How to Create an Actionable Project Plan Using a Google Spreadsheet
In this tutorial, you'll learn how to create your own project plan using a Google spreadsheet that you can use for your own projects or share with your team.
It's a simple technique that you can adapt to any project to help organize your time and keep on schedule.
You can also use it for estimating how much time a project will take when you are pitching to a client. All you need is a Google spreadsheet, so let's get started!
1. Set Up Your Spreadsheet
Create a new spreadsheet (Create > Spreadsheet). Set the Head Column A to 'Tasks' and Column B to 'Duration' (which is in days).
Assign consecutive dates to Columns C onwards. If you do not have a specific deadline, estimate the length of time: you can always add or remove columns later.
2. Break Down Your Project Into Tasks
In Column A, list all the tasks that need to be completed for your project. Try to be as specific as you can. If you are working with a team, list everyone's tasks. This is a really important step: the more detail you go into, the more likely you are not to forget anything essential.
Rearrange your list until it reads in chronological order, with the first task at the top and the last at the bottom. For this example project, I am going to plan for a launch event. This can require some thought, but it is worth getting right: some tasks can't start until another one has ended!
3. Block Out Dates and Durations for Each Task
In column B, state how long each task should take, in days. This doesn't mean that it will take all day to do a task, just that you need to allow different days for each one. You may have to discuss this with your team or external contractor to get an accurate estimate. This is an essential part of the planning phase as it can have a knock-on impact on when you can start future tasks.
If you are working with a team, assign a color to each team member so they can easily see which tasks they are responsible for.
Block out the duration of days with a color in the appropriate date fields.
You can either: start with the deadline and the final task and work backwards, or else start from the beginning to give you an end date for the project. Some tasks will be able to run concurrently, whereas others might only be able to start once a previous task has ended. For my example of planning an event, I am going to start with the deadline of May 20 and work backwards.
If you have a project team, make sure you use a different color for each team member to show which tasks are allocated to each one.
4. Adjusting Your Project Plan
This stage shows the importance of planning: as it stands, you might be overshooting the deadline or else you might need an extra team member, extra resources, or some further input from your client. In my example, below, I have run out of days!
If you are overshooting the deadline or can't start any earlier, have a look at what tasks you can move to an earlier date, or what tasks could run in parallel.
5. Sharing the Plan with Your Client or Team
Google spreadsheets are easy to share with anyone. Go to File > Share and enter the email addresses of your collaborators.
You can also share a link through Gmail, Google+, Facebook or Twitter. Be sure to adjust your settings to Public on the web (which anyone with access to the link can access) or keep it Private.
6. Download the Google Project Plans Spreadsheet Template
You have now completed your project plan. Don't forget to refer back to it each day to keep you on track. Download the example project plan here and put it to good use.
Have you used Google Spreadsheets to track your business projects? If so, comment on your best tips below.