (hint: if you're interested in other Excel templates, we have you covered ). Once we have the project tracking template open, we can customize it to our needs.

Tip #1: Track the status of each step with a drop-down menu

The first tip to track projects in Excel is to monitor the status of each step. You can do this using the drop-down menu. Here's how to do it: Highlight the cells, go to Data Validation > List . In the Source field, type in the options for the drop-down menu (Not started, In progress, Done), then select OK .

Now I can click on the cell and select the status for each step. This way, I use the Excel project tracker to quickly see which steps are still pending, which ones are ongoing, and which ones are complete.

Tip #2: Track how much time is left in each project

The second tip is to track the number of days left to complete the project. In the "Days Left" column, type =Due Date-TODAY() .

In this formula, Due Date references the “Due Date” column, which we subtracted from today’s date to get the remaining days before the task is due.

Using this formula in the Excel project tracker helps me to stay on top of deadlines.

Tip #3: Track your progress for each project

The third tip is to calculate progress for each project. To track progress for each project in the Excel project tracking template, first you count the number of completed tasks for each project using the COUNTIF function.

The COUNTIF function is used to count the number of cells in a range with certain criteria. So let’s type in progress column =COUNTIF( .

Now select the range, where range is the range of the cells to count. Now, it should look like this: =COUNTIF(ProjectTracker3[@[Task '#1]:[Task '#3]] ,

“Criteria” is the value we want to count. In this case, we want to see when it’s done, so type “done” in quotation marks, and it should look like this:  =COUNTIF(ProjectTracker3[@[Task '#1]:[Task '#3]],”done” .

Now close the brackets, and we’re almost there: =COUNTIF(ProjectTracker3[@[Task '#1]:[Task' #3]],”done”) .

Then, we divide that number by the total number of tasks, which is 3, to get the percentage of completed tasks for the project.

Tip #4: Visualize your progress

The fourth and final tip for project tracking is to visualize your progress in Excel with a data bar. Highlight the progress column, Go to Conditional Formatting > Data Bars > Choose a color .

Now I can easily see progress for each project in the Excel project tracker and see which one needs more attention.

As a small business owner, I have a lot on my plate, and these Excel tips help me to manage my projects more effectively and stay on top of my deadlines! Try using the Excel project tracker yourself.

Related topics

how to project excel

Export your project to Excel

When managing a project in Project for the web, you can export your project to Excel. Having your project data in an Excel file allows you to:

Send a file containing project details to external stakeholders

Create reports and visuals

Archive copies of your project data for audit and compliance

Print copies of your project

Here's how to export your project:

Go to project.microsoft.com and open the project you want to export to Excel.

In the top right corner, select the three dots ( ... ), then select Export to Excel .

Screenshot of the menu in Project for the web showing the Export to Excel option

When you see the message " All done! We've exported [your project name]. " at the bottom of the screen, you can look for your new Excel file where you store your downloads.

When you open the Excel file containing your project, you'll see a tab called "Project tasks" that contains a summary of project-wide information at the top, including its name, project manager, and the start and finish dates, duration, and percent complete for the whole project. You'll also see what date it was exported. Under that, you'll see a table of all the information for your project.

While Project desktop   has many built-in reports that let you present all sortsof project data to your stakeholders, you can also export your project data to Excel for in-depth data analysis and visual reporting. In Excel, you can create PivotTable reports, charts, and use many other features that help you create a more visual report.

You’ll have to map your project data for proper arrangement in Excel, but the Export Wizard will guide you along the way.

Choose File > Export > Save Project as File , and under Other File Types , double-click Microsoft Excel Workbook .

Save Project file as Microsoft Excel workbook

(In Project 2010, choose File > Save As , and next to Save as type , choose Excel Workbook .)

In the Save As dialog box, pick a location for the workbook.

In the File name box, type the name you want, and choose Save .

The Export Wizard appears.

Export Wizard

Choose Next to get started.

On the Data step, choose Selected Data , if it’s not already selected.

On the Map step, choose New map to create your own data settings for mapping your data from Project fields to appropriate Excel fields.

To use a predefined or previously defined map, choose Use existing map , and then pick the map you want to use.

On the Map Options step, pick the types of data you are exporting and the options you want.

On the Task Mapping , Resource Mapping , or Assignment Mapping steps, edit any mapping assumptions Project made, and enter any new mapping fields:

In the From column, type or select a Project field, and then press Enter.

Use the buttons below the mapping table to insert or remove rows, or apply a Project table for mapping.

Use the Move buttons to rearrange fields.

Under Preview , verify the layout of your export map.

