Goal: Schedule project tasks

Applies to
Microsoft Office Project 2003
Microsoft Office Project Server 2003
Microsoft Project 2000 and 2002

After you have a list of tasks for your project and estimates for how long it will take to complete them, you can schedule (schedule: The timing and sequence of tasks within a project. A schedule consists mainly of tasks, task dependencies, durations, constraints, and time-oriented project information.) the tasks. Depending on how you schedule the tasks, Project can predict finish dates for the tasks and the project as you enter information about how the project is progressing. You can use this information to determine whether your project schedule is at risk.

 Tip   This article is part of a series of articles that describe a broad set of project management activities. We call these activities "goals" because they are organized around the project management life cycle: Build a plan, track and manage a project, and close a project. The project life cycle is outlined in The Project Map, where you can find a link to an article about each project management goal. Most of the articles include links to supporting information or procedures that you perform in Project or Project Server. These "goal" articles were designed to help you not only use Project but also better understand project management.

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Section of a structure under construction

number 1  Get ready to sequence your project tasks     At this point, you should have entered some tasks that must be completed in order to complete your project. Each task should be associated with a duration, which indicates how long the task will take to complete.

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Because you haven’t yet scheduled the tasks, they all start on the same date, which is the project’s start date.

Task scheduling is easier if you list your tasks in the approximate order that you expect work to be done on them. You may have to enter some tasks out of sequence, but be sure to list together the tasks that will be done in the same time frame.

There are two key ways to sequence tasks:

  • Use a dependency     to indicate that work on a task cannot begin or end until work on another task begins or ends. For example, you use a dependency if painting can’t start until preparation work is finished.
  • Use a constraint     to indicate that work on a task must begin or end in relation to a specific date. For example, you use a constraint if a task must end by June 30, because the subject matter expert will be unavailable after that time.

Number 2  Sequence the tasks in a project     You can link tasks according to their dependencies (task dependencies: A relationship between two linked tasks; linked by a dependency between their finish and start dates. There are four kinds of task dependencies: Finish-to-start [FS], Start-to-start [SS], Finish-to-finish [FF], and Start-to-finish [SF].) on one another. Specifying the sequence for your tasks includes showing which tasks overlap or have a delay between them.

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Number 3  Create a milestone to represent an external dependency     When you want to track an event but you can't link to it because the event doesn't appear in any project, you can create a milestone to represent the event. For example, you may not be able to begin a certain task until another company completes a software program that you need to use. You can create a milestone in your project that represents the completion of that program and reminds you to track its progress.

Number 4  Create a deadline for a task     To be notified when a task is finished after a particular date, you can create a deadline. Creating a deadline does not restrict Project from freely adjusting the schedule when you update information, just as it does when you enter an inflexible constraint (inflexible constraint: A constraint that is inflexible because it ties a task to a date. The inflexible constraints are Must Finish On and Must Start On.).

Number 5  Tie a task or phase to a specific date     When you absolutely must start or finish a task on a particular date, tie a task or phase to a specific date. That date can represent an event, such as a seminar or class.

Number 6  Add supporting information about a task     Add more information about a task in the form of notes, documents, and links to Web pages.

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