How to set up Microsoft Project – 5 Best Practices

Microsoft Project is a powerful tool if we set up and utilize the tool correctly. Here are the 5 best practices or tips that I follow when creating new project plans.

1. Set up Project start date

Every project has a definite start and end date. So before creating any tasks for the project, go ahead and update the project start date. In MS Project, Project start date can be updated using the Project Information button under the Project Menu.

2. Use Auto Scheduling

By default MS Project is set to use Manual Scheduling. For any project, it is always a best practice not use Hard dates (Manual Dates) as that will not show the impact of any project delays when the dependency tasks are delayed. So it is a best practice to always use Auto Schedule and only use the hard dates for tasks that has to happen on certain dates due to project constraints. To change the scheduling options to use Auto Schedule for all newly created tasks, head over to the File menu and navigate to Options. In the Options window scroll down to Schedule on the left section and go to the “Scheduling Option for this project” section on the right window.  Click on the drop down for ‘New Tasks Created’ and select ‘Auto Schedule’


3. Set up resource sheet

You can get to resource sheet directly by clicking the Gnatt chart on the Project menu and selecting resource sheet from the option. Or you can navigate to the Resource tab and select the Resource sheet. Setting up the resource sheet upfront helps to assign resources faster to the tasks when creating detailed plan. Resource cost and calendar can also be updated while in the resource sheet page. Setting up the resource sheet upfront avoids adding in duplicate resource names.

4. Set up Project calendar

By default MS Project utilizes standard calendar , however it is very easy to create custom calendar by creating a copy of the standard calendar. Project Calendar can be accessed from the Project menu by clicking the ‘Change Working Time’ button on the ribbon. If the project span across multiple geographic locations, then the employees at different locations may be following different holiday calendar and schedules. For ex, if your project resources are at onsite and offshore locations it is a good idea to set up Onsite and Offshore calendars and assign respective calendars to resources. Get vacation and personal time off details from resources and update those exception days in the project resource’s calendar that will help project to calculate accurate estimates.

5. Set up Holidays, Non-Working days and Half Days

Irrespective of the size of the project, it is always one of the best practice to set up the project calendar to update holidays and other working days exceptions. Country specific and Office site specific holidays can be updated upfront at the beginning of the year.

2 thoughts on “How to set up Microsoft Project – 5 Best Practices

  1. Could you please explain what is the purpose of manual scheduling in MS project? When is this used?

    1. Hi Mary, you may use manual scheduling when certain dates are fixed and couldn’t be moved based on predecessors or successors. Ex: if your project has a dependency on a legal / government approval and that approval date is a fixed date then you would use manual schedule to assign that fixed date. There could be many other scenarios but this is something that came to mind

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