If needed, pick a specific export filter in the Export filter box.

Choose Next .

On the End of Map Definition step, choose Save Map if you want to use it again, and type a name in the Map name box. The new map will be added to the list of predefined maps.

Click Finish .

To view your exported project data, open the workbook in Excel.

Work with your project data in Excel

After you open your workbook in Excel, you might notice that some data didn’t come in quite as you expected. No problem! In Excel, you can use Flash Fill to quickly clean up columns of data , for example to change numbers to dates, or text to numbers.

Then you can analyze and format your data to create the visual reports you want:

Analyze trends in data using sparklines

Let Excel recommend a chart

Create a PivotTable to analyze worksheet data

Create a PivotChart

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How to Make a Gantt Chart In Excel Step-By-Step (Template Included)

ProjectManager

Gantt charts are a type of bar chart that’s used in project scheduling. The first design for a Gantt chart was made by Henry Gantt some time between 1920-1915. In the 100+ years of its existence, the Gantt chart has moved from paper to digital tools, such as a Gantt chart in Excel.

If you’re not using a Gantt chart to schedule your tasks and see your entire project on a visual timeline, then you’re at a disadvantage. While complicated to create and edit on paper, a Gantt chart in Excel is easier to use. Let’s go into why to use a Gantt chart in Excel, how to make one and where to download a free Gantt chart template in Excel.

Why Should You Make a Gantt Chart In Excel?

A Gantt chart is an essential tool in project management, especially for projects that use traditional methodologies, such as waterfall. That’s because the Gantt chart for Excel details the structure of a project that moves forward linearly, phase by phase.

how to project excel

Get your free

Gantt Chart Template

Use this free Gantt Chart Template for Excel to manage your projects better.

The Gantt chart for Excel organizes tasks, including their start dates and end dates. This duration is then reflected on the timeline as a bar. You can even track the progress of those tasks by shading that bar according to what percentage of the task has been completed.

As noted, a Gantt chart for Excel is two documents. On the left-hand side is a normal-looking spreadsheet. Here, you can list your tasks, due dates and resources needed including the costs related to that line item. The Gantt chart for Excel spreadsheet can capture a large volume of valuable project information.

The timeline side of the Gantt chart for Excel can pinpoint milestones. These are usually diamond-shaped icons that indicate important project dates, such as the end of one phase and the beginning of another or a deliverable, etc. You can even indicate tasks that are dependent on another task in order for them to start or finish.

As useful as a Gantt chart for Excel can be, there are limitations. Even a digital Gantt chart requires manually updating data, which takes time away from the project. There has been another evolution as Gantt charts on paper moved to Gantt charts for Excel and, now, Gantt charts as part of a larger project management software solution.

ProjectManager is award-winning project management software with powerful Gantt charts that go beyond the limitations of Gantt charts for Excel and connect to all our other features seamlessly. You can do everything on our Gantt charts that you can do on a Gantt chart for Excel and link all four types of task dependencies to avoid delays, filter for the critical path to identify essential tasks and set a baseline, which allows you to monitor the planned progress against your actual progress in real time to help you keep the project on track. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

how to project excel

How to Make a Gantt Chart In Excel

Making a Gantt chart in Excel is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process because Microsoft Excel doesn’t have built-in features for making Gantt charts like ProjectManager. However, you can still manually create Excel Gantt charts if you’re an advanced Excel user, as complex Excel formulas and formatting is required to shape a spreadsheet into a Gantt chart from scratch. Here’s a quick overview of what this process looks like.

1. Make a Project Table

Make a table with four columns as shown in the image to list your project tasks. Then, add a formula to calculate the duration of each task by subtracting the end date from the start date. This is the duration value.

Task list from a Gantt chart for Excel

2. Make a Stacked Bar Chart

Make a standard stacked bar chart with data from your project table. The first thing you’ll need to do is to select the “Start (Date)” column and then click on insert and select the stacked bar chart from the graph menu, as shown in the image below.

Excel Gantt chart stacked bar chart.

3. Add Data to Your Excel Gantt Chart

Right-click the stacked bar chart and then click on “select data” from the dropdown list.

Gantt chart, adding data.

Then click “Add” under “Legend Entries (Series)” and use the data selection tool to grab values from the “Duration (Days)” column. Select only the “Duration (Days)” cell to set it as the “Series name.”

Gantt chart, edit series value.

Then select the rest of the column as the “Series Values.”

Gantt chart Excel tutorial step, edit series.

