Spreadsheet Detox: How to Create a Project Plan Without Using Excel
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Spreadsheet Detox: How to Create a Project Plan Without Using Excel

Rose Keefe Rose Keefe Last Updated:

When you’re trying to organize data into neat, logical, and formula-boosted rows, Excel spreadsheets are easy-to-use yet powerful tools. But for creating project plans? Not so much.

Although Microsoft Project has updated its most popular assets to keep up with evolving user demand, Excel is like that vintage house on the block that always manages to survive even after its neighbors are torn up and reborn. Although it does its intended job well, there are a few good reasons why it is not suitable for modern project management.

  • Incompatibility. Excel was never intended to be used in project planning. While it can perform basic tasks, it lacks the advanced functionality that modern project management requires.
  • Unwieldy. Excel pages are packed with cells, making it difficult to monitor progress, make changes and, most critical of all, spot potential problems before they can escalate into a crisis.
  • No Ability to Collaborate. When you rely on Excel spreadsheets to plan projects, there is no opportunity to effectively collaborate with the team. Spreadsheets have no commenting features or tracking ability that is so essential to processing change throughout a project. When you’re working on a project in an industry that requires these details to be logged for compliance reasons, the problem intensifies.

Agile, collaborative, and cloud-based project management tools are an absolute must these days. With remote teams and flexible work schedules being the modern norm, the message is clear: it’s time to stop using Excel for project planning and embrace a more sophisticated, powerful, yet simple alternative.

project plan

The Toggl Plan Solution

Toggl Plan is a browser-based resource planning and project management tool that looks simple but is loaded with powerful, versatile, and completely customizable features that enable project managers to create plans and then update them with a simple drag and drop. When you’re a time-pressed project manager wanting to create a plan that is easy to review, update, and oversee, Toggl Plan project planning is light years ahead of many competitors (which means it’s light eons ahead of Excel).

Zoom In or Zoom Out

Toggl Plan Timeline

Toggl Plan’s attractive, color-coded timelines have multiple view options thanks to its zoom level function. Instead of scrolling through pages of Excel spreadsheets, you can easily switch between weekly, monthly, and even an annual view that gives you a summary of team progress throughout the year.

To keep your daily tasks close at hand, you can activate the ‘Pin Me on Top’ feature, which makes sure that you appear at the top in the team timeline each time you log into Toggl Plan, so you don’t have to scroll around to find your tasks.

Project View

Toggl Plan Project View

Toggl Plan’s Project View feature makes it easier to put a plan together because it divides the project into critical fields. For example, if you are working on a software development project, the segments could be:

  • Research
  • Design
  • Development
  • Testing
  • Launch

When you are able to visually organize a project in this manner, everyone on the team can:

  • Get an overview of the project stages
  • See and understand what their colleagues are working on, which is especially important for cross-functional teams
  • Communicate better because no one is out of the loop

Project View supports better project development because it allows you to plan the process before you start assigning tasks. You start by mapping out the project flow and then turning it into reality. As a bonus, once you’ve assigned tasks to everyone on the team, they will appear on the group timeline.

Toggl Plan Timeline View

Gantt Chart Calendar

There’s a reason why Gantt charts have been with us since 1917. They work, and their adaptability lets them stay relevant as technology changes.

A Gantt chart provides a visual overview of tasks scheduled over the course of a project. They can let you see what work is scheduled to be done that very day and even take a long-range view of a project’s start and end dates. Microscopic and macroscopic projects alike are presented on your screen, without having to flip through an Excel workbook.

There are many project management tools that incorporate Gantt charts, but Toggl Plan goes the extra mile by:

  • Making the chart creation and maintenance so easy. If you need to create a task, just go the project timeline, select the appropriate time frame, and drag your mouse to connect the beginning and end dates. That’s it!
  • Enabling and encouraging team communication via an easy commenting feature
  • Preventing resource overload by allowing you to see how, when, and where resources are being utilized
  • Allowing you to delegate tasks and align resources without overburdening individual team members

The ability to color-code Toggl Plan Gantt charts is more than a nice cosmetic touch. You are able to measure progress more easily, allowing you to change strategy when warranted, and spot any task dependencies and overlapping activities that may pose a scheduling issue. You have all the information you need to oversee a project as you manage it.

Toggl Plan can handle the planning needs of the most complex projects. It also integrates seamlessly with other project management assets, such as Asana, Trello, and Slack, making it an easy fit for most work environments.

Always Use the Best Tools for the Job

Using the right tool for the task at hand is one of the keys to initiating and maintaining a successful project. When you’re creating a project plan, avoid legacy tools because you’ll be inviting a whole host of legacy problems along with them.

The truth is, Excel spreadsheets are simply not an efficient or effective means of putting a plan together, especially for bigger and more complicated projects. It would be time-consuming because you have to force-feed data into cells every day, unreliable due to the potential for human error, and create a difficult environment for your team to work in. It’s also unnecessary because you have better options today.

When you use a cloud-based project management platform  with visually rich features and a click and drag simplicity, it benefits the project on all fronts: scheduling, team collaboration, productivity, and best use of time and resources. Me, I’m #Team Toggl Plan.

Rose Keefe

Rose Keefe is an author and technical writer who has over ten years’ experience in supporting project managers in the manufacturing and construction sectors. One of her primary responsibilities was developing product manuals that supported efficient use of industrial equipment. She continues to write on the subject of time management and commercial productivity for trade websites and publications.

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