Behind every great project manager is a great project calendar. And here’s the reason why: In order to take a project from start to finish, on time, and within budget, you need a high-level view that only a calendar or timeline can give you. But before you go opening Google Calendar or a blank Excel spreadsheet, allow us to introduce you to a few other tools to help bring your project calendar to life.
We’ll also cover the following:
- The functions and benefits of having a project calendar app
- The different types of calendars involved in project management (yep, there’s more than one!)
- The best tools and apps to help you create your own project calendar
Let’s get started.
The uses and benefits of a project calendar
You might be wondering: What’s the point of having a project calendar? Is it enough to keep track of your project team’s progress with a master to-do list or Kanban board? As we mentioned above, a project calendar is useful for gaining a high-level view of your project.
A project calendar helps you organize and visualize everything you have going on, which is especially helpful for complex projects where there’s a lot going on. Another benefit of using a calendar is that it’s helpful at every single phase. Use it when you’re planning project tasks and subtasks. Use it to communicate to team members the overarching timeline. Refer to it at every stage of the process to make sure you’re on track.
4 common types of calendars in project management
- Project calendar. Also called a project planning calendar or project management calendar, a project calendar is the principal way you and your team can get a high-level view of your project schedule. Organizing your various project tasks sequentially, on a timeline, is a surefire way to stay on track (and on top of due dates) and prioritize your work.
- Base calendar. The purpose of a base calendar is to provide a template for all other calendars. It pre-outlines your team’s working days and working times so that you don’t need to start from scratch when creating a calendar.
- Resource calendar. A resource calendar can help everyone on your team keep track of each other’s availability, as well as the availability of physical resources like meeting rooms, equipment, etc. That way, you can schedule around each other’s calendars and never overbook a room. (Clockwise team analytics offers a free way to get a sense of everyone’s bandwidth at a glance!)
- Task calendar. Sometimes, tasks pop up that don’t have anything to do with the project itself, but you still need a way of tracking your to-do list. To keep your project calendar specific only to items that fall within the project scope, it helps to have a separate task calendar.
How does a project planning app work?
Maybe your first instinct is to reach for a tool you already know and love, like Google Calendar, to create your project calendar. Or, you might even start with a project calendar template that you found in Microsoft Excel or a Kanban board in Trello. All of the above are wonderful tools, but they may not be well-suited for your project planning needs. Google Calendar isn’t robust enough, an Excel spreadsheet isn’t interactive enough, and Trello is great, but other calendar tools have more to offer. What you need is a project planning app.
Project planning apps (and/or project management apps) help you organize and centralize everything relating to your project. They typically let you switch between different ways of visualizing your data (e.g., as a list or chart), with a calendar view being one of them.
By taking advantage of the calendar view, you can see each of your tasks as a time block extending from the start date to the due date. This allows you to see your project at a glance, never losing sight of the big picture, even as you handle the day-to-day.
Criteria for comparing project management calendars
While shopping for a project management calendar tool may seem fairly straightforward, there are some criteria to remember to help you find the best calendar app for your team. Below are some recommended features and functionality to keep in mind when browsing project management calendar software:
- Usability: A project management calendar should be helpful and not burdensome to team members. We recommend selecting software that’s intuitive and won’t have a steep learning curve. That means both junior and tenured project managers should be able to quickly pop into the calendar and add milestones, update due dates, share progress updates, and collaborate in real time.
- Integrations: When we made our picks for sharing with you, we chose options with strong integrations with tools you might already be using (think messaging tools, time-tracking software, and CRMs). Always keep integrations in mind when researching tools to avoid disconnects and gaps in workflows down the road. (Bonus points when you can use automation within your tool!)
- Customizable user interface (UI): There are many ways your team members might want to view the project calendar, which means a customizable user interface is a must/ At a high level, the best UIs are easily readable and provide options to tailor the user experience (UX). Features like color coding, drag-and-drop arranging, and filtered views can benefit your team.
The best project management calendar software
Even the simplest of projects (with the best managers and teams behind them) aren’t immune to a little project turbulence. For that reason, it helps to have a project management tool to keep everything running smoothly. That’s why we’re sharing a few of our top picks, listed in alphabetical order, for tools that allow you to create a project calendar. This is how we made our picks:
- Includes functionality that covers all four types of calendars in project management (mentioned above)
- Offers integrations with popular tools that you might be using already
- Allows for real-time collaboration with other members of your project team
On ClickUp, there’s more than one way to view tasks. You can easily switch between List, Board, Calendar, Box, Gantt, Activity, Timeline, Workload, Mind Maps, Table, and Map views! That’s seriously a ton of views. Since we’re focusing on project calendars in this blog post, let’s zero in on Calendar View.
With Calendar View, tasks are searchable. You can also filter tasks by status, due date, assignee, and more. You can choose your calendar's time period: month, week, 4-day period, and day. It’s easy to share your calendar with stakeholders or external partners via public or private links. Plus, you can easily reschedule tasks thanks to the drag-and-drop feature.
The calendar isn’t just for looking; you can also manage your tasks directly from Calendar View. In ClickUp, everything is organized in a hierarchy: The Workspace includes everybody in the organization, then it further divides into Space, List, Folder, Tasks, and Subtasks. With Calendar View, you can choose whether you display tasks within your entire Workspace or whittle them down and display tasks in a specific subdivision.
