Project planner template: definition, types and benefits

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 11 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A project planner template is a document that makes project management easier for professionals in the workplace. For successful work projects, it's essential that you plan and make preparations for the future. A good work plan template can be vital, as it can help you take note of every detail and the schedules of steps to complete tasks effectively. In this article, we examine what a project planner template is, the types of templates that exist, the benefits of using templates and how to create one for a project.

What is a project planner template?

A project planner template is a document that outlines the various details of a project and its aims. It can be essential for you to have one before beginning a project. No two project plans are the same, as projects are individual and unique. Creating a template for your projects may be a better option, rather than always creating new projects from the beginning. With a good template, you get to account for all the details, and you're prepared for each step as you proceed in the project.

Also known as a project plan template, it outlines key project details and answers questions on the scope and objectives of that project. As a standard format of a project plan, it contains a list of essential information like milestones, sprints or tasks, scope, timeline and stakeholders. It also has necessary components, like the scope management plan, cost management plan and schedule management plan. The template is a document for team members to continually refer to throughout the life cycle of a particular project.

Related: How to plan a project in 10 simple steps (with tips)

Types of project plan template

A project professional may create a template using spreadsheets or other tools. Nowadays, there are an increasing number of templates and formats that focus on one or more areas, which may include the following:

Task-focused template

This template is usually used to create guidelines for small goals or projects. As the name implies, they're used primarily for projects with few steps. You might use a task-focused template if you were operating a small project.

Timeline-focused project template

This template provides space for completion dates for high-level activities and is best used for projects with numerous milestones and accompanying timelines. It usually includes each stage of a project, with room to outline what you may do. This template can be helpful for projects with multiple steps.

Schedule-focused project template

This divides a project into several phases, making it easier to focus on individual milestones. The length of each stage is dependent on the project's overall duration. These templates are usually used for projects that are divided into schedules, and they include expiry dates.

Gantt-focused project template

This template type shows the progress of project tasks and phases in a bar chart form. A Gantt chart may also show progress by time or team member, which can be helpful for many projects. Most project management software generates these charts from available lists and tables.

Project plan template sections

A primary project plan template has the following sections and components:

Scope

This section tells you what the project is about. You can write out the content, outlining the project's scope and its deliverables. You may also include work packages, activities and steps to achieve the end goal.

Milestones

Every project has milestones that can help you to track its progress. You can set milestones across different stages of the project. You can also list all the milestones, include descriptions and estimate delivery dates.

Project stages

You can use this to divide the project into various stages to fit the lifecycle of the project. Your project may have three stages or as many as eight, depending on the nature of the plan. You may go further by adding a suitable description for each step, with each stage having its own set of milestones, tasks and activities.

Tasks

Here, you can outline all the tasks to complete the project. To progress to the next stage, identify the duties to move into the next phase and the deliverables you require. Break down various tasks into different sub-tasks and activities, so they're easy to achieve. For speed in the completion of tasks, include an estimated duration.

Gantt chart

With all the information discussed so far, you could create a Gantt chart to easily visualise the different phases of the project, its milestones and the duration of each task. A Gantt chart also clarifies the sequence of tasks. Most project management software automatically generates Gantt charts from lists and tables.

Related: How does project planning work? (With steps and FAQs)

How to create a project plan template

With the following steps, you may create a project plan template from start to finish:

1. Pick the right program

Picking the proper computer program is crucial when making a template. You need an application that allows more than one person to access it easily. Whether it's a word processing program or a spreadsheet, choose one that can enable you to create a suitable template for your project.

2. Plot the timeline

A timeline is essential in project management as activities may get mixed up if there is no planning or time attached to them. You may avoid this by creating a schedule for your project based on the tasks available to complete. A Gantt chart can help you visualise your timeline.

3. Divide tasks into categories

Break down the tasks that your project aims to accomplish into different categories. These categories may be type, time, priority and team. Use different colours for each class for easy identification.

4. Use visuals

Outline the steps involved in carrying out each task. Use visual aids like images and diagrams to explain every action. These simplify the steps and make them easier to remember. They also make your template look attractive.

5. Display project plan summary

Create an overview of the project plan in a visual summary. A great way to do this is to highlight tasks for each week. Displaying milestones to achieve for every three steps or each month may also be a good idea.

6. Create a status report

Obstacles may arise, leading to delays in a project's progress. A status report helps to give you information on the state of the project's progress. Having one in your template may help you communicate more easily when discussing the project's status with other stakeholders.

7. Identify the processes with a name

Giving each step a specific name and naming the team members addressing that process can help with communication. This way, everyone knows the name of an action and knows the phase you're working on. A simple word to tag a process may be 'fermentation process' or 'logo idea creation'.

8. Illustrate project progress

Illustrations are a great way to present concepts, with flowcharts being a good example. Flowcharts show the project's progression and demonstrate the order in which things may progress. Flowcharts can also give a graphic representation for even the most complicated processes.

9. Set up a calendar

For projects leading up to a date or event, it may be helpful to create a schedule so that team members may plan for that day. Use colours to organise events by date or type. Whether the event is physical or online, scheduling can help you to prepare properly.

10. Design your theme

Aside from the functionality of your template, also bear in mind the aesthetics of your template. It's essential to make your project planner appealing to the eyes. An attractive and easy-to-read template can engage its readers and boost the confidence of your team members.

Related: 13 milestones in project management (with definitions)

Benefits of a project plan template

Using a project planner comes with many benefits, which include:

Saving time

Using different documents for one project can make things messy and may make it difficult for members to access information quickly. With a project template containing essential deliverables, team members may effortlessly scan for information and necessary work material. These actions can save time and help standardise the whole project management process.

Defining priorities

Project plan templates help define team members' priorities as they do specific tasks. A template can serve as a standard document that employees can refer to for clarity. Also, with a simple template, you can strategically map out every step of the process and visualise the result.

Related: 8 types of project deliverables (definitions and examples)

Effective communication

A project template outlines the whole work plan in one document. The project manager and team members get to identify the project's progress level efficiently. All issues are communicated clearly for anyone with access to the copy, so all staff know if a problem arises. With information from the template, it is easier to receive timely feedback on whether the project is progressing as planned. It's also possible to update project milestones via the template, as this may give you a better idea of the project status.

Related: Project scheduling: definition, benefits, formats and steps

Enhancing confidence

The ultimate goal of every project is customer satisfaction. Whether your customers are internal or external, gaining their confidence in you and your work is essential. With the aid of a project plan template, it's easier to answer their questions about the progress of your project in a confident manner.

Explore more articles