How to Use a Simple Gantt chart to Plan a Complex Project
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How to use a Simple Gantt Chart to Reverse Engineer a Complex Project

Zach McDaniel Zach McDaniel Last Updated:

If you’re managing a complex project, a simple Gantt chart may be the perfect tool to help you keep track of all the moving parts. You don’t have to be an expert to use one, we’ll show you why you it’s useful and how to set up your first Gantt chart.  

How to use a Gantt Chart

So, what is a Gantt chart? A Gantt chart has a very simple definition and an even more simple application. This makes it super easy to integrate into your workflow if you’re not already using it. By definition, a Gantt chart is a series of lines in a horizontal pattern that help differentiate different deadlines, tasks, and anything else that you might need to assign to it. Here’s a simple visual:

Toggl Plan Timeline

This is an example of what you’ll see when you use Toggl Plan. It might not seem like there’s a lot going on above, but once you learn what you’re looking at, this is invaluable.  Each horizontal line represents a task that contributes to the overall project. Using a Gantt chart allows you and your team to see how all the pieces fit together and how well you’re sticking to the project timeline. This visual overview can help everyone stay on the same page and allows you to manage your staff and resources more effectively.

how to use a Gantt chart

Different Lines, Different Tasks

Possibly one of the more confusing aspects of project management and making a timeline and schedule is not assigning tasks, it’s sticking to them. What do I mean by that? People get confused all the time, which can lead to big problems if you’re not careful. With a Gantt chart, it’s easy for every member of your team to see what everyone else is working on. This prevents people from duplicating the work that’s already been done or getting confused about project milestones.


Deadlines are often such a scary thing. I mean, it has the word “dead” in it. But deadlines don’t have to be scary, especially if you keep a good hold on them. With Toggl Plan’s gantt chart, you’ll never be confused about when you need to have to have the code written or blog operational. You’ll notice that on top of the assignments, you’ll always have dates. That way, you’ll have the deadline date always handy.

Toggl Plan Milestone

Color Coding

You’ll also notice that the lines on the Toggl Plan Gantt chart are different colors. This is such a simple yet effective feature. Once you’ve set the task to the desired date, a little window will pop up.

You can see many things here. What we’re focused on for now are the colors. At any time, you can simply click the desired line, and change the color.

You can color code your tasks based on task urgency, project, or even for each team. To make your Gantt chart even more visually appealing, you can use your brand colors using our custom color feature. The possibilities are limitless. We like to use colors that stand out from one another to help separate the different tasks at hand.

Easy-to-use Interface

Now let’s talk about what else we can see in the image above. You can see the title, notes, estimates, and project type. However, you can also see a ‘More options’ button, so let’s drop that down and take a closer look.

Toggl Plan Timeline

As you can see, everything is clearly labelled as to its function. Set new dates, create estimates, label the task, or even add notes for team members. In the bottom left, you have a link option, a duplicate option, and a trash option. Projects change, deadlines move, and life happens, so it’s very beneficial to be able to change your tasks, projects, and deadlines on the fly.


In project management, a milestone usually marks every major progress point for the project. The milestone function in Toggl Plan is easy to use. Simply select a date on the timeline, and make it a milestone.

Why are milestones useful? Creating milestones does a lot for both you as a project manager, and your team. It helps break apart the work into more manageable pieces so that you aren’t overwhelmed. It also gives you something to work towards so that you don’t feel like you’re in a never-ending cycle. In Toggl Plan, each milestone you create will extend vertically down the entire timeline. This is perfect for coordinating multiple teams. Even if the milestone doesn’t affect your marketing team, the marketing team can still see that the product development has a major milestone, which makes it easier to balance the workload.

Planning Backwards with a simple Gantt chart

One of the best ways to use a Gantt chart is to plan backwards. When you have a deadline for a major project, use the milestone flag in Toggl Plan to mark the deadline. Then plan backwards, scheduling each step from the deadline back to the very beginning of the project.

If you’re new to Gantt charts, Toggl Plan is a great tool to try. It’s incredibly easy to use, and it will give your team an added level of transparency on project progress. Toggl Plan also makes it easy to add new team members, adjust your timeline, reassign tasks, and manage multiple projects at once.

We hope that we made it clear as to why gantt charts are so beneficial. We understand that it’s not the easiest thing in the world to get and use new software, but with a super helpful and friendly support staff, we like to think it might be a close second.

Zach McDaniel

Like many other people, Zach McDaniel gained his knowledge of management and project management through research and necessity. He believes that the most interesting thing about project management, management, and productivity is that there are so many different strategies, so there’s always something new to learn and share.

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