Use a Visual Timeline Chart to Plan Projects

It's easier to complete projects with many people if you use a visual timeline to coordinate tasks. Get-It-Done Guy shares his simple, yet effective strategy.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #296

Teamwork! I just love teamwork. At least, when a team is working well. The team at Bernice’s Green Growing Things plant store is having troubles, however. They’re opening their second location, and somehow, everything keeps getting stalled. Pieces are dropping on the floor, deadlines are getting missed. No one is quite sure why, but everyone wants it to stop. Even the Audrey 2s are unhappy. They do not like being repotted.

I spoke with Bernice's fiancee Melvin and asked why he wasn’t getting his inventory chosen and ordered. “Why should I?” he replied, “The inventory doesn’t matter until the new space is built out. And Europa’s taking care of that.” I dutifully dropped by Europa’s desk. “Hey, Europa, what’s up with the space build out?” “Oh,” she replied, “I’m waiting for Bernice to come up with the blueprints. When she gets them to me, I’ll get started.” So it was off to ask Bernice about the blueprints. “I’m waiting for Melvin to let me know what inventory we’ll need so we can design the space appropriately. We wouldn’t want the entrance to open right into the Audrey 2 feeding pens, would we? That could get awkward.”

Melvin is waiting for Europa. Europa is waiting for Bernice. Bernice is waiting for Melvin. This is just like a typical junior high school love life. A loves B, who loves C, who loves A. Everyone goes home unfulfilled. It’s the story of eighth grade. And high school. And college. And my 20s. And my 30s. And let’s move on.


Project Plans Bring Order

What’s missing from this picture, aside from anyone actually doing work, is a project plan. A project plan lays out all the work that needs to get done on a project, who’s going to do it, and roughly when it needs to get done. Trying to teach all of project planning in a 5-minute podcast is not feasible. Fortunately, you don’t need all of project planning. Just the basics.

If there isn't room in the caledar for the tasks to fit, you may not have enough time scheduled.

I’m a visual guy, and I like a visual representation of a project. For me, that means some form of calendar. For project management purists who are listening, this is a simplified GANNT chart.

Plan Using Your Calendar

I get a piece of paper and turn it so the wide edge is in front of me. Along the left edge, I write down the names of all the team members. I draw a vertical line to the right of the names and label it with today’s date. I label the right edge of the paper with the project due date. Voila! The paper is now a timeline. Next enter vertical lines for each major milestone or deadline.

Now fill in the tasks that need to be done by drawing a horizontal line spanning the dates that tasks can or must be done. Draw the horizontal line in the row of each person who will work on that task, and label the line so you know what it means.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.