What Is a Timeline?
A timeline is a type of graphic that arranges a chain of events in chronological order. Perfect for telling stories and visualizing projects and processes, timelines are generally used to:
- Give an overview of events;
- Detail an agenda;
- Highlight critical points in time;
- Depict different temporal relations;
- Track progress over time of multiple events happening simultaneously;
- Identify specific patterns within a course of procedure in a streamlined format.
What Should a Timeline Include?
Representing an alignment in time and making a chronological statement, a timeline should include the series of events and activities (milestones and tasks) that you want to display on your graphic, along with their dates to mark their occurrence over a particular phase.
Whether you employ this type of visual content for knowledge sharing or tracking the progress of a plan, here are the two main things you need to consider in order to outline the structure of a basic timeline:
- Listing out the main steps/stages of your plan and setting clear deadlines/time reference points – break up your work into tasks with start and due dates to estimate how much time each of them will take;
- Figuring out the logical order in which your tasks will occur – determine which of your tasks need to be completed first and whether there are any that can’t start until others are completed.
How to Create a Timeline
Now that we’ve covered what a timeline is and should include, you can create one from scratch or starting from a template. There are a variety of purpose-built tools to help you achieve this goal, and one of most accessible ones is our online timeline maker, that you can try for free right from your browser.
If drafting a timeline from start to finish is too time-consuming, opting for a template might be the better alternative. Below, we’ve put together a varied collection of 10 timeline examples that you can customize depending on your needs to effectively convey project plans, team schedules or workflows, and other similar chronologies. These are:
All of them have been designed natively in PowerPoint so that you and any team member who uses the presentation platform can contribute, edit and share them with ease.
Each of the templates can be customized in PowerPoint either:
- by manually replacing the placeholder texts with your own data and restyling any colors, shapes, and positions;
- or automatically, by using a PowerPoint add-in called Office Timeline.
If you opt for the second option, you need to install Office Timeline, which will add a new tab to the PowerPoint ribbon.
Once the plugin is installed, follow these steps to quickly build, customize and update any of the timeline examples presented below:
- Click on the Download button under the template of your choice.
- Once downloaded, double-click to open it in PowerPoint.
- Select the Office Timeline tab on the PowerPoint ribbon, and then Click the Data Edit button.
- Edit the data with your own milestones and tasks.
- Click Save to instantly update the template.
Timeline Examples to Bring Your Plans into Action
Designed to help project managers and team leaders create clear tactical plans effortlessly, the project implementation plan template provides the much needed bird’s eye view of an entire project. By turning strategic goals into actionable steps, it enables all team members to quickly see what they are expected to deliver, when, and what tasks they need to complete. The easy-to-follow format makes this graphic a good tool not only for internal communication, but also for presenting the overall picture to management, clients and other non-project audiences.
Since effective planning lies at the heart of successful project management and delivery, this template can also be used to show relationships between activities, track individual task progress as the project moves forward, or identify at-risk tasks.
Including a timeline with editable milestones to highlight key events, this free Gantt chart template outlines a project schedule at a high level in a simple and user-friendly manner. Unlike most Gantt charts that are complicated and difficult for other people to read and understand, this timeline template maps out the essential and can be easily included in communications such as project reviews, proposals, plans, scorecards and status meetings.
Any good business initiative relies on a solid marketing plan which usually takes pages of documents to be detailed. This timeline example offers an effective reference point to support the delivery of your marketing plan and assess its progress. Use this free marketing timeline template to present important marketing strategies and communicate with clients, management and other high level audiences that need to be briefed in a clear, easy-to-understand way.
Having a good sales plan is essential to achieving sales and marketing goals. This timeline template enables sales leaders, marketers and account executives to illustrate theirs with clear objectives laid out monthly, quarterly or annually and present it to staff, sales teams and management. Used as a visual aid in important meetings, it helps align organizations and management behind the key targets and deadlines of sales campaigns. Alternatively, it can serve as a scorecard to present a plan’s progress against its objectives.
Since many business initiatives, campaigns, marketing programs, and personal projects are created over a 12-month term, the year timeline example is ideal to plan and outline your objectives before embarking on the actual venture. It gives you the visual aid to share and present your plan to stakeholders in a familiar graphical way to obtain the buy-in, state your intentions or update others on the progress that has been made.
Illustrating all the major deadlines on a single summary slide, the event planning timeline was designed to give planners, their teams and partners the ability to keep track of what items need to be done and when. Easily accessible and shareable, this template helps you never lose sight of pending milestones and is a resourceful tool to manage teams and vendors.
Providing a linear outline for events, this timeline template will help attorneys lay out the key facts and circumstances of their case in a way that is simple for any audience to understand. Use this timeline example to better structure arguments, analyze events, and prepare for trial with a chronological, visual exhibit that increases the jury’s understanding of your oral discourse.
Graphically displayed as an hourly Gantt chart rather than as a spreadsheet, this downloadable timeline template can be easily be printed in full color, shared in emails or included in presentations. Unlike most list-based daily schedules which don’t accommodate schedule overlapping, this graphic comes with a simpler, easy-to-read layout that lets viewers check the calendar at a glance.
This timeline template was designed to help pharma professionals involved in the development of a new drug to stay on track in this complex, multi-staged process. Covering the key phases of the discovery of pharmaceutical products, along with major milestones such as drug selection or approval, it documents the journey from research to commercialization and lays out a clear roadmap for a project of this magnitude.
10. Generic Timeline
With a basic structure that displays a series of milestones and an elapsed time indicator on the timeband, this visual is suitable for historical presentations, project reviews, status reports, plan presentations, scorecards, or for any other effort that requires a simple project schedule or the illustration of a plan.