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Creating a Gantt chart: How-tos, templates, and tips

Find out what a Gantt chart is, what its components are, and how to make one. Browse our examples and best practices to build a Gantt chart that will help you stay on top of projects.
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What is a Gantt chart?

A Gantt chart is a type of chart that represents your project and plots tasks across a timeline. It’s one of the most commonly used project management tools.

The typical Gantt chart format lists tasks vertically down on the left, while a timeline runs horizontally across the top of the chart. Horizontal bars, or Gantt bars, represent each task's progress, duration, and start and end dates. A Gantt chart also shows milestones, assignees, and dependencies between tasks.

Example of a Gantt chart with a bright color scheme

Example of a Gantt chart with a bright color scheme.

With Gantt charts, teams can quickly glance at the tasks that need to be done, when they're expected to be done, who's responsible for each task, and how some tasks depend on others.

Remember, 86% of global business leaders use data visualization(opens in a new tab or window) when making plans and presentations. So it’s no surprise that Gantt charts are widely used in various industries, from marketing to construction. Gantt charts:

  • Simplify communication between teams
  • Help spot potential bottlenecks
  • Visualize the whole project

History of the Gantt chart

Gantt charts have come a long way since its earliest versions. In 1896, Karol Adamiecki, a Polish engineer, created a chart called the harmonogram, the precursor to the Gantt chart. However, it didn’t become popular outside his native Poland.

Years later, Henry Gantt, an American engineer and management consultant, developed his own version of the chart to evaluate the productivity of factory workers. The two systems—Gantt’s new chart and the harmonogram—have since come together to form the modern Gantt chart.

Original Gantt charts were painstakingly made on paper, with each change or amendment drawn by hand. However, with the rise of digital tools, making a Gantt chart is now quicker and easier using online project management apps.

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Components of a Gantt chart

At its simplest, a Gantt chart consists of a list of tasks on the vertical axis, a timeline on the horizontal axis, and bars that represent each task. The other elements (diamonds, arrows, etc.) provide more details. Knowing the basic components will also help you learn how to read a Gantt chart.

Task List

Task list

A vertical list of activities involved in the project placed on the left side of the chart

Timeline

Timeline

A horizontal timeline on top of the chart showing the days, weeks, or months of the project

Bars

Bars

Horizontal markers for each task, representing its duration and start and end dates

Arrows

Arrows

Lines or arrows that show dependencies or tasks that should happen in a certain order

Assignees

Assignees

Labels that show the people or team responsible for completing each task

Diamonds

Diamonds

Special icons that mark milestones, accomplishments, or important dates

Dateline

Dateline

A vertical line that indicates the current date on the Gantt chart

Progress

Progress

A percentage or bar shading showing the progress of a task

Critical Path

Critical Path

A sequence of dependent tasks critical to meeting the deadline, often the longest task sequence


When to use a Gantt chart

Use a Gantt chart when you need to visualize all tasks and subtasks against the project time frame. A Gantt chart gives you time-centric insight into the progress of each task. It shows you what needs to be done by a certain date in order to proceed with the next task and so on, to eventually deliver the final product or reach the overarching goal.

Use a Gantt chart to create a detailed breakdown of your project

Use a Gantt chart to create a detailed breakdown of your project.

A Gantt chart is immensely helpful when you:

  • Plan the tasks: A Gantt chart shows, at a glance, all the tasks involved and breaks them down into smaller subtasks. The chart also shows the assignees or the people directly responsible for each task.
  • Schedule the tasks: A Gantt chart maps out a timeline for the entire project. This includes the total amount of time it will take to finish the entire project, as well as the duration of each subtask. It’s also easier to adjust schedules in case of delays.
  • Map out dependencies: When you create a Gantt chart, you can easily plot dependent tasks. This is handy when a sequence of dependent tasks involves different teams.
  • Monitor progress: Gantt charts let you keep an eye on the progress of each task. It also marks milestones, so you can celebrate wins along the way.

What types of teams commonly use Gantt charts?

Gantt charts are especially popular in event planning, IT and software development, marketing, and construction. However, anyone handling a project will benefit from using a Gantt chart. This includes teachers, healthcare professionals, telecommunications experts, human resources, and even remote personnel.

So long as there’s a time-bound project, a Gantt chart will be handy.

Use of Gantt charts by industry

Explore six examples of how Gantt charts are used in different fields:

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Example of a Gantt chart used in event planning

Example of a Gantt chart used in event planning.


When not to use a Gantt chart?

Gantt charts are one of the best project management tools, but it’s not ideal for some situations. We don’t recommend Gantt charts if:

  • You’re not finished with project discovery: The discovery phase is when you gather information about the project and define its scope. If you create a Gantt chart before project discovery, you might miss critical tasks and milestones. You likely end up redoing the entire Gantt chart. We recommend having a solid idea of key deliverables and an estimated timeline before making a Gantt chart.
  • You want to check project costs and scope: The biggest strength of a Gantt chart is its time coordinate and the granularity of tasks. The downside, however, is that it provides little to no details on project scope(opens in a new tab or window) and finances. For project scope, a Gantt chart doesn’t offer specific details on key deliverables and success metrics. Similarly, teams often use other tools to manage costs.

Don’t worry, there are other tools and diagrams that can cover these gaps. After all, project managers often use a combination of visual charts and graphs to manage a single project.

