Juggling multiple tasks, keeping track of progress, and ensuring timely delivery can be a daunting task. Using templates can help you streamline these responsibilities, making them more manageable and less time-consuming.
Incorporating templates into your work should be a standard practice for every project or product manager. Using templates for everyday project management tasks can help you achieve:
- Efficiency gains — Templates save you time by eliminating the need to start from scratch
- Consistency — Templates provide consistency, ensuring that you don’t have to switch methods between different projects
- Continuous improvement — You can modify your templates over time to suit your individual needs and preferences
- No shortcuts — Templates discourage shortcuts when it might be tempting to cut corners
With the right set of templates and knowledge on how to use them, anyone can become an effective project manager.
9 project management templates
The following nine project management templates are tailor-made for both project managers and product managers who oversee the delivery and execution of multiple projects in their daily work. These tools will not only help you stay organized but also enhance your productivity, enabling you to focus on the strategic aspects of your role.
Whether you’re overseeing a single project or managing a portfolio of products, these templates will provide the structure and clarity needed to drive your projects from inception to successful completion:
- Risk register (access template in Google Sheets)
- Communication plan (template)
- Decision log (template)
- Gantt chart (template)
- Eisenhower matrix (template)
- RICE (template)
- Gap analysis (template)
- Meeting agenda (template)
- Checklist (template)
All project management templates are available in Google Sheets. Please select File > Make a copy before making edits to the spreadsheet.
You can also download the entire workbook in Excel (.xlsx) format.
Project management, in many ways, is about managing risks. These include primary risks, such as not meeting deadlines, not delivering within scope, and exceeding budget. There are also smaller risks that contribute to these primary ones, such as integration issues.
A risk register helps you track and address these risks by providing a structured approach and serving as a tangible reminder of potential issues.
The risk register template looks like this:
This template includes seven columns:
- Risk — Identify the risk
- Likelihood — Rate the probability of the risk occurring on a scale from low to high
- Severity — Rate the potential impact if the risk occurs on a scale from low to high
- Approach — Based on likelihood and severity, decide whether to ignore the risk or prepare prevention and contingency plans
- Risk owner — Assign someone responsible for monitoring and controlling this risk
- Prevention plan — Outline an actionable plan for preventing this risk
- Contingency plan — Decide upfront what steps will be taken if the risk materializes
Navigating the fine line between overcommunication and undercommunication can be challenging. Additionally, communication is prone to errors. For instance, you might forget to communicate something or your message may not be read by the recipient.
A communication plan can help mitigate these issues. It provides a tangible tool that you can use to refine your communication approach and regularly check if anything has been overlooked.
The communication plan template looks like this:
For an effective communication plan, you need to define five key elements:
- Type of update — What exactly do you want to communicate?
- Frequency — How often do you want to communicate it? This serves as a good sanity check if you’re communicating with stakeholders as often as intended
- Channel — Which channel is most suitable for delivering the update?
- Audience — Who needs to receive this update?
- Expected outcome — How will you know when communication is successful? Simply sending a message does not constitute successful communication if it doesn’t lead to desired outcomes. Always verify whether your communications are achieving their intended results
Recording all major decisions is vital.
A decision log provides evidence in case someone tries to blame you for decisions made by others (which, let’s face it, happens from time to time). It also makes it easier to trace back decisions and understand the context behind them.
As time goes on, we tend to forget why we made certain decisions in the past. However, this knowledge can often prove important.
The decision log template looks like this:
When logging decisions, keep these key points in mind:
- Date — When was the decision made?
- Decision details — What does this decision entail?
- Decision impact — How does this decision affect other business areas?
- Status — Has the decision been approved, is it under consultation, or just proposed?
- Proposed by — This helps trace back who suggested the idea for additional context or understanding
- Approvers — List of people who approved the decision
- Comments — Any additional comments if needed
Most project managers are familiar with Gantt charts, so I’ll skip a lengthy introduction.
In short, we sometimes need a detailed timeline-based plan — especially when working with multiple dependencies — and Gantt charts are perfect for that purpose.
The Gantt chart template looks like this:
My structure for the Gantt chart includes:
- Phase — What phase or work item are we tracking?