4. Edit the Horizontal Axis of Your Excel Gantt Chart

Right-click your stacked bar chart again and click on “Select Data,” but this time, click on “Edit,” under “Horizontal (category) Axis Labels.

Gantt chart, select data source.

Next, select all values from the “Task Name” column.

Gantt chart for Excel, showing how to add task name.

After you’ve taken these steps, your stacked bar chart should look like this.

Final version of the Excel Gantt chart

5. Format Your Excel Gantt Chart

To turn this stacked bar chart into a Gantt chart timeline, you’ll need to format this stacked bar chart to show the task bars like a Gantt chart. To do so, follow these two steps:

Right-click the blue bars, go to format data series and then remove the fill color.

Final version of a Gantt Chart for Excel

Now right-click the task names, go to the format axis and then check the “categories in reverse order” checkbox.

Edited Gantt chart for Excel

And that’s how you make a Gantt chart in Excel. However, if you’d like to save some time, you can use our Gantt chart template for making an Excel Gantt chart in minutes.

Gantt Chart Excel Template

Yes, building a Gantt chart for Excel from scratch is a lot of work. But it’s worth it. Still, there are workarounds. For example, ProjectManager has a free Gantt chart template for Excel that you can download and use right now. Our free Gantt chart for Excel is formatted so you can just add your tasks and start and end dates and they’ll automatically populate the timeline to the right. Download your free Gantt chart template for Excel now and save yourself the time and effort of building one from scratch.

how to project excel

Advantages of Excel Gantt Charts

We’ve already mentioned some of the advantages of using a Gantt chart for Excel, but there are many more. The most obvious advantage is that a project manager can see everything that’s going on in the project, but also it improves communication with stakeholders and the project team. Managers know who’s working on what, when it’s due and whether it’s on track.

A Gantt chart for Excel also helps with avoiding resource overload . You can plan your resources efficiently and make sure you have what you need when you need it. Using task dependencies makes it easier to avoid overlapping activities, which can cause bottlenecks that impact your schedule. This also improves time management, which is important for keeping to your project schedule.

You can also build better communication with your team and that’ll lead to improved productivity. The work is transparent on a Gantt chart for Excel, which helps teams collaborate. And, if you’re working on more than one project at a time, you can view all those projects on a Gantt chart for Excel to better share resources and get the most value out of the portfolio or program.

Disadvantages of Excel Gantt Charts

All that doesn’t mean Gantt charts for Excel are without their problems. As you can see from the how-to tutorial above, building a Gantt chart in Excel can be difficult. There’s a lot you have to manually add and the more complex the project, the more arduous the task of creating a Gantt chart in Excel. That doesn’t even speak to having to edit the Gantt chart in Excel, which is almost like starting from scratch.

You can try to add formulas to build the bar chart part of the Gantt chart, but Excel isn’t really built for this type of work. It’ll involve coding beyond a simple formula to populate the bar chart from the spreadsheet. While you can get templates that do this, they still require manually inputting the data. Suddenly, the cost in terms of time is trumping whatever savings you might suggest you’re getting from not investing in project management software .

The advantages of using a Gantt chart are undisputable, however, a Gantt chart for Excel puts the brakes on the efficiency of the tool to the point many will shy away from using it. That’d be a mistake. Gantt charts don’t have to live in Excel spreadsheets. When part of a project management software they are easy to create, edit and share with the team.

Free Project Management Templates for Excel

Of course, everyone loves free templates. If you’re not ready to upgrade to project management software, ProjectManager has dozens of free project management templates for Excel and Word that you can download right now. We have free templates for every phase of your project. Here are a few that work well with the Gantt chart for Excel.

Project Budget Template

To help make more accurate estimates when budgeting a project, use our free project budget template for Excel. Our free budget template for Excel lists all your tasks, the accompanying labor and material costs and even has columns to track your actual costs against your budget.

Project Plan Template

Before you can fill in your Gantt chart for Excel you have to have created a thorough project plan. Use our free project plan template for Word to write everything from your project scope, milestones and tasks to budget, risk and change management.

Project Dashboard Template

A Gantt chart for Excel can help you plan and even track your work to an extent. But when you need an instant high-level overview use our free dashboard template for Excel. It converts raw data into charts showing costs, workload and much more.

ProjectManager Is Better Than Making a Gantt Chart In Excel

Once you get tired of manually updating your templates, which are always behind the project you’re tracking, then you’ll want to upgrade to project management software. ProjectManager is award-winning project management software that delivers real-time data to make more insightful decisions. Our Gantt charts leave Gantt charts for Excel in the dust, automatically updating with live data so you’re seeing the actual project’s progress and performance, not a snapshot of yesterday’s news.

