Using Recurring Tasks

Projects often have tasks that occur on a regular basis. Weekly staff meetings, quarterly reports, or monthly budget reviews are examples of these recurring tasks. Rather than have you create, for example, 20 or so weekly staff-meeting tasks over the life of a five-month project, you can use Project's Recurring Task feature. This feature enables you to create the meeting task once and assign a frequency and timing to it. Follow these steps to create a recurring task:

1. Because Project inserts tasks above the selected task, select the task that you want to appear below the recurring task and choose InsertORecurring Task to open the Recurring Task Information dialog box, as shown in Figure 4-7.

Figure 4-7: If a task occurs at regular intervals during the life of a project, you can save time by creating it as a recurring task.

2. Type a name for the recurring task.

3. Set the task duration in the Duration field. For example, does the meeting run for two hours, or does a report take a day to write?

4. Set the occurrence of the task by selecting one of the Recurrence pattern option buttons: Daily, Weekly, Monthly, or Yearly. Depending on the recurrence that you select, the timing settings to the right of the control buttons change. Figure 4-8 shows the Monthly settings.

Figure 4-8: Daily, Weekly, Monthly, and Yearly occurrences require you to make slightly different choices.

5. Select the appropriate settings for the recurrence frequency. For a Weekly setting, place a check mark next to the day(s) of the week on which you want the task to occur. For example, the task shown in Figure 4-7 occurs every Tuesday. For the Monthly or Yearly setting, select the day of the month on which you want the task to occur. The task in Figure 4-8 occurs on Day 9 of every month.

Note For a daily task, you have only one choice: whether you want it to occur every day or only on scheduled workdays. For example, to schedule a computer backup for every day of the week — regardless of whether anyone is at work — you can have the task occur every day. (Ask your MIS department how to automate the process so that it occurs even when nobody is at work.)

6. Set the Range of recurrence — the period during which the task should recur — by entering Start and End after or End by dates. If you need to repeat a test weekly for only 1 month of your 10-month project, you could set Start and End after or End by dates that designate a month of time.

Tip If you set the End after number of occurrences. Project calculates the date range that is required to complete that many occurrences of the recurring task and auto' matically displays the ending date in the End by box. This method can be useful if one of these events falls on a holiday: If one of the occurrences falls on a holiday, Project displays a box that allows you to skip the occurrence or to schedule it on the next working day. For a weekly staff meeting, you can skip that meeting or schedule it on a different day. On the other hand, if you must repeat a test 16 times during the project cycle, you can schedule the test to occur on the next working day to compensate for the holiday. Therefore, set the number of occurrences rather than the time range.

7. Click OK to create the task. Project creates the appropriate number of tasks and displays them as subtasks under a summary task with the name that you supplied in Step 2. Note the recurring task symbol in the Indicators column of the Gantt Chart shown in Figure 4-9.

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Mysterious icons in the Indicator column

The symbol next to each Weekly Test Report task in the schedule shown in Figure 4-9 represents a task with a timing constraint applied. Project applies this constraint automatically as you enter settings for the recurring task.

If you move your mouse pointer over one of these symbols, as shown in the following figure, you can see an explanation of that constraint. For example, each Weekly Test Report task has a Start No Earlier Than constraint, based on the timing that you set in the Recurring Task Information dialog box. The first recurring task can start no earlier than the From date entered there, and each task occurs weekly thereafter. You find out more about setting timing constraints in the next section.

Constraints affect the timing of a task relative to the start or end of your project or to a specific date. Setting a deadline date in Project provides you with a visual reminder if you don't complete a task by the deadline date that you establish.

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