Some of the previous articles I have written on Microsoft Project have featured imaginary projects to demonstrate particular features of the application. These have ranged from the refurbishment of a pub to the planning of a Christmas dinner. While these were useful vehicles for demonstrating the processes I was highlighting, the projects themselves were a bit on the small side, and only a tiny part of Project's full capabilities. If you were to schedule a much larger project, such as building a house, then the level of planning would become that much greater. But, such is the capacity of Microsoft Project, undertakings on this scale can be successfully scheduled.

A Gantt chart of a busy project can be an intimidating screen filled with all kinds of lines and arrows that make about as much sense as a knitting pattern to the uninitiated. The sheer volume of separate tasks that have to be carried out in a large project can be a hefty chore for the person scheduling it, but, as with all Microsoft office applications, there are ways to save time and effort by getting the program to do the work.

If you have a task that is performed at the same time of the day or week on a regular basis, then you can create a recurring task to save having to enter the details of it for each occasion. For example it may be that you call a meeting at 9.30 every Monday morning to discuss the progress of the project and the coming week's tasks. Entering this information into your project plan over the course of a three-month project would mean having to type in that particular task a dozen times. By creating a recurring task you would only have to enter it once.

To create a recurring task you should select a blank line from the task list in Gantt Chart View and then go to the Insert menu and select Recurring Task. This will open a Recurring Task Information dialog box that contains everything you need to set up your recurring task.

The first thing to do is enter the name of the task in the Task Name box. In the scenario above this might be Weekly Progress Report. You would then enter 1 hour in the duration box and select the Weekly radio button from the Recurrence Pattern list. Check the Monday box in the days of the week options and, in the Start box, enter the date of the first meeting. Check the radio button to end your series of meetings and enter the date of the last one in the box. Finally open the Calendar menu and select the type of calendar you will be working to from the list, in the above scenario this is Standard. Click OK and that's it. If you go back to your project file you will see the recurring task now appears on the list for however many times you instructed Project to enter it.

Creating recurring tasks is a simple way to save time and keep your project schedule up to date, leaving you free to get on with more important matters involved in the actual managing of the project. In a busy project with lots of recurring tasks, some of which occur on a daily basis, the amount of time and effort saved by adopting this process could be significant. Yet there are many more ways that Microsoft Project can assist in the scheduling of all manner of projects, from the simple refurbishment of a pub to an ambitious building plan.