For example, a project discovery may involve SWOT analysis(opens in a new tab or window), which helps teams maximize opportunities and prepare for pitfalls before committing to a project. Another popular discovery tool is the fishbone diagram(opens in a new tab or window), which helps project managers get to the root of an issue.

However, when the timescale is concerned, a Gantt chart is the way to go.


How to make a Gantt chart

Whether you’re a seasoned or beginner project manager, knowing how to make a Gantt chart will help you visualize your project timeline, break down tasks, and track progress easily.

In this section, we'll walk you through the steps needed to create a Gantt chart that will help you effectively manage any project.

How to make a Gantt chart

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Set SMART Goals
Make sure your project goals are SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.


Get inspired with Gantt chart templates

Get the ball rolling with these customizable Gantt charts. With your team, choose a Gantt chart template, list down your tasks, and edit the timeline and bars. Then add details pertinent to your project, like milestones, assignees, and dependencies.


All you need in a Gantt chart maker

  • Unlimited space for unlimited ideas

    Unlimited space for unlimited ideas

    With a free infinite canvas and unlimited number of whiteboards, fully develop your ideas and still have room

  • Your ideas visualized

    Your ideas visualized

    Build stunning tables and graphs with automatic flowcharts, or sketch them to life with Draw.

  • All your work, in one place

    All your work, in one place

    From plan to execution, it’s all here. Take notes, brainstorm, collaborate, and more on the same whiteboard.

  • Workshop ideas to perfection

    Workshop ideas to perfection

    With your team, develop ideas through comments and stickies, and keep sync sessions on track with a timer.

  • Share your work effortlessly

    Share your work effortlessly

    Share a link to your doc and control your team's access. Present directly from the editor with Presenter view.

  • Expand your Presentation to a Whiteboard

    Expand your Presentation to a Whiteboard

    With just a single click, expand your presentation slides into infinite, collaborative whiteboards.


Gantt chart best practices

Follow these best practices when you make and update your chart, so you can maximize the benefits of a Gantt chart and ensure project success.

Include small details

When it comes to Gantt charts, the devil is truly in the details. Add finer aspects of your project in your Gantt chart, including descriptions of each task, estimated durations, creative briefs, notes, and key files that are relevant and helpful to the assigned team members.

By including these granular details, you can turn your Gantt chart into a one-stop source for everything related to your project, minimizing confusion and enhancing clarity among team members.

Additionally, you can use labels and color coding to your advantage to make this detailed information easier to understand. However, remember to strike a balance between providing sufficient detail and maintaining a clear, uncluttered Gantt chart.

Strengthen your Gantt chart by adding relevant details and notes

Strengthen your Gantt chart by adding relevant details and notes.

Segment large tasks

Projects often have complex, sizeable tasks involving multiple team members and departments. By breaking down these tasks into smaller, more manageable subtasks, you can better understand the steps needed to complete each task, making it easier to estimate resources and monitor progress. It also helps reduce the risk of neglecting key project components and leads to more meticulous planning and execution.

Practice breaking down large tasks into smaller, actionable steps and ensure each step has a clear goal, assigned team member, and estimated duration. This process will not only make your Gantt chart more structured and organized, but it also improves team communication and collaboration.

Watch your dependencies

If you don’t account for dependencies, delays and conflicts can throw your entire project off schedule. Keep a close watch on your dependencies and ensure any change in one task including its impact on other tasks is reflected accurately in your Gantt chart.

There are four main types of task dependencies:

  • Finish to start (FS): This is the most common type of task dependency. Here, the initial task must be completed before the preceding task can begin. Task A must be completed before Task B can begin.
  • Start to start (SS): The preceding task can only begin once the initial task has started. Both tasks can run simultaneously. Task B can begin as long as Task A has started.
  • Finish to finish (FF): The initial task must be completed before the preceding task can be finished. Task A must be completed before Task B can be finished.
  • Start to finish (SF): This is the least common type of dependency. The initial task can’t be finished until the preceding task has started. Task A can’t be completed before Task B begins.

Track non-work periods

Accounting for non-work periods is crucial for creating an effective Gantt chart. Non-work periods include any time off that impacts your project timeline, like:

  • Weekends
  • Holidays
  • Scheduled vacations

By tracking non-work periods in your Gantt chart, you can more accurately estimate task durations, allocate resources, and avoid conflicts that may cause delays and overworked team members.

Identify all holidays, scheduled time off, and other periods where team members are unavailable to work. Add this information to your Gantt chart by modifying each task's start and end dates. This helps you set a realistic timeline for when the project is completed and manage expectations among stakeholders.

Apply colors to visualize information

Using colors in your Gantt chart can significantly enhance its readability and effectiveness. Colors are an intuitive way to differentiate, categorize, and visualize elements in your chart, making it easier for team members and stakeholders to understand information and their responsibilities.

For instance, you can use different colors to represent tasks, statuses (to do, in progress, done), departments, or teams.

When applying colors to your Gantt chart, keep it simple and consistent. Avoid using too many colors or overly complicated color schemes, as this can make the chart difficult to read. Instead, opt for a clear color palette that effectively relays the needed information without overwhelming the viewer.

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Play with colors
Use our color tools to apply your brand colors well or generate fresh palettes.
Use colors in your Gantt chart to visually differentiate tasks

Use colors in your Gantt chart to visually differentiate tasks.


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