Microsoft Office / Software Applications

Microsoft Project 2007

Managing Tasks in a Project Plan

An individual task is the building block of  a good project plan. There are many advanced ways to use Microsoft Project to manage projects, but it all comes down to how well you build the individual project tasks. A project task is an individual element, job, or other small size way to break down a project.

How big is a task? It really depends on the size and scope of the project. On a large project, such as constructing a new highway, each individual task may be rather large – and then broken down into its own project plan. If you’re building a new website, each task may be very specific and a short duration to completion.

In this section of the free Microsoft Project 2007 tutorial, we’re going to learn how to manage tasks for successful project management. Specifically, we’re going to learn how to:

  • Create outline tasks
  • Create recurring tasks
  • Link project tasks together
  • Set constraints on tasks
  • Create a deadline for a task
  • Add and edit notes on tasks

Outline Tasks

Creating an outline for your tasks is a great way to show what is the most important or least important tasks in your project plan. By doing so, you will be able to accurately pick which tasks you should be focusing on the most.

How to Create Outline Tasks

To create outline tasks, click “View” and choose “Gantt chart.” Click the task you want to Indent (to make it less important than other tasks) or Outdent (to make it more important than other tasks).

Recurring Tasks

Creating recurring tasks is a good idea if the same task occurs more than once. This is especially helpful if some tasks occur multiple times throughout your project. This will in the long run save you time in your project and allow you to focus on more important things in Project.

How to Create a Recurring Task

To create a recurring task, click “View” on the top of the program and choose “Gantt Chart.” Click on a task in the chart, click “Insert” at the top of the program, and choose “Recurring Task.”

In the task name box, type the name of your recurring task (mine is “Repeating Task”). Set the duration to however long the recurring task will take. In the “Recurrence pattern” select how often the task will repeat itself (mine is set to weekly). Select how often the task with recur (mine is set to recur every 1 week). In the “Range of recurrence” section, select when the recurring task will begin and end (mine is set to begin on 11/6/10 and end on 11/11/10). Finally, if you want to select a calendar under “Calendar for scheduling this task” you may do so. While mine is set to none, you may set this task to occur only on “night shift,” a “24 hour” period, or the “standard” period of work.

Linking Tasks

Linking tasks (or dependent tasks) are tasks that depend on one another to complete your project. Earlier I used an example of an automobile: the engine of a car cannot be placed before the frame of a car. The same logic applies to linking tasks. If a task relies on another task in order to be completed, it cannot be completed on its own. In the same way, a certain task that is dependent on another task cannot be completed until said task is completed.

How to Link Tasks in Microsoft Project

Double-click on the task that must be linked with another task (in this case Task “B” must be linked with another task).

Click the “Task Name” and click the “down arrow” to choose which task “Task B” will be reliant on.

In our case, “Task B” will be reliant on “Task C.” Once selected, click “OK.” “Task B” now relies on “Task C” to complete its task.

Setting Constraints on Tasks

Setting constraints in Microsoft Project 2007 is crucial if you want your tasks to begin and end on their scheduled dates. By default, Microsoft Project 2007 calculates the start and finish dates itself and applies flexible constraints (such as the “As Soon As Possible” constraint). If you must set your own constraint to a certain task this is entirely possible.  However, do not attempt this unless you will be facing unavoidable constraints (such as an important meeting). Otherwise, it would be best to allow Microsoft Project 2007 to set your constraints automatically.

How to Set Constraints on Linked Tasks

Click “View” and select the “Gantt Chart.” Select a “Task Name” in the “Task Name” field and double-click on said field.

Let us say this task “Task C” and its predecessor “Task A” are crucial to completing your project on time. In the “Task Information” box that is displayed, select the “Advanced” tab and click in the “Constraint” box. I have selected for this task as “Must Finish On.” In the “Constraint Date” box, select, which date the task, must finish.

Next, you will want to change the constraint on “Task A.”

I will set the constraint on “Task A” to “Finish no later than” and the date to “11/17/10.” Both tasks, which are linked together, now have the proper constraints and will work efficiently.

Task Deadlines

Creating a task deadline is essential if you want to keep track of a tasks finish date without being forced to constrain it. Once a schedule is created, Microsoft Project 2007 will update the schedule of the tasks, will keep track of the deadline date, and will alert you if a task finishes after its deadline date. Simply put, a task deadline is a good idea if you want to know if your task is on track.

How to Set a Deadline for a Task

In the “View” menu, click the “Gantt Chart.” Double-click on the “Task name” you want to set a deadline for.

In the “Task Information” box, select “Advanced.” Click the “Deadline” box and choose which date you want your task to be completed (mine is November 10, 2010). Once finished, select “OK” to set your deadline.

Adding Notes to Tasks

Adding a note to a task will give those who are unfamiliar with your project information about the said project. You may also use this note as a reminder to what your goal is. Overall, be creative with creating a note for your task. Remember the smallest bit of information can go a long ways, and creating a note to achieve this in your task is no exception.

How to Add a Note to a Task

Click “View” on the top of the program and select “Gantt Chart.” Once accomplished, click “Project” on the top of the program and select “Task Notes.”

Type whatever you feel must be entered into the note. This can be as short or as long as you want the note to be. Once you have

written the contents of the note, select “OK” to exit the “Task Information” window.