5 Step Project Management Checklist to Hit Deadlines

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Kicking off a project is no easy task, and with so many moving parts, people, and stacks of paperwork to manage, adding another document to your pile might sound unappealing. Believe it or not, adding a project management checklist to your toolbox can help you minimize your workload while staying on top of essential components. 

Read on to learn more about the importance of a project management checklist and why you should consider one for your team’s next project.

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Project Management Checklist Basics

A project management checklist is a document that helps project managers and team members keep track of essential project obligations, milestones, deadlines, tasks, goals, and more to stay organized and track project progress. 

Compared to other project management tools and documents, the project management checklist is much less rigid. Project teams can use checklists to manage team obligations as a whole or break them down for each person’s individual needs, making them highly customizable. For example, a project manager might choose to have a project management checklist for their team and for their own obligations and tasks.


Read more: What is Project Management? Definition, Types & Examples


Projects are complex collections of tasks, and even in Agile teams, projects require a lot of fine details like documentation and managing communication between stakeholders. Managing, executing, and successfully completing a project is no easy task.

 In short, project management checklists make it easier to manage the day-to-day responsibilities of running a successful project while keeping the essentials you need most closely accessible.

Project management checklists are incredibly flexible because they exist to serve you and your team’s unique needs – and no one else. You should feel free to design and use project checklists as you see fit, whether that’s using them at a team level, individually, or even creating multiple checklists to use during different phases of your project. 

Checklists can also exist digitally or in physical form, from mini Post-It note checklists to spreadsheet trackers and more. Some teams choose to enmesh their checklists within a project management solution, as many tools, such as Todoist for example, allow users to create individual or team to-do lists in combination with standard features.


Read more: Our Top 10 Project Management Software Picks


Components of a Checklist for Project Management by Project Phase

While project management checklists are designed to be customizable, the most common use case is to track essential tasks throughout project phases. 

1. Project initiation phase

This is a time to establish a vision of what the project should look like, including scope, goals, deliverables, and more. While the details don’t need to be incredibly specific at this phase of the project, at a minimum, stakeholders will require enough information about the project to clearly define a business case and approve it. 

Some project components you could add to your checklist during this phase include:

  • Project proposal
  • Kick-off meeting
  • List of project management solutions to employ
  • Communication channels

2. Project planning phase

Project planning sets the foundation for project success and is the most documentation-intensive portion of the project lifecycle. During this phase, it’s important to set standard operating procedures for project work to keep team expectations consistent and provide structure.

Project components to add to your checklist during this phase include:

  • Finalizing a detailed project charter
  • Deciding on a project management methodology to use for the project (Agile, Waterfall, etc.)
  • Assigning task deadlines and deliverable expectations
  • Setting a project budget and timeline

3. Project execution phase

During the project execution phase, project work is set into action, and that means more moving parts to manage. Using a project checklist during this phase in particular is helpful to ensure that essential planning components don’t fall through the cracks. 

Some examples of project components you would want to add to your checklist during this phase include:

  • Setting routine reminders to check in on team members’ progress
  • Establishing regular meeting times with the team and stakeholders 
  • Sending relevant data and information periodically to external stakeholders
  • Reminder to reserve and allocate specific resources as needed (meeting spaces, technology, 3rd party contractors, etc)

4. Project monitoring phase

Project monitoring is a time for collecting data and trying to stay ahead of any potential roadblocks. During this phase, documentation is crucial to compiling data about the project: from budget updates to staying on time, and more. 

Some examples of project components you would want to add to your checklist during this phase include:

  • Evaluating progress on deliverables
  • Updating project plans and goals
  • Redistributing workloads as needed
  • Coaching team members as needed

5. Project closure phase

The project closure phase is a time for handing over final deliverables, reflecting on potential areas of improvement, and celebrating wins. During this phase, it’s important to document what went well and what was challenging in order to improve the likelihood of future projects’ success.

Some examples of project components you would want to add to your checklist during this phase include:

  • Turning over deliverables
  • Hosting a project postmortem meeting
  • Communicating final outcomes with all types of stakeholders
  • Turning over final notes to the project management office

Read more: 5 Phases of Project Management Life Cycle | Complete Guide


Download a FREE Project Management Checklist


Read more: 8 Factors That Lead to Successful Projects


FAQs

Ultimately, it’s up to you how you implement checklists as part of your project management strategy. After all, they’re a highly personal tool that’s designed to fit your unique needs. You can choose to use a project management checklist for your personal tasks, as part of a team checklist, or a combination of both.

After a project has concluded, it’s a good idea to review your checklist to help you review what went well and what could have been improved. Consider using that in your personal notes to give you a better idea of how to improve your project the next time around.

A project management checklist can work extremely well in combination with a project management solution. Many software providers even enable teams to add their checklists into the interface digitally, allowing teams to access the checklist and receive reminders about tasks virtually and as push notifications on linked devices.

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