How to Create and Use a Gantt Chart

Image of a gantt chart being used on a piece of paper

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The history of the Gantt Chart

The Gantt chart was invented by American engineer and management consultant Henry Gantt between the 1910s-1915s. Gantt was a great proponent of using scientific management and methods as a whole and was working to integrate these concepts to improve productivity and efficiency.

The gantt chart was born out of the need to visualize the overall progress of a project — creating a way that someone could quickly see the status and timelines of work being done and also communicate that status to other people.

The first Gantt chart was a simple bar graph that showed the start and end dates of each task. Its position on the chart indicated the status of the task at a given point in time. As the charts evolved, they began to include more detailed information; such as task dependencies, task duration, and resource allocation. Gantt charts, now, are widely used in a variety of industries and are recognized an important tool for successful project management and task completion.

Creating a Gantt Chart

To create a Gantt chart, you will need: a list of tasks, the task start and end dates and the dependencies associated with the tasks.

You can create and use a gantt chart manually on a paper or whiteboard or even use project management software to create a digital chart. Some popular project management tools with Gantt chart capabilities include open source project management tools like Leantime and commercial offerings such as Microsoft Project, and Asana.

Setting up your project’s gantt chart

You have the tasks, dates and dependencies. Now what? Here are some things to consider in order to help make setting up your gantt chart easier:

Define the project scope

Project scope is detailing the work that’s required in order to complete the project. In order to do that, you’ll want to determine the goals, objectives, and deliverables of the project, and then take a look at what tasks are needed to achieve those goals. One way to do that is to look backwards and map out the steps from the end in order to get back to the beginning.

Planning a project’s scope can be a challenging experience; especially if your organization is moving at a fast pace and the project work needs to get started quickly. The more detailed and documented you are, though, the more likely the project is understood by everyone on the team and the easier it is for team members to predict what work will come next.

Establish task dependencies

A task dependency is when one task relies on the completion of another task in order to move forward. You’ll want to identify these as early as possible and call them out on your gantt chart. These are particularly important because the dependencies could be external or on a different team.

In those situations, these move beyond a task dependency and can become a risk to the project. If the larger work is sitting on an external team or provider’s work, you’ll want to be checking in regularly from the beginning.

Determine task duration

Real talk: Humans are often lacking in our ability to estimate and that’s often because we tend to overestimate our skillsets. When we do this, we end up behind on our projects. Take extra time to estimate carefully and consider room for a buffer. Estimating the tasks allows you to align them properly on your gantt chart through your established milestones.

One of the best ways to estimate tasks more accurately is to be sure that you are breaking work down into small enough tasks. The more accurate you get at breaking down the work, the more likely you’ll be on time and on track — making the gantt chart an even more powerful partner to task management.

Create the chart

Creating the chart is often easier when you’re using a project management tool. There are many out there and they can end up overwhelming. Leantime is an open source project management system that makes getting set up really quickly and allows you to track the research and discovery that often goes with your project development.

Leantime Milestone Gantt chart view in Light Mode
Leantime Milestone Gantt chart

Update the chart regularly

The information you put in the chart needs to be kept up to date otherwise if you’re sharing it with stakeholders or others, they could miss relevant information. Additionally, you just went through all that trouble to break down the project. Checking things off as they are completed is motivating. One step closer.

Extra tips on getting the most out of your gantt chart

Maximizing the benefits task tracking with the gantt

  1. Make it clear and simple: Think high level details without the information overload.
  2. Use it as a communication tool: Share the chart with project stakeholders, including clients, executives, and team members, to keep everyone informed and on the same page.
  3. Use it to identify and prevent potential problems: Use the chart to identify bottlenecks, risks, obstacles, and make adjustments to the timeline and resources as needed to keep the project on time.
  4. Use it to track progress: Don’t just set it and forget it. Use it as a resource to track the progress of each task; making any relevant adjustments needed to ensure that the project stays on track and meets its goals.

Surprise uses for the Gantt Chart

  1. Gantt charts are often used to visually represent the timeline of a project, but they can also be used to plan out your weekend activities. Want to make sure you have enough time for brunch, a movie, and a nap? Make a Gantt chart.
  2. Gantt charts can be addictive – once you start using them, you might find yourself making them for everything. Your grocery list, your workout routine, your daily schedule… the possibilities are endless.
  3. Gantt charts can be a great way to impress your boss with your project management skills, but be careful not to overdo it. Too many gantt charts and your boss might just stop looking at them.

Some of these may be a stretch (I’ll be the first to admit, I won’t be the one making them for my grocery list) but I have known folks to use them for closer to everything. Planning a wedding? Absolutely; use a gantt chart. The gantt chart is a valuable visual representation of upcoming work and can help paint a better overview than we might get with a wall of tasks.


The Gantt chart is a powerful tool for creating successful projects. By providing a clear, concise and visual representation of a project’s timeline and progress, the Gantt chart helps project managers plan, monitor, and control the various tasks and activities involved in a project. It also helps communicate and engage statuses with outside stakeholders. So whether you are managing a construction project, a software development project, or any other type of project or even your grocery list, a Gantt chart can help you stay organized and on track.

Interested in setting up a gantt chart for free? Head over to Leantime, check out the features and get started.

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Gloria Folaron is the CEO and founder of Leantime. A Nurse first, she describes herself as an original non-project manager. Being diagnosed with ADHD later in life, she has hands on experience in navigating the world of project and product management and staying organized with ADHD.

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