Work on Multiple Project Planning Tools

But the Gantt chart is only one of the multiple project views you get with our software. Gantt charts are great for managers, but teams usually don’t need all that data. They want to focus on their tasks, which is exactly what they can do with robust task lists. Or they can manage their backlog and collaborate with kanban boards that visualize workflow and give managers visibility into the process so they can spot bottlenecks early and reallocate resources quickly to keep production moving forward. The calendar view is great for stakeholders who want to make sure milestones are being met. All views update simultaneously so everyone is always on the same page.

Track With Real-time Project Dashboards

You can use the free dashboard template for Excel, but why waste all that time setting it up and manually inputting the data? Our real-time dashboard works automatically and captures live data, which is then displayed in easy-to-read graphs and charts that show project metrics such as time, cost and more. Other project management tools have dashboards, but just like an Excel spreadsheet, you’ll have to spend a lot of time configuring them. Ours is ready to give you a high-level overview of the project whenever you want. Just toggle over and it’s ready.

ProjectManager's dashboard

Our software also has risk management features to identify project risks when planning and then track and resolve issues as they arise in the project. Resource management tools make it easy to set the availability of your team to streamline assignments and then monitor their work to balance workload and keep them productive. There’s automated workflow and task approvals and so much more than a Gant chart for Excel can’t even dream of.

Related Content

  • Best Gantt Chart Software
  • How to Make a Gantt Chart in 5 Steps
  • How to Make a Gantt Chart in PowerPoint
  • Five Gantt Chart Alternatives
  • Easy Ways to Make a Gantt Chart with Google Sheets (Plus Templates)

ProjectManager is online project management software that connects teams whether they’re in the next office, at the job site or anywhere in between. We foster collaboration by making it easy to share files, comment at the task level and much more. Join teams from Avis, Nestle and Siemens who use our software to deliver successful projects. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

Click here to browse ProjectManager's free templates

Deliver your projects on time and under budget

Start planning your projects.

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How To Create a Gantt Chart in Excel

Katie Gray Photo

Katie is a Chicago-based editor. She started her career writing and editing content about home warranty, renters insurance, homeowners insurance and other home services topics before transitioning to home improvement products. She has spent the last year and a half working at a software company, managing content about CRMs, project management tools and other tech topics.

A Gantt chart is a visualization that shows the start and end dates of each task in a project. These tasks may happen simultaneously, happen one after the other and/or overlap with one another.

Managers use Gantt charts to track their team’s progress. While there are advanced project management (PM) tools for creating Gantt charts and other visuals, you can also create them using Microsoft Excel’s Stacked Bar Chart feature. Keep reading to learn how.

What Is a Gantt Chart?

Gantt charts get their name from Henry L. Gantt who invented them in the late 1800s to early 1900s as a way to showcase project schedules. 

Each Gantt chart takes a table with tasks, start dates and end dates and turns it into a graph that shows how long each task has taken with a bar. The bars lie horizontally. The longer the bars, the longer the tasks have taken to complete. The names of the tasks sit on the vertical axis with their corresponding bars to the right of them. The end result looks something like a set of stairs.

Making a Gantt Chart in Excel: The Step-by-Step Process

Unfortunately, there is no Gantt chart button in Excel. You have to manipulate a bar chart to turn it into one. Here is how to do that:

  • Start with a blank sheet. Add a simple table with a column for tasks, a column for start dates, a column for end dates and a column for duration (number of days to complete).

how to project excel

  • Select the start dates, including the title in box B1. Hover from Home to Insert along the horizontal menu at the top.

how to project excel

  • Next to the Recommended Charts button is a button for Insert Column or Bar Chart. Once you click that, select Stacked Bar under 2-D Bar.

how to project excel

  • The shell of the chart should appear. Right-click on the chart, and choose Select Data.

how to project excel

  • Under Legend Entries (Series) on the left side of the pop-up window, click the Add button.

how to project excel

  • For the Series name, click box D1 to name it Duration (Days).

how to project excel

  • Move down to Series values. Delete the {1}, but keep the =. Then, select the remaining duration cells, excluding the title in D1. 

how to project excel

  • You should return to the Select Data window. On the right side of the window under Horizontal (Category) Axis Labels, click the Edit button.

how to project excel

  • For the Axis label range, select the task cells, excluding the title in box A1.

how to project excel

  • Press OK again to close the Select Data window.

how to project excel

  • Your chart is almost done. Click on the blue boxes to highlight them.

how to project excel

  • Right-click to open a window. Hover over the paint bucket labeled Fill.

