Goal: Schedule project tasks

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, Microsoft Office Project 2007 can predict the 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 within the Project Map 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.

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Schedule tasks goal

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. This is critical to any project, whether a traditional project with thousands of tasks, or a smaller project that uses an agile method of managing a project.

There are two key ways to sequence tasks:

  • Use a task 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 on one another. Specifying the sequence for your tasks includes showing which tasks overlap or have a delay between them.

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  • Create task dependencies within your project to link dependent tasks and tell Project 2007 how they are dependent. Tasks often happen in a linear sequence: For example, you first prepare the walls, then paint them, and then hang pictures. However, there are exceptions in any project. In the same example, as one person prepares the walls for painting, someone else can buy the pictures that you intend to hang.
  • Set lead or lag time between tasks to show a delay between tasks. If a task link alone is not enough to accurately show the relationship between tasks, you can set lag time.

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 2007 from freely adjusting the schedule when you update information, just as it does when you enter an inflexible constraint.

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 by using a constraint. 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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Applies to:
Project 2007