Organize and schedule tasks in a project tasks list

Some tasks in a project can be further broken down into smaller tasks, or subtasks. If you know that your project has several tasks that fall under a larger task, you can create a summary task in your project tasks list to represent the larger task. You can also represent relationships between tasks, by identifying which tasks need to be completed before others can start.

Create a summary task

When creating tasks in a project tasks list, it’s important to plan for which tasks might fall under larger tasks. For example, your project might be completed in phases, with several tasks occurring within each phase. Having the phases represented in your project tasks list provides a nice high-level look at what’s going on in your project.

  1. On the Items tab, in the New group, click the arrow on New Item, and then click Summary Task.

  2. Complete the form to create the new summary task, filling out the following information, as appropriate:

    • Name    Type the name of the summary task.

    • Predecessors   Choose the summary tasks and/or subtasks that must be completed before this summary task can begin. With these selected in the left box, clickAddto move them to the right box. For more information on predecessors, see the next section in this article.

      Tip:  If you’re feeling unsure of your understanding of predecessors, or if you aren’t far enough along in your planning to have all of the summary task’s predecessors added to your project tasks list, you can leave this blank for now and add predecessor relationships later, using the left table portion of the project tasks list view.

    • Priority    Choose the priority level that most accurately reflects the importance of this summary task, as it relates to the other summary tasks in this project.

    • Task Status    Choose the descriptor that most accurately reflects the status of the set of tasks that fall within this summary task. If you are just planning a project and none of the tasks in this summary task have begun, choose Not Started.

    • % CompleteType a percentage that best represents how much work is completed on the set of tasks that fall within the summary task. If you are just planning a project and none of the tasks in this summary task have begun, leave this field blank, or type 0%.

    • Assigned ToUse this field to identify the person responsible for this summary task. For more information about assigning tasks, seeAssign people to tasks in a project tasks list.

    • Description   Type a brief description of the summary task.

    • Start Date    Enter the date when the first subtask within this summary task should begin.

    • Due Date    Enter the date by when the last subtask in this summary task should be completed.

  3. Click Save to create the summary task.

Once the summary task is created, you can click the name of the summary task in the left table portion of the view to open the summary task in a new project tasks list view. Within that view, you can add the tasks that fall within that summary task. For more information on adding tasks, see Add and update tasks in a project tasks list. To get back to the view that shows your summary task, on the List tab, in the Manage Views group, click Navigate Up.

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Set up relationships between tasks

Within a single project tasks list, there may be a certain order to how tasks, including summary tasks and subtasks, need to be completed. For example, if you’re building a house, the foundation needs to be completed before the walls can go up, and the walls have to be up before the roof can go on. You can represent this order by using the Predecessors column.

  1. In a task row, click the cell in the Predecessors column, and then click the arrow on the right side of the cell to display a list of all tasks within the current project tasks list. This includes any summary tasks and subtasks within the list.

  2. Click the checkbox to the left of each task that must be completed before this task can begin.

    Tip:  It’s easy to get overzealous here and select every task that comes before the current task. However, you really only need to select those tasks that come immediately before the current task. For example, let’s say I have a project tasks list that contains three tasks: Task 1, Task 2, and Task 3. When Task 1 is complete, Task 2 can start, and when Task 2 is complete, Task 3 can start. When entering the predecessors for Task 3, it’s easy to think that Task 1 and Task 2 both need to be complete before Task 3 can begin. However, since Task 1 is already listed as a predecessor for Task 2, there’s no need to also list it as a predecessor to Task 3.

  3. Adjust the dates in the Start Date and Due Date columns to reflect the relationships between the tasks. For example, let’s say you have two tasks that you know will each take about two days to complete. You set up the first task as a predecessor for the second task. You’ll need to adjust the Start Date column for the second task so that the date is after the Due Date for the first task, and you’ll need to adjust the Due Date column for the second task so that it’s two days after the new Start Date.

    Tip:  Want this process to be more automated? Consider using an enterprise project management solution compatible with SharePoint Foundation 2010, such as Microsoft Project 2010 and Microsoft Project Server 2010.

Once you’ve identified the appropriate predecessors for each task, you can see these relationships represented on the Gantt chart. When a predecessor is identified for a task, you’ll see an arrow drawn between the end of the preceding task’s Gantt bar and the beginning of the next task’s Gantt bar.

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