How Constraints Work in Project 2013

By Cynthia Snyder Stackpole

When you create a task in Project 2013 and set it to be automatically scheduled, the As Soon As Possible constraint is selected by default. In other words, the task starts as soon as the project starts, assuming that no dependencies with other tasks exist that would delay it.

A task’s start and finish dates, task dependencies, task type, Effort Driven setting, and constraints all work together to set the timing of each task. However, when Project 2013 performs calculations to save you time in a project that’s running late, constraint settings are considered sacred (untouchable).

For example, if you set a constraint that a task must finish on a certain date, Project shifts almost any other scheduled task to recalculate the timing before suggesting that the task might finish on another date.

The excessive use of constraints limits your scheduling flexibility. Use constraints only when you absolutely need to force a task’s timing.

How to establish constraints

To set a constraint, you select the type of constraint you want in the Task Information dialog box. Though you can set only one constraint for a task, some constraints work together with a date you choose.

For example, if you want a task to start no later than a certain date, you select a date by which the task must start. Other settings, such as As Soon As Possible, work from a different date — in this case, the start date you set for the whole project or any dependency relationships you set up with other tasks.

To set a task constraint, follow these steps:

  1. Double-click a task.

    The Task Information dialog box appears.

  2. Click the Advanced tab.

  3. Select a constraint from the Constraint Type list.

  4. If the constraint requires a date, select one from the Constraint Date list.

  5. Click the OK button to save the settings.

The default constraint, As Soon As Possible, is already set, so you usually don’t need to modify it.

How to set a deadline

In Project 2013, deadlines aren’t constraints (though the setting for the deadline is in the Constraint Task area of the Task Information dialog box, on the Advanced tab). Deadlines, which aren’t the same as constraints, don’t force the timing of task schedules. If you set a deadline and the task exceeds it, Project simply displays a symbol in the Indicator column to alert you so that you can take action appropriately.

To set a deadline, follow these steps:

  1. Double-click a task.

    The Task Information dialog box appears.

  2. Click the Advanced tab.

  3. Click the arrow in the Deadline field to display a calendar and then select a date.

    If necessary, click the forward- or backward-facing arrow to move to a different month.

  4. Click the OK button to save the deadline setting.

Display a Deadline column in the Gantt Chart sheet pane to enter the deadline or to show yourself and others your targeted deadline date.