how to project excel

  • Open the Fill drop-down menu, and check the Automatic box above Theme Colors.

how to project excel

  • The final step is to right-click on the tasks listed along the vertical axis.

how to project excel

  • In the window that opens, select Format Axis.

how to project excel

  • This should open another window along the right side of the screen. Choose categories in reverse order.

how to project excel

Here is what the completed chart looks like:

how to project excel

You can reformat the elements as you see fit. For instance, maybe you want to:

  • Change the orange color of the bars to a different color
  • Change the chart from a 2-D Stacked Bar to a 3-D Stacked Bar
  • Add a chart title
  • Add labels to the vertical and horizontal axes
  • Add the number of days above each bar

Using an Excel Gantt Chart Template

If you don’t want to create a Gantt chart from scratch, you can use a template. You can find Microsoft’s Gantt chart templates in the help center. Choose the template you want, open it in Excel and customize the values and formatting.

Alternatives to Excel Gantt Charts

Even with a template, you still have to go in and manually add the data. If you want to avoid this altogether, it might be time to upgrade to PM software. PM software can be costly, but it has:

  • Custom workflows
  • File storage
  • Access permissions
  • Revision history

One of the best features of a PM tool is its dashboard. The dashboard generates reports and visuals for you automatically based on the parameters you set. One such visualization you can set it to generate is a Gantt chart.

The Bottom Line

A Gantt chart is a common visual used in the project management space. You can create and customize your own Gantt chart in Excel. Just be sure to update it regularly as new data on started and completed tasks comes in.

Frequently Asked Questions About Gantt Charts in Excel

Does microsoft excel have a gantt chart function.

No, Microsoft Excel does not have a Gantt chart function. However, you can use the Stacked Bar Chart button or a Microsoft Gantt chart template .

What are the key elements of a Gantt chart?

The key elements of a Gantt chart include tasks, start dates and end dates. From the dates, you can get duration, which is the main element displayed with the bars.

What should the start and end dates represent in a Gantt chart?

The start and end dates in a Gantt chart should represent the day the team started working on the task and the day the team finished working on the task. Each task should have its own start and end dates to give you an overview of how long the entire project is taking.

Can you make a Gantt chart in Google Sheets?

Yes, you can create a Gantt chart in Google Sheets. The process in Google Sheets is similar to that in Microsoft Excel with a Stacked Bar feature. You can also visit the Google Sheets homepage to find a Gantt chart template along the top bar.

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how to project excel

How to choose a project management tool

Find the project management tool that's right for you

Man holding a pen to paper

What is project management?

Step 1: what are your business needs, step 2: what is your budget, step 3: what are the challenges, step 4: what features will you need, step 5: how will you measure success, step 6: take part in a trial, step 7: final research, step 8: make your decision.

A good way to think about the average workday is to break it down into a series of projects. Some of these projects will be big, taking place over a series of weeks or months, and some can be completed in a few hours. Some will be worked on by entire teams and others will be personal endeavors. The best project management software can be used across a variety of different tasks and work for a number of different industries.

But with a broad spectrum of project management tools available and a variety of different use cases, picking the right one for your requirements isn’t always easy. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on how to choose a project management tool. There’s also bound to be some overlap with a CRM solution, so don’t forget to check out our list of the best CRM software available too. But if project management is your focus, this article should answer a few questions.

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A guide to choosing the right project management tool

First of all, it’s important to set out exactly what we mean by project management . Project management is the application of methodologies, processes, skills, and software to a particular project . This project will have clearly defined goals and a set time frame. This separates it from just management, which is an indefinite, ongoing process.

Project managers require a wide range of skills in order to drive and organize the skills of their team towards a particular outcome. Crucially, there are a number of software solutions that can help with this. We’ve outlined eight step to ensure you pick the right one. 

As with all forms of business software, it’s difficult to know exactly what type of solution you need unless you’ve got clear goals that you want to achieve. Projects can focus on a number of different industries, so you should start by outlining your objectives. That way, you can confidently say why you need project management software.

Although it’s fine to start with broad, big-picture goals like increasing revenue or boosting customer numbers, don’t forget to drill down into greater detail regarding your projects. These more specific project goals include improving communication between teams, meaning deadlines, acting on customer feedback, or improving collaboration .

Once you’ve outlined your business goals, it will become easier to rule out certain project management tools that aren’t relevant. This will make it leave you with a smaller pool of solutions to choose from, focusing your search and making it more likely that you’ll find a tool that suits your needs.

