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Project Management

What Is a Milestone in Project Management? Examples and Tips

Brett Harned
September 21, 2021
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project planning guide

Project plans are maps that chart the course of your projects. As you plan your project, you’ll begin to map out the tasks, dependencies, task owners, and more. 

But don’t forget a very important component of any project plan: milestones.

What is a project milestone?: A quick definition

A milestone is a marker in a project that signifies a change or stage in development. Milestones are powerful components in project management because they show key events and map forward movement in your project plan.

Milestones act as signposts through the course of your project, helping ensure you stay on track. Without project milestone tracking, you’re just monitoring tasks and not necessarily following the right path in your project.

What’s the difference between tasks and milestones?

You’re not building a rocket here—you’re building a project plan, and the components aren’t that complex. That said, distinguishing between tasks and milestones can be difficult on larger projects, or if the project you’re managing just isn’t within the realm of your expertise (yet).

If you’ve ever been confused about what is (or isn't) a milestone in your gantt chart, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is this a task or a deliverable?
  2. Will this impact the final deadline?
  3. Is this an important moment in the project that will indicate forward progress?
  4. Does this need to be reviewed by stakeholders?
  5. Is this an event that impacts the project?

Essentially, you want to set the most important events of your project as milestones so they can be easily seen and mapped by the project team. Milestones are given additional significance over tasks in a plan so the project manager can track the tasks while the team and stakeholders focus on forward progress.

Here’s how to tell the difference between milestones vs tasks when looking at your plan in TeamGantt:

  • A milestone is represented by a gold, diamond-shaped icon or symbol on your gantt chart with a single-day duration. 
  • Tasks show up as horizontal bars on the gantt chart. They can be assigned different task colors, as well as multi-day durations.
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Examples of milestones in project management

Milestones make it easier to keep projects on track by calling out major events, dates, decisions, and deliverables. Here are a few examples of project milestones you might include in your plan:

  • Start and end dates for project phases
  • Key deliveries
  • Client and stakeholder approvals
  • Important meetings and presentations
  • Key dates or outages that may impact your timeline

How to use key milestones in your project plan

Project milestones do more than just show progress—they can help you communicate what’s happening with your project. 

When creating a gantt chart, milestones provide an easy way to see major dates or deliverables at a glance. That means anyone who views your gantt chart can quickly tell where things are at any given moment.

Now that you understand what a milestone is and why it’s important, let’s dig a little deeper and explore 3 common ways using milestones can benefit your projects.

Monitor deadlines for deliverables more easily

No plan is ever complete without a list of deadlines! The best way to make them noticeable is to use the project management milestones and deliverables technique. What does this mean? Make the deliverables project milestones!

Why do this? Well, it’s no secret that not everyone wants to pore over your beautiful project plan to find key dates. Most people—your teammates included—want a top-level view of key dates and events. Milestones are great for this purpose because they’re called out in a special way—usually with a diamond symbol—in project plans.

While you should list the tasks and effort leading up to a project milestone, be sure to present the milestone at the end of those tasks to signify a delivery, or even a presentation of, the deliverable.

Here's an example of how one team uses milestones to track an important deadline in their project.

Spotlight important dates

Are there days from now until the end of your project that could impact your project in some way? Maybe your team will be out of the office for a mandatory training. Or perhaps there’s a board meeting you’re expected to attend.

It’s important to keep all of these important events in mind when you’re planning a project because they could possibly impact your project schedule. So why not include them as project milestones so you can track them all in one place?

In this example, the team’s off-site strat-op meeting has been added to the project plan as a milestone so work can be scheduled around it.

date milestone in gantt chart

Identify potential project bottlenecks

Many projects rely on the work produced by external teams or partners to make forward progress. If you’re not tracking those external factors somewhere, there’s a great chance you’ll forget to follow-up on it.

That’s why it’s important to list these deliverables as project milestones if you’re working on a project that depends on someone or something outside of your project. Here’s an example of how you might use a milestone to track a client approval.

deliverable milestone in gantt chart

Quick tips for using project milestones in TeamGantt

Once you’ve mapped out your overall process and plan with your team, you can add tasks, identify gantt chart milestones, and determine task owners. Project milestones are easy to create and track because you’ve called out the most important points in your project. 

Let’s take a quick look at how project milestones work in TeamGantt.

How to set and schedule milestones in your gantt chart

You can set a milestone for your project in just a couple of clicks in TeamGantt. This quick tutorial shows you how to add milestones to your project schedule once you’ve signed up for a TeamGantt account:

How to change a task to a milestone

Need to change a task to a milestone on your gantt chart? Simply follow these steps:

  1. Hover over the task you want to change on your gantt chart.
  2. Click the 3-dot menu that appears to the right of the taskbar. 
  3. Select Convert to Milestone from the drop-down menu, and your taskbar should automatically switch to a milestone icon on your project timeline.
Example of how to change a task to a milestone in the gantt chart using TeamGantt

How to mark a milestone as complete

Nothing’s quite as satisfying as checking a major milestone off your list! To update the status of a milestone in TeamGantt, simply click the checkbox in the Progress column of your gantt chart to mark it as complete.

Example of a completed milestone on the gantt chart in TeamGantt

How to share project milestones with clients and stakeholders

Want to give clients and stakeholders a high-level view of the project? Follow these steps to share a PDF of key project milestones in your gantt chart.

1. Filter your project by milestones.

From Gantt view, click the All Dates menu at the top of your gantt chart, and select Only Milestones from the drop-down.

filter gantt chart by project milestones

2. Export your filtered project to a PDF file.

Navigate to your project's Menu, and select Print/Export PDF from the drop-down.

export gantt chart with project milestones to PDF

Customize your PDF settings, then click View PDF to complete the export. From there, you can download and/or print your PDF to share with clients and stakeholders.

share PDF of gantt chart filtered by project milestones

Who would have thought such a critical step could be so easy?

Hit every project milestone with ease

TeamGantt makes it easy to create, track, and collaborate on all your project milestones so nothing slips through the cracks.

You’ll have all the features you need to ensure projects finish on time and under budget—from drag and drop simplicity and team collaboration to customizable views and workload management.

Best of all, it’s all wrapped up in a simple and intuitive interface your whole team will love. 😍

Give TeamGantt a free try today!

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