Setting Task Duration in Microsoft Project 2007 - dummies

Setting Task Duration in Microsoft Project 2007

By Nancy C. Muir

Most tasks in a project have a duration, whether it’s ten minutes or a year or something in between. Deciding how finely to break down your tasks can affect how efficiently you use Microsoft Project to track progress on those tasks: Tasks that wander on for a year are usually too broad, and tasks that take ten minutes are too narrow. Whatever your best guess at task duration is, Project can accommodate you.

If your project is to run a one-day event, getting to the level of ten-minute tasks might make sense. In most projects, however, such finely detailed timing doesn’t make sense because it defeats the point of all the tracking and reporting features of Project. (That’s true unless you have people tracking their progress minute by minute, but in that case, what else would they have time to do?) On the flip side, creating a 12-month-long task suggests that you might be defining your project too broadly to accurately keep track of all that can happen in a year.

As with all task information, you can enter a duration in a Gantt Chart sheet or in the Task Information dialog box. Follow these steps to enter a duration by using the dialog box:

1. Double-click a task to display the Task Information dialog box.

2. If necessary, click the General tab to display it.

3. In the Duration box, use the spinner arrows to increase or decrease the duration.

4. If the current duration units aren’t appropriate (for example, days when you want hours), type a new duration in the Duration box.

New tasks are created with an estimated duration of one day unless you change the duration. You can use the following abbreviations for various time units:

m: Minutes

h: Hours

d: Days

w: Weeks

mo: Months

Don’t assume that changing the start and finish dates of a task changes its duration — it doesn’t. You have to manually change the duration; if you don’t, your project plan will not be what you intend it to be.

5. Click OK to accept the duration setting.

If you aren’t sure about the timing of a particular task and want to alert people to your lack of certainty or if you need a way to find such tasks and enter more solid timing when you have better information, select the Estimated check box (on the General tab) when you enter the duration. Then apply a filter for tasks with estimated durations.