Before you commit to any business tool, whether it’s a an online marketing service or a cloud storage solution, you need to be clear around how much you have to spend. When working out your budget, remember to think long-term, not focusing too much on what your initial costs will be. This is especially important with cloud computing services , which often involve subscription costs paid out monthly or annually. 

With a cloud-based project management tool, your initial outgoings are likely to be small, but it’s important to consider what your ongoing costs might be. These can add up over time and make any solution expensive in the long-term. Also consider if your payment terms grant you access to the entire range of functionality that comes with your chosen project management tool. Some features may only be available to the higher payment tiers, for example. 

Furthermore, don’t discount the great free project management software on the market. These aren’t necessarily inferior for being free of charge. Many solutions, from Trello to Zoho Projects , won’t cost a thing but still provide useful features like scheduling and automation.

There’s no point in pretending that the adoption of a completely new business tool will be without any issues. Getting to grips with your new project management solution could be scuppered by any number of roadblocks. If you make a note of what these might be in advance, you’ll be better prepared for them. 

For example, do your employees have the skills to use your project management tool without additional training or support? If not, what sort of investment can you commit to here - in terms of finances and time? How will your chosen project management tool fit with your existing IT stack? It’s likely that your employees are already used to certain ways of working and particular tools. Will your new project management fit in with these seamlessly or is there likely to be a bedding in period?

Integration is another potential challenge. Some project management tools, like Miro , cite their third-party integrations as one of their core strengths but you might find some issues with others. Often these integrations can be crucial to smooth-running projects including with well-known tools like Slack , Dropbox , and many others.  

The features on offer with a project management tool can vary significantly, so it’s a good idea to compare your needs to the functionality of your prospective tool. Some of the more common features that come with a project management tool include timeline management, collaboration tools, progress tracking and analytics. 

It’s important to remember, however, that you might not necessarily have access to a feature just because it is part of your chosen project management tool. It could be that the feature you’re interested in is only available if you commit to the higher pricing tiers. Automation, for example, is normally considered to be one of the more advance features with any project management tool - but it is also one of the most useful in terms of boosting productivity . It’s a feature that can free your employees of the most repetitive manual tasks so they can focus on adding value to your projects.

Before you choose a project management tool, it’s a good idea to have an idea of how you will determine if it’s meeting your needs. Come up with some metrics to measure how successful your project management implementation is. KPIs you may want to focus on include time to completion, budget variance, customer satisfaction, and risk management effectiveness. 

You also need to make sure you’re collecting enough data so you can be sure whether you’re meeting your KPIs or not. Don’t be too despondent if you don’t manage to meet them with the first project you assign to your project management software. It might mean that you need some more time to become familiar with the tool and it should still serve as a great oppiortunity to learn more about your ways of working.

The best way to be sure you are choosing the right project management tool is to gain first-hand experience. The best way of doing this while protecting your finances is to sign up for a free trial. Many project management tools offer this, such as Liquid Planner , which allows users to enjoy the platform for 14 days before they commit to a longer contract. 

Most of the time, the full range of features are available with the trial version of the project management tool. This means you can try the solution against a number of different scenarios to test its suitability for your business. Note whether the free trial is an opt-in or opt-out service as this will determine if you’ll automatically be charged when the trial period finishes. And make sure you have a way of evaluating whether the trial has been a success or nor before you start.

You’re getting close to choosing your project management tool so it’s time to conduct some final bits of research. A good way to conclude your seearch is to ask individuals and businesses what they think of your prospective solution. Ask them to be as candid as possible, outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the tool. 

As well as reaching out directly, have a look at online forums and review sites to gauge the general opinion around the project management platform. Make sure you seek detailed feedback too - not simply whether a solution gets the thumbs up or not. What doesn’t work well? Have you seen many updates or advancements since you began using the platform? These are all questions that could help inform your choice of project management solution.

Once you've completed all the necessary due diligence is time to take the plunge and pick a project management tool. Take all your research, internal evaluations, stakeholder opinions, and more, collating everything so you can determine which platform is the best fit for your needs. 

However, the decision you make doesn’t need to be a long-term commitment. Monitor how the project management solution is performing and don’t be afraid to switch to another platform if you start failing to meet your KPIs. The right project management tool may change based on your evolving aims. Make an informed decision but always leave it up for review.

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Barclay Ballard

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with ITProPortal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things. 

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how to project excel

Organize Data via Excel Spreadsheet

£20-250 GBP

Paid on delivery

I need an Excel expert to help me with data organization. The purpose of this task is to streamline and manage a large volume of data in Excel spreadsheet.

