This project plan template is the easiest way to create and manage a project plan. Well, maybe second-easiest. The easiest way might be paying someone else a lot of money to do it. But then you'd still have to track their progress, and they'd still be using a project plan. That's because a project plan is essential for defining a project and keeping its schedule on track. So take this free project plan template, and plug in the scope, goals, deliverables, and deadlines of your project. It's just that simple.
Visit our Project Management section in the Resource Library to learn more about project planning:
A project plan breaks down your project into a set of tasks, allowing you to more easily manage the entire project by charting the progress of each of those tasks. In short, it's a way to keep track of everything you need to do for your project in one place.
Unless you're blessed with the world's greatest memory and a Sherlock Holmes mind palace, you're going to want a visual tool to organize your tasks. The best way to handle all of the information required to manage your project is to have one place where you can view and manage it easily. A good project management spreadsheet can help you see all of the relevant information at a glance, giving you an overview of the whole project while tracking progress percentages, deadlines, owners, and more for each task.
Benjamin Franklin is credited with first saying, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." He often gets credited for various things, so who knows if he actually said it. Either way, the truth behind it is apparent: When faced with a difficult project, good planning and project management is essential. One thing we know for sure -- Benjamin Franklin didn't use Excel or Spreadsheet.com templates for project planning.
While we can't legally claim that using our project management spreadsheets can prevent shark attacks, it's worth noting that out of the 73 shark attacks which occurred in 2021, not a single one of them happened to anyone using our Project Plan template. Coincidence? You decide.
The Project Plan spreadsheet lays out all of the tasks required in order for your project to be a success. For each task, columns represent the following:
Task - The name of the specific task we're talking about
Status - Whether the task is still in the planning phase, in progress, delayed, on hold, pending review, completed, fully approved, etc.
RYG - You may have noticed there are many possible options for a project's status. The RYG column uses a 3-color stoplight system to let you know at a glance which tasks are good to go, which are slowly progressing, and which have critical issues you may need to address.
Start Date/End Date - Part of project management is making sure things get done on time. By planning out task deadlines, you're much more likely to get your project completed by your target dates.
Duration - Knowing how long you've allotted for each task will give you a benchmark for how far along each task should take.
Completion % - Track progress toward completion of each task.
Owner - The main person or people responsible for this task.
Initiative - Complex projects may need to be broken down into a set of Initiatives that will each consist of a specific set of tasks.
The Gantt timeline chart on the right side puts all of this information into an easy-to-read chart. You can adjust task duration, start dates, and end dates by dragging and resizing task bars. Task bars are color-coded by status and shaded based on completion percentage, with icons to indicate who is in charge of each task.
Meet Stephen. Stephen is a project manager who is launching a big project in three months. There are a variety of strange ways his project could play out, and in different universes, he will have different results. You might even refer to it as a "multiverse of madness", because trying to launch a project without a project plan is madness.
In one universe, Stephen is launching an app, but doesn't have a project plan to ensure that he has a list of all relevant and necessary tasks in order for the launch to succeed. He forgets to launch an advance advertising campaign and establish a social media presence. When his app launches, nobody knows about it, and by the time he gets advertising in gear, it's too late.
In another universe, Stephen is responsible for hosting a massive event. He has a mental project plan in his head with a list of tasks, but doesn't have an actual project plan template that tracks progress and completion percentage in addition to start dates and end dates. Without being able to track progress on his preparations, he doesn't realize that the stage won't be built in time. The event still happens, but it feels off.
Other universes bring other problems caused by the lack of a project plan template. Maybe tasks aren't clearly identified as being reliant on another task, so when the final week comes and three tasks remain to be split among the team, it turns out that two of them can't even be started until the first one is complete. Or maybe the final three tasks are all assigned to the same person, who doesn't have enough hours in the day to complete them on time.
Thankfully, in our universe, Stephen has a great project plan template from Spreadsheet.com. He types in all relevant and necessary tasks, being sure to include start and end dates as well as any predecessor tasks. Each task is associated with an initiative, so if the boss suddenly declares a certain initiative top priority, the project plan can be viewed sorted by initiative to see what tasks are now high priority. A bar graph at the top of the project plan clearly shows how many tasks each team member is assigned, to make sure no one is being given more work than they can handle.
Avoid the madness. Use a project plan template that lets you keep track of all your tasks, and make sure your universe is the good one.
"Wait, what? That's not my job. I'm not a project manager, I'm just a business owner / marketing director / parent / president"
If you're trying to expand your business... that's a project that needs managing. A spreadsheet will help you track which tasks are behind schedule, which you're handling, and which you need to allocate additional resources or hire more help for.
If you're putting together a big marketing project... that's a project that needs managing. Charting out dates and deadlines for each tasks will help make sure that you get the whole project done in time.
If you're trying to wrangle three children... that's a project that needs managing. Keeping track of which kid needs to be picked up and dropped off when, and who is doing it, ends up being pretty important.
If you're trying to run a country... that's a project that needs a lot of managing. Heck, you might even need two spreadsheets.
In short, everyone is a project manager sometimes. So whether you're a Project Management Professional or just moonlighting as one, you want to give yourself the best tools for the job -- and that's why you need a project management plan.
As a project manager, you need to be aware of all aspects of your project at all times.
When you're in charge of a single task, you need to know the deadline and how far along you are. You can keep that in your head, no problem. When you're in charge of a project made up of 50 tasks, that's too much to keep in your head. You need to be able to get an overview of the whole project, and progress reports on all 50 tasks at once, and that's what a project management plan gives you.
By having all of the information in one easy-to-read chart, you can quickly see which tasks are going smoothly and which need more attention. You can see at a glance what's behind schedule and identify potential bottlenecks *before* they become a problem. And as soon as the issue is resolved, you can update your spreadsheet instantly, so any other stakeholders looking at it can likewise get a full sense of the project's current status.
That's what makes a good spreadsheet an essential tool for any project manager.
While we strive to provide the best in online project management spreadsheets, we realize that some people would prefer to do their project management in Excel. Whether that's because you often need to do work without access to the Internet, or because you live and breathe Excel every waking minute of your life, we've got you covered.
This Excel project management template from Vertex42 will let you do some of the same things that our spreadsheet does. Organize your projects by laying out a separate row for each task, and entering a start date and duration for each task. Track your progress on each task by entering the completion percentage. And use the graphical view for a visual representation of your progress.
Although it may lack some of the more advanced features of Spreadsheet.com, doing your project management in Excel may be easier if the rest of your team is already using Excel worksheets. And ultimately, making things run smoothly is the job of a project manager. Sometimes that doesn't mean using the most powerful tool available, but using the right tool for the job. You don't need a flamethrower to melt snow when a hair dryer will do -- even if a flamethrower is more fun.