Pros of using ClickUp for your project management calendar:
- All-in-one project management platform, meaning you don’t need a project management tool in addition to a project calendar tool
- Suitable for many types of workflows (including Agile)
- Allows you to track dependencies
- Includes features to help you keep track of resource availability
- It might seem complex when you first use it
- You need to ‘clear’ notifications, which seems like an unnecessary step
ClickUp offers five tiers: Free Forever, Unlimited, Business, Business Plus, and Enterprise. As of January 2023, Unlimited starts at $5 per user monthly (billed annually).
If spreadsheets are your preferred method of staying on top of things, then monday.com might be your jam. As with ClickUp, monday.com offers tons of ways to visualize data (eight, to be exact), but the starting point for any project or initiative is the board, which the company describes as a “visual super table.”
Create a board for each of your workflows, then populate it with Groups, Columns, Items, and Subitems — all of which help to organize your data. After your board is all setup, you can then launch the Calendar View to see everything on a clean, color-coded calendar. You can easily switch between monthly, weekly, and daily views.
From calendar mode, you can customize how your calendar looks, directly edit item cards (e.g. change the status of a task) and even split your view to display board view alongside your calendar.
Pros of using monday.com for your project management calendar:
- Calendar View is clean, straightforward, and user-friendly
- Split view sets monday.com apart from the other two options on this list
- A perfect alternative for fans of Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets
- If you need to manage the availability of a specific resource (like equipment), Workload View works great!
- Like ClickUp, it might seem complex when you first use it
Monday.com offers five tiers: Individual (which is free forever), Basic, Standard, Pro, and Enterprise. Basic, a good starting point for teams, starts at $8 per user monthly (billed annually) as of January 2023.
If you’re not into complex project management tools, then allow us to introduce you to one of the more lightweight options: Toggl Plan. Toggl Plan is perfect for project planning, resource management, and task management — and it doesn’t involve really advanced features or an intricate interface.
Unlike most project management tools like ClickUp and Asana, Toggl Plan doesn’t emphasize offering a variety of views. Instead, Toggl Plan keeps things really simple with two ways to visualize work: timeline view (Gantt chart) and board view (similar to a Kanban board). To organize tasks, you can sort them according to Team or Plan. As you might guess, you use ‘teams’ to organize the people in your workspace, and you use ‘plans’ to organize your tasks however you see fit (such as by client or by project).
Other notable features include drag-and-drop timelines, a searchable workspace, assignees, task statuses, and the ability to add project milestones. And for granular planning, you can use the two-way integration with Toggl Track to add time tracking to your project planning.
Thanks to Toggl Plan’s visually appealing and easy-to-use interface, staying on top of your project timeline, team calendar, and personal work schedule is a breeze. The catch? There’s no way to track task dependencies. This gap in functionality might be a big limitation for some users, but it also makes for a cleaner visual layout, which we appreciate.
Pros of using Toggl Plan for your project management calendar:
- Clean, modern user interface
- Intuitive, easy-to-use platform
- Provides all the core features necessary for project planning
- You can try Toggl Plan for free (14-day trial)
- Toggl Plan doesn’t offer any free plans (except for the 14-day trial)
- There’s no way to indicate task dependencies
Toggl Plan offers two plans: Team and Business. As of January 2023, the Team starts at $9 per user monthly (billed annually). Toggl also offers a free 14-day trial.
If you aren’t familiar with the project management software tool, Wrike—let us introduce you to this well-loved favorite. Wrike is a versatile work management platform that works well for marketing, project management, product development, business operations, and professional services.
Wrike offers features to help project teams organize projects of all sizes, such as customizable dashboards, collaborative cross-tagging for visibility, easy-to-use Gantt charts for complete project views, and integrations with Salesforce, Tableau, Dropbox, and Microsoft Teams, to name a few.
In terms of project management calendar, Wrike’s Calendars is a feature that provides full visibility across projects so teams can stay on top of deadlines, project progress, resourcing issues, and bottlenecks. With Wrike’s team calendar for project management, managers can visualize team priorities, view multiple, color-coded project calendars at once for better resource management, quickly check team schedules, and drag-and-drop tasks instantly to make updates from PC, Mac, or Wrike’s Android and iOS mobile apps.
Pros of using Wrike for your project management calendar:
- Easily compare workloads across the team
- Share project calendars between teams
- You can try Wrike for free (14-day trial)
- Like ClickUp and monday.com, the tool may seem complex at first
- Your team would likely want to use Wrike for all project management to get the most value out of the tool
Wrike offers five plans to choose from: Free, Team, Business, Enterprise, and Pinnacle. As of January 2023, the Team plan starts at $9.80 per user per month.
All three of these apps are really strong candidates for your next project management calendar, but at the end of the day, it really depends on your unique needs (and the needs of your team). What do you, as a project manager, need to successfully plan and track a project? What does your team need to execute it?
For the best value, we recommend ClickUp, whose free plan is very generous in terms of functionality. For a clean and minimal platform, we recommend Toggl Plan. For those who prefer grids and tables, we recommend monday.com.