- Manipulating and organizing the data into a more comprehensible format. 40,000 lines of trade data need to be sorted. The task is an actual cost of trades vs alternative fee structure cost of trades comparison exercise.

Ideal skills:

- Proficiency in Excel: You need to be highly skilled in Excel, including formulas, charts, and tables.

- Attention to detail: I need someone who can carefully review the data to ensure it's organized and formatted correctly.

Experience: Prior experience in data organization within Excel is a must.

Data Entry Data Processing Excel

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IMAGES

  1. 9 Free Project Management Excel Templates & Examples (2022)

    how to project excel

  2. Tutorial: Build a simple project plan with Microsoft Project

    how to project excel

  3. Free project planning tools excel

    how to project excel

  4. 9 Free Project Management Excel Templates & Examples (2022)

    how to project excel

  5. Microsoft Project 2013 Tutorial: New file from Excel -How to import data from Excel to MS Project

    how to project excel

  6. Project Management Excel Templates Pack

    how to project excel

VIDEO

  1. Excel Portfolio Project

  2. How to Import Projects Using MS Excel

  3. Excel Function & formula 2023 Step by Step

  4. How to Find Out any Project Deadline within a Minute in Excel

  5. Excel Project

  6. Project Excel

COMMENTS

  1. Visual project management in Excel

    On this page, you will find info on how to use Excel spreadsheets as project management tools for data tracking, reporting and visualization. You'll learn how to make Gantt charts, timelines, project planners and trackers in Excel and use them to manage your projects, and you will get a head start with free presentation-ready templates.

  2. How to Create a Project Timeline in Excel (Free Template Included)

    Select all values in the "Start (Date)" column and then insert a stacked bar chart following these steps: Click on the "Insert" tab at the top left corner of your screen. Click the chart icon. Select the stacked bar chart. 4. Select Data for Your Excel Project Timeline Gantt Chart.

  3. How To Use Excel For Project Management (+Free Templates)

    Paid plans often cost less than $10 per user per month. Considering the above disadvantages, using Excel for project management can be expensive in the long run. Excel Project Management Use Cases. So far, you've learned about the kind of work you can manage with Excel. You've also learned about the disadvantages of Excel project management.

  4. Import Excel data into Project

    In Project, click File > New. On the New page, click New from Excel workbook. In the Open box, click the arrow next to XML Format, and pick Excel Workbook or Excel 97-2003 Workbook (if your project data is in an earlier file format). Locate and select the workbook you want to import, and click Open. In the Import Wizard, click Next to get ...

  5. How To Create A Project Plan In Excel

    How To Create A Project Plan In Excel.Learn all the steps you need to take, and all the data points you need to capture, in this step-by-step how-to project ...

  6. How to Use Excel for Project Management (With Templates)

    6. Excel Project Budget Templates. This project budget template itemizes your WBS. You can input the projected cost of each task depending on which column it fits under. With this template, you can keep track of labor, materials and fixed costs, as well as keep a pulse on actual spend.

  7. How to Create a Project Timeline in Microsoft Excel

    Open Excel to the sheet where you want your timeline. Go to the Insert tab, click the "Illustrations" drop-down arrow, and pick "SmartArt." When the Choose a SmartArt Graphic window opens, select "Process" on the left. On the right, find and select the Basic Timeline, then click "OK." If you prefer, you can pick the Circle Accent Timeline for a ...

  8. Creating a project plan in Excel: Step-by-step guide

    Step 1 - Create headers. Once you've opened up your Microsoft Excel, and have an Excel worksheet to work on, it's time to take the first step in setting up a project plan for you. Start adding headers to the table. Label the columns as. Column A: "Task" or "Activity" or "Actionable Item". Column B: "Start Date".

  9. How to Create a Project Plan in Excel [Step-by-Step]

    To add the computation of days automatically, pick the ays column cell and enter "=". Following this, pick the cell containing the End Date and enter a Minus (-) there. The last step is to choose a start date and enter the code. Following that, choose the cell's bottom right corner and drag it down the entire column.

  10. How to Build a Project Plan with an Excel Template

    Defining the goals and objectives. The first step in building a project plan is identifying the goals and objectives of the project. This Project Planner Template from Vertex42 provides an easy way to list all the objectives in your project so you can begin outlining the associated tasks: Project Planner Template.

  11. Top Project Plan Templates for Excel

    To add grid lines to the project plan, select the entire project plan, both the table and the timeline, and in the Font group, click the borders icon. Select All Borders . If you want to add more project information, select the first column, right-click and select Insert > Entire Row.

