How to Add Your Organization’s Holiday Schedule to MS Project

As the end of each year approaches, it’s important to look at your project plans that extend into the coming year.  Have you accounted for all of the holidays your project will observe? As I recently pointed out to another project manager, there aren’t four work weeks in either November or December.  Fortunately, if you’re using Microsoft Project, you can define non-working days in order to prevent the embarrassment of a deliverable coming due on Thanksgiving Day.

 Identifying Non-Working Days in the Standard Project Calendar

On the Project tab, select Change Working Time.  Note that the calendar displayed in the example is the Standard (Project Calendar). This is the one used for all tasks and resources, by default.

You can then enter holidays under the Exceptions tab.  Note that Exception days appear in the calendar in blue and scheduled non-working days appear in gray. Type in the name of the exception and then select the Start date from the pop-up calendar window. The Finish date will default to the same day as the Start date.

Creating an Alternate Calendar

If your project includes team members in another country, you can create a separate calendar for them. Simply click on the Create New Calendar button.

In addition to creating a unique name, you can “inherit” the defined non-working days from another calendar. Then you can simply delete the holidays that don’t apply, create new ones, and save it. You’ll then have two (or as many as you need) calendars to use within your project.

Assigning Calendars to Resources and Tasks

Once you have defined your calendars, you can associate the proper calendar with each resource. This will cause the scheduling system to respect days off based on the calendar of the resources assigned to each task.

In addition, you can create special calendars for specific tasks like a cutover weekend. To do this, make an exception of a scheduled non-working day, so that it appears to be a working day.  Use this feature carefully – having some of the team working over a weekend can easily throw off the schedule for the entire team. You can also tell the scheduling system to ignore the Resource Calendar, but do so very carefully!

Finding Holiday Dates for Your Project Schedule

Your organization probably publishes a holiday calendar for the coming year sometime in the fourth quarter, but if you are working with project team members from outside your organization, it can be difficult to determine what holidays apply and what dates they fall on, especially if some of them are located off-shore. I publish a list of commonly observed national and religious holidays each year. Look for the next one in early November at The Practicing IT Project Manager.

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Written by Dave Gordon
Dave Gordon is a project management consultant with over twenty five years of experience in implementing human capital management and payroll systems, including SaaS solutions like Workday and premises-based ERP solutions like PeopleSoft and ADP Enterprise. He has an MS in IT with a concentration in project management, and a BS in Business. He also holds the project management professional (PMP) designation, as well as professional designations in human resources and in benefits administration. In addition to his articles and blog posts, Dave curates a weekly roundup of articles on project management at The Practicing IT Project Manager, and he has authored or contributed to several books on project management.
  1. There’s a great resource for common holidays at that also includes most, if not all countries throughout the world.

  2. Hi Marty,

    I assume you’ve set up an administrative time category for your holiday time. If not, here are the instructions:

    I don’t know of a delivered process to pre-populate dates in a timesheet with a specific admin time category code based on dates in the project calendar, but someone who has the appropriate access in PWA might be able to figure out a way to do it with Project VBA. Here is a link to the Calendars object map:

    If you get it working, please share your solution.

  3. Thanks for sharing that link, Ken!

  4. Thanks, Matt—I hope all is well with you! Keep in touch.

  5. This isn’t a way to define rules so that Project can determine what date a holiday falls on, but you can certainly add non-working days for years in advance.

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