Ok…so you’ve got a VERY small project, or simply a collection of tasks that you need to complete. Call it a checklist or a To-Do list if you will. You know MS Project is a powerful tool and can be used to manage very complex projects. But you don’t really need a full blown dynamic schedule, so you are thinking of creating your list in Excel…WAIT!!!
This article will show you how to “dumb down” Microsoft Project for the purposes of creating a simple To-Do list. You’ll learn some easy, yet powerful features that will make creating and maintaining a To-Do list easier in Microsoft Project than Excel.
Building the List
1. Open Microsoft Project and save your file with a meaningful name
2. Modify the Gantt Chart View
a. Hide the Indicator column
b. Hide the Duration column
c. Hide the Start column
d. Hide the Predecessor column
e. Insert % Work Complete
f. Insert Notes column
g. Slide the vertical divider for the Gantt Chart all the way to the right
3. Add Data
a. Input task within Name column
b. Input targeted finish date within Finish column
c. Input the name of the person or people responsible for the task in the Resource Names column
4. Save a Baseline
Click on >Tools, >Tracking, >Save Baseline
Managing the List
5. Input Updates
a. Modify Finish date as necessary
b. Update % Work Complete
c. Add Notes to tasks as needed
Reporting from the List
6. Print the list in its entirety
7. Filter the list
Click on >Project, >Filter and you can quickly filter for:
a. Incomplete tasks
b. Complete tasks
c. By Resource
Result shows any task assigned to Sam:
d. By Date Range
You can enable the Autofilter for all columns.
You can now click on the auto filter dropdown for any column and leverage it to filter the list. A good example is you could click on the dropdown for Name, use the custom option and filter for only the tasks that contain the name “furniture”.
9. Compare to Baseline
By inserting the Baseline Finish and the Finish Variance columns, we can see our original targeted finish dates and how far tasks have slipped.
10. Insert Project Summary task to get overall % Work Complete
Click on >Tools, >Options, >View tab and check “Show project summary task”
11. View as Calendar
Click on >View, >Calendar
Question: Now…can you do all that in Excel?
Answer: Yes, but not near as easily!!!
CAUTION: Using this approach removes the dynamic scheduling capabilities of Microsoft Project. In other words, if the tasks on your To-Do list must be done sequentially, and you experience a delay in one of the “upstream” tasks, you will need to manually change the dates of all the downstream tasks. This is not the best approach when working with Microsoft Project. However, as the article started, if you currently create and maintain To-Do lists in Excel, you may find using this approach in Microsoft Project to be more beneficial.