Aeon Timeline offers a lot of flexibility, which can be great when you are knee-deep in a project and trying to untangle resource allocations and release dates, but not so useful when you are just starting out and a little lost about where to begin.
This guide suggests one such path, assuming you are starting a brand new project. You may find other approaches suit your workflow better later on, but this approach should be enough to get your project ideas flowing.
- Create your project timeline
- Start with the big tasks
- Estimate durations and dates
- Assign your resources
- Add project dependencies
- And beyond: plan, execute, and iterate
Step 1: Create your project timeline
To get started, click on the Create New button and choose from one of our pre-existing templates.
For most people, the default settings should be fine initially. You will no doubt find things you want to tweak down the track, but you can do this anytime in Timeline Settings.
Follow the bouncing ball
The path suggested in this article also happens to be the same path as is suggested in our in-built tutorial system, so the easiest way to get going is to start the tutorial and work through the steps.
The tutorial will teach you how to use parts of the interface, but it is also designed to help you complete actual work. You will get best results if you take your time with each step, enter real data and plan your actual project as you work.
Step 2: Start with the big tasks
At this stage, you probably have an understanding of the big tasks in the project, the key personnel who will be working on it, and perhaps not much more. You may have a specific milestone date in mind, or dates may be the last thing you want to think about right now.
And that's all okay.
The best place to start is Spreadsheet View, which is designed to help you get your ideas down fast, and allows you to create tasks without thinking about dates yet.
Create a few tasks (or epics, if you are from an Agile background) to represent those big ticket items you already know. From there, you can begin to fill some of the gaps in between.
Although they don't have dates yet, Spreadsheet View still keeps events in a "chronological order" of your choosing, so you can drag events around to sort them into the rough order in which they should occur.
As your project goes, you will probably want to use nesting to break those larger tasks into smaller components (stories and tasks, if you are into agile). You can drag and drop items onto other items in the Spreadsheet to move them inside a parent task.
Step 3: Estimate durations and dates
The tutorial introduces dates and durations at this point. We are a timeline app after all, and so people will be expecting to see a timeline sooner or later. But if you are not ready to think about dates yet, that is fine. You can move on to later steps and come back when you are ready.
There are entire books written about estimating task duration in Project Management, but however you arrive at the figure, you can enter durations directly into the Spreadsheet or Item Inspector. You can set estimates and task durations before you begin working with actual dates.
You can add dates by typing them into the Spreadsheet or the Item Inspector, or by splitting your workspace and dragging events into the timeline.
Alternatively, if you want to think about the relative duration and spacing of events without locking yourself into real-world dates, switch to a relative Weekly or Daily calendar in Timeline Settings, and you can work with dates like "Tuesday Week 3" or "1:00pm Day 1" instead. You will be able to convert these back to real world dates later.
Once you add dates and durations, Timeline View will start to show a more graphical sense of time emerge in your project.
Step 4: Assign your resources
Once you have your basic project laid out, it is a good time to introduce the people that will be doing the work. Click on the person icon in the Sidebar to open the People panel, and use the Add button to create a few people.
Then, switch into Relationship View, which shows visually how those people relate to your tasks. Click on an intersection between an event and a character to assign tasks (inside Aeon Timeline, we refer to this generically by saying you are creating a relationship between the person and the task – usually an Assigned relationship).
Repeat until you have associated people with all of your tasks... or at least all of the tasks you can allocate right now.
You can then switch back to Timeline View, and use the filter icons in the entity panel to view only events associated with a single person. This will show you if any resources are over-allocated (overlapping events) or under-allocated (big gaps with nothing to do).
Step 5: Add Project Dependencies
As well as ensuring tasks are allocated, you will also want to make sure they are completed in a logical order... you can't paint a house if you haven't put up the walls, after all.
Aeon Timeline uses dependencies to enforce a simple order between tasks: Task B is blocked by Task A if it cannot begin until Task A is completed. To state the reverse, Task A blocks Task B.
There are several ways to make two items dependent:
- Select a task, open the Dependencies tab in the Inspector, click the + icon alongside Blocks or Blocked By, and choose the other task.
- Select two tasks and choose Make Dependent from the Items menu to make the later task dependent on the earlier task.
Once you make tasks dependent, Aeon Timeline will check to ensure those constraints are met at all times as you edit and move tasks around your timeline. If a change will violate a dependency (e.g. by moving an event before a blocking task), Aeon Timeline with either:
- Automatically resolve the violated dependency by adjusting the affected item
- Show a warning icon alongside the task, in the Inspector, and in the Sidebar
You can choose whether violations should be automatically resolved in the Dates tab in Timeline Settings.
And beyond: plan, execute, and iterate
From here, it is all about iteration: plan your project, execute your project, update your plan, and iterate.
There are more tricks to Aeon Timeline that might help down the track, and the tutorial introduces you to a few more, but only use them when you are ready, and there is something specific you want to achieve.