Best Practices

3 reasons to plan your projects in Timeline

So you’ve been tasked with planning a project: Maybe it’s launching a new product or planning a customer event. No matter how big or small, it’s an exciting responsibility. But then comes the stress of listing out everything that needs to be done, when it needs to be done by, and who’s going to do it. Even when you finally have all of the work listed out, you have a new set of questions to think about. How does everything connect? Are there timing conflicts? Is the plan doable? If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone.

Luckily there’s Timeline in Asana. With Timeline, you can create a project plan that shows how all the pieces fit together so you can feel confident about hitting your deadlines—right from the start. To try it out, we used Timeline to plan and manage the launch of Timeline (so meta). Here’s how it helped us pull off a successful launch, and how it can help you hit your project deadlines.

1. See how all the pieces of your project connect

Your task list is great for capturing every step and piece of work you need to complete for your project, but it can be hard to visualize when work is happening and how it all connects. Which makes it hard to spot missing steps and timing conflicts. Without an easy way to see these issues before you start, your schedule can get off track.

This is where Timeline comes in. It turns your task list into a visual plan so you can see how all the pieces fit together from beginning to end (based on the dependencies you draw on Timeline and date ranges you set). From here you can spot the holes and overlaps. And when you add or adjust tasks to fix the holes and overlaps, the changes also appear in your project’s task list so your plan stays up to date no matter how you’re viewing it.

Hover over a task and click the connector to draw dependencies between work directly on Timeline.

Switching from list to Timeline in Asana
Once we looked at our launch plan in Timeline, for instance, it was clear that we forgot to budget time to update creative assets after the first round of reviews before the approval stage. While you know work will likely need revisions between reviews and approval, it’s easy to forget to add them as steps in your project plan. If we hadn’t accounted for the time this would take up front, it could have caused serious delays down the line.

2. Spot timing conflicts before they derail your plan

Even when you have start and due dates in your task list, it’s not always easy to see timing conflicts. This is especially difficult when your project is cross-functional (like our Timeline launch) and a lot of work is happening simultaneously. If you don’t catch these timing conflicts when you’re still in the planning phase, your schedule can quickly become unrealistic.

Shorten, lengthen, or move your tasks’ date ranges around to fit your schedule.

With Timeline, you can easily see how all the work in your plan connects, so dependency and timing conflicts are clear. You can fix conflicts right on Timeline before work gets underway. For each conflict, you can shorten, lengthen, or move your tasks’ date ranges around to fit your schedule.

Moving tasks in Asana Timeline

When we first looked at our Timeline launch plan in Timeline, we noticed right away that we’d only left our web development team two days to build the landing page after the design and copy were approved, which wasn’t enough time. We then shifted dates around right on Timeline so we’d be able to hit our final deadline while still giving each team enough time to complete their work before launch day.

3. Make sure your plan will work before you start executing

As you kick off a project, you probably ask, “Will my plan work?” and “Will we hit our deadlines?” a lot. When your team, and possibly your company, is relying on your project to hit specific goals, the pressure can create even more anxiety.

By visualizing your project plan and fixing conflicts before you start, you put those worries to rest. As the saying goes, “You need to see it to believe it,” and Timeline helps you do just that. To take it a step further, you can add a custom field for “Priority” and apply its colors to tasks so you can see priority levels at a glance. Then zoom in to look at specific stages of your plan or zoom out to see the whole thing from start to finish.

Add a custom field for “Priority” and apply its colors to tasks so you can see priority levels at a glance.

While working on our product launch, being able to quickly see priorities and zoom in and out on our launch plan gave us the confidence that we were starting our launch off on the right foot. Instead of worrying about our plan, we focused our time and energy on actual project work: creating all the marketing materials for a successful launch.

Changing timeframe in Asana Timeline

Start planning your projects in Timeline

While planning projects can often feel like a game of Tetris, Timeline is here to help you see how your work maps out so you feel confident your team can hit its deadlines. If you’re using Asana Premium, you can start planning your projects in Timeline today (just click on the Timeline tab in any project). If you’re using the free version of Asana, upgrade to get this feature and more.

Now that you have a plan you feel confident in, it’s time to share it with stakeholders and teammates to get buy-in so everyone’s on the same page.

Special thanks to Christy Hecht, Jenny Thai, Nikki Henderson, and Jessie Beck

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