  12. 12 Excel Project Management Spreadsheets (I use every day)

    2) Gantt Scheduler. The Gantt Scheduler enables you to plan out projects using task dependencies. It basically provides the basic scheduling capabilities of Microsoft Project - but all in the familiar interface of Excel. It works great for projects with up to 150 tasks.

  13. How To Create A Project Plan In Excel (Step-by-step Guide)

    Here are the major steps involved in creating a project plan in Excel: 1. Add The Right Headers. Start by adding the right headers to your sheet. Make sure you leave the first row blank and start adding your headers from the second row. A few common headers used by teams include Start, End, Days, Tasks, Status, etc.

  14. 25 Must-Have Project Management Excel Templates & Spreadsheets

    17. Multiple Project Tracking Template. If you're managing a program or a portfolio of projects, then you need our free multiple-project tracking template for Excel. When you download this free project management Excel template, you have the tool you need to monitor the progress of many projects at once.

  15. How To Create A Project Timeline In Excel (With Templates!)

    Here's how you can create an Excel timeline chart using SmartArt. Click on the Insert tab on the overhead task pane. Select Insert a SmartArt Graphic tool. Under this, choose the Process option. Find the Basic Timeline chart type and click on it. Edit the text in the text pane to reflect your project timeline.

  16. The 9 Best Project Management Templates for Excel (Free)

    It is the perfect template for effective project management. You can get the Action template from Excel or from Vertex 42 - both work wonderfully. 4. Project Dashboard Template. The project dashboard template gives you a bird's eye view of all the tasks and their statuses.

  17. Project values in a series

    Accessibility center. You can use Excel to project values that are based on existing data or to automatically generate values based on linear or growth trend calculations. Fill in a series that fits a simple trend, use functions to extend complex and nonlinear data, or perform regression analysis with the Analysis ToolPak Add-in.

  18. Full Project in Excel

    Take my Full Excel for Data Analytics Course! https://www.analystbuilder.com/courses/excel-for-data-analyticsIn this video we walk through the data cleaning ...

  19. Learn How to Create a Project Plan in Excel

    Each task is mentioned in a separate row, with the respective start date and tenure (number of days required to complete that task). 2. Make an Excel Bar Chart. Select range of start date, B1: B11. Click on the Insert tab, select the bar charts group. Then select a stacked bar in the 2-D Bar chart group.

  20. Four tips to track projects in Excel

    Tip #1: Track the status of each step with a drop-down menu. Tip #2: Track how much time is left in each project. Tip #3: Track your progress for each project. Tip #4: Visualize your progress. As a small business owner, I know how important it is to stay organized and keep track of projects. Excel is an excellent tool for project management.

  21. Export your project to Excel

    Here's how to export your project: Go to project.microsoft.com and open the project you want to export to Excel. In the top right corner, select the three dots ( ... ), then select Export to Excel. When you see the message " All done! We've exported [your project name]. " at the bottom of the screen, you can look for your new Excel file where ...

  22. How to Make a Gantt Chart In Excel Step-By-Step ...

    The first thing you'll need to do is to select the "Start (Date)" column and then click on insert and select the stacked bar chart from the graph menu, as shown in the image below. 3. Add Data to Your Excel Gantt Chart. Right-click the stacked bar chart and then click on "select data" from the dropdown list.

  23. How to Create a Project Schedule in Excel (with Easy Steps)

    Follow the steps below to do that. 📌 Steps: First, search for online templates before creating a new workbook using the keyword "Gantt Chart". Choose the suitable one and click on it. Then, Create a new workbook from this template. Now you can modify the template as needed.

  24. How to Create a Project Plan in 10 Easy Steps

    The 3 Key Components of a Project Plan. A robust project plan is built upon three fundamental components. This includes: Scope — This is the cornerstone of the project plan.It defines the project's boundaries, specifying what will be done and, equally important, what will not be included.; Schedule — The schedule outlines the project timeline, including key milestones, deadlines, and a ...

  25. How To Make a Gantt Chart in Excel (2024 Guide)

    A Gantt chart is a common visual used in the project management space. You can create and customize your own Gantt chart in Excel. Just be sure to update it regularly as new data on started and ...

  26. How to choose a project management tool

    Many project management tools offer this, such as Liquid Planner, which allows users to enjoy the platform for 14 days before they commit to a longer contract. Most of the time, the full range of ...

  27. Organize Data via Excel Spreadsheet

    Data Entry & Excel Projects for £20 - £250. I need an Excel expert to help me with data organization. The purpose of this task is to streamline and manage a large volume of data in Excel spreadsheet. Key tasks: - Manipulating and organizing th...