- Owner — Who ensures its completion within the assigned timeframe?
- Deadline — When should this phase be completed by?
- Duration — How many days will this phase last? This serves as a good sanity check
- Status — Is it done, on track, at risk or delayed?
- Calendar — I chose weekdays, but weeks, months or specific dates could also be used
When we’re overwhelmed with tasks, prioritizing becomes critical. The Eisenhower matrix can help you delegate, postpone, and eliminate non-critical tasks by evaluating them based on their importance and urgency.
The Eisenhower matrix template looks like this:
To use this tool, assess each of your tasks for urgency and importance. Then categorize them as follows:
- Urgent — Prioritize these tasks
- Significant — Schedule these for later
- Not urgent — Consider delegating these to someone else
- Insignificant — Think about eliminating these altogether
Managing responsibilities and areas of ownership is crucial, particularly when working with numerous stakeholders. The RICE framework helps prevent miscommunication, confusion, and blame games by clearly defining who is responsible and accountable for a given task or area. It also outlines who should be consulted or informed when decisions are made.
The RICE template looks like this:
This template consists of four elements:
- Items — What areas of responsibility are we defining?
- Roles/people — Which roles are we considering in the RICE matrix? You can also choose to use specific names instead
- Phases — This is purely cosmetic to aid in tracking
- RICE — In each position, put either R (responsible), I (informed), C (consulted), or E (accountable) to define accountability within the RICE matrix. Colors change automatically for easier tracking
Gap analysis is an approach aimed at improvement that involves defining the current state and desired state, identifying the gap between them, and creating a plan to bridge this gap.
It has various applications. For instance, it can be used as a roadmap planning tool (defining gaps in products/features) or as a process improvement tool (identifying gaps in current processes).
The gap analysis template looks like this:
- Area — What high-level business area are you aiming to improve?
- KPI — What specific KPI within this area are you targeting?
- Current state — How does the area/KPI look currently?
- Desired state — How would you like this area/KPI to look?
- The gap — What’s the difference between the current and desired states?
- Priority — How important is it to close this gap?
- Key actions — What specific steps can be taken to close the gap?
- Owner — Who should take responsibility for closing the gap?
As shown in the example provided, some improvements can be easily measured with quantifiable current and desired states. In other cases where defining a KPI may be difficult, I’ve used more qualitative descriptions of current and desired states. Use whichever approach makes most sense in your context.
We’ve all experienced meetings that yield no results—essentially wasting everyone’s time. Planning a clear agenda upfront can help optimize your meetings by identifying which ones are unnecessary.
An effective meeting agenda also ensures that your meeting stays efficient and focused.
The meeting agenda template looks like this:
- Item — What exactly do you want to discuss?
- Start and end times — You could use either specific hours or time elapsed since the start of the meeting
- Objective — How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal for each agenda item so that you can move forward?
- Audience — Sometimes not everyone needs to attend all parts of a meeting. In such cases, specify who should be present at what times
Checklists are invaluable. They prevent tasks from being overlooked, ensure you don’t take shortcuts, and provide a tool for refining your processes over time. They’re also an excellent training resource for new team members.
I have a checklist for everything I do. Even though I’ve memorized most of them, reviewing them occasionally helps me identify where I might be cutting corners and forces me to consider whether that’s the right approach.
The checklist template looks like this:
- Item — What needs to be done?
- Description — This is useful, especially if the checklist will be shared with others
- Deadline — When should this item be completed by?
- Status — Is it on track, at risk, or already done?
- Phases — This is purely cosmetic to make reading easier
Templates simplify our lives and add predictability. They also ensure that nothing falls through the cracks amid daily challenges and chaos.
I strongly recommend incorporating project management templates into your daily work routine. By creating templates for most of your typical activities, you’ll free up time and energy to tackle larger challenges without compromising the quality of your work.
While this article provides plenty of templates as starting points, remember that these are subjective. As you discover what works best for you, feel free to modify these templates by adding or removing elements to suit your needs.
Ultimately, they’re just tools, not prescriptive instructions on how to manage projects.
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