Calendar Exceptions in Microsoft Project 2010

Calendar Exceptions in Microsoft Project 2010The following article is taken as an excerpt from the new book, Microsoft Project 2010: The Missing Manual, written by Bonnie Biafore and published by O’Reilly Media.

Setting Aside Holidays and Other Exceptions to the Work Schedule

Work weeks assign the same schedule of workdays and times over a period of time. As the name implies, calendar exceptions are better for shorter changes to the work schedule. Consider using calendar exceptions for the following situations:

  • Single days with a different schedule. A company holiday and a half-day for a corporate meeting are perfect examples of single-day exceptions.
  • Multiple days with a different schedule. For example, you can set a modified schedule for a multiday training class that someone attends, a conference, or a series of short days when the auditors are in town.
  • Recurring changes. Use exceptions to specify altered work times that occur on a regular schedule, like company meetings or the monthly ice cream social.
  • Altered work schedules longer than a week. You can use an exception for a schedule change that lasts longer than a week as long as all the days of an exception are either nonworking days or have the same working times. (For that reason, work weeks and exceptions work equally well for factory shutdowns and people’s vacations.)

Here are the steps for defining an exception in a calendar:

1. In the Change Working Time dialog box, in the “For calendar” drop-down list, select the calendar, and then click the Exceptions tab. Project doesn’t set up any exceptions automatically, so all the rows on the Exceptions tab start out blank.

2. On the Exceptions tab, click the first blank Name cell, and then type a name for the exception, like Quiche Training. You can create as many exceptions in a calendar as you need — to set each company holiday in the year or to reserve vacation time for someone who frequently flits around the world, for example.

3. Click the Start cell in the same row, click the down arrow that appears in the cell, and then choose the first date to which the exception applies. Click the Finish cell in the same row, and then choose the last date for the exception. Start and finish dates can be the same day, a few days apart, or any two dates you want.

4. To define the days and times for the exception, click Details. The “Details for” dialog box opens. Because many exceptions are holidays and other days off, Project automatically selects the Nonworking option. If the exception is for nonworking time, just click OK. However, if you’re creating an exception for a few days of altered work times, select the “Working times” option, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. When an exception is for one or more days with working times outside the norm, select the “Working times” option. The working times table springs to life, and fills in the standard working times you set in the Project calendar options. As you do for work week details, fill in the From and To times that apply to every day of the exception, and then click OK.

Calendar Exceptions in Microsoft Project 2010

For one or more adjacent days, you can ignore the settings in the “Recurrence pattern” and “Range of recurrence” sections. Project automatically sets them to model your nonworking and working settings for every day between the start and finish dates. The next section explains how to create recurring exceptions.

5. If the exception specifies modified working times, click OK when you’ve finished setting the working times in the Working Times table. The Details dialog box closes, and the exception is ready to go on the Exceptions tab.

Defining Recurring Exceptions

Sometimes, exceptions to the work week occur on a regular schedule — like the quarterly half-days of nonworking time for all-hands meetings. Recurring tasks and recurring exceptions have the same types of frequency settings, as the text below explains. However, recurring tasks represent project work that repeats, while recurring exceptions represent repeating special work times.

Up to Speed: Recurring Tasks vs. Recurring Exceptions

The settings for recurring exceptions look like the ones for recurring tasks. However, recurring exceptions and recurring tasks do very different things.

A recurring task is project work that occurs on a regular schedule, like a biweekly status meeting. When you add these tasks to your schedule as recurring tasks, you can track the work hours and meeting costs.

A recurring calendar exception specifies a work or nonwork schedule that repeats regularly, like a half-day the last Friday of every month (so security consultants can sweep the office for bugs, for example). Project takes the exception days and times into account when it schedules project work for any project that uses that calendar. When you copy a calendar from one file to another, the exceptions and work weeks for the calendar copy over too.

The details for a calendar exception specify whether exception days are nonworking or working days (along with the work hours). The lower part of the “Details for” dialog box has options to set a frequency for the exception and when it starts or ends.

Here are the steps for defining a recurring exception in a calendar:

1. In the Change Working Time dialog box, select the calendar from the “For calendar” drop-down list and then click the Exceptions tab. The Exceptions tab appears.

2. Enter the name, start date, and finish date as you would for a regular exception. Recurring exceptions tend to span longer periods of time than exceptions for holidays or training classes. For example, the start and finish dates for an annual corporate retreat exception could be three years apart — if you’re scheduling the next three retreats at once.

3. Click Details and specify the nonworking or working time settings for the days in the recurring exception. With a Project calendar exception, every day of the exception must use the same settings.

4. In the “Recurrence pattern” section, select the option for the frequency, as demonstrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2. For a recurring exception, you specify the recurring pattern as well as how long the pattern lasts. Project initially sets the pattern to every day by selecting the Daily option and filling in the “Every _ _ days” box with 1. Project also fills in the Start and “End by” dates using the exception start and end dates.

Calendar Exceptions in Microsoft Project 2010

The frequency options include Daily, Weekly, Monthly, and Yearly. The settings that appear depend on which frequency option you select. For example, the Weekly option has a checkbox for specifying the number of weeks between occurrences (1 represents every week, 2 represents every other week) and checkboxes for the days of the week on which the event occurs. The Monthly option has one option for specifying the day of the month, and another for specifying the week and day of the week (like first Monday).

5. In the “Range of recurrence” section, specify the date range or the number of occurrences.

Project fills in the “Range of recurrence” Start box with the start date from the Exceptions tab — basically, the first date of the first exception. It selects the “End by” option and then fills in that box with the finish date from the Exceptions tab, the latest date for the entire recurrence. Suppose you want to carve out time from your project for a quarterly meeting every three months during the calendar year. You could set the Start date to 1/1/10 and the “End by” date to 12/31/10.

If the frequency is set to Monthly on the first Tuesday of every three months, then Project automatically sets aside 1/5/10, 4/5/10, 7/6/10, and 10/5/10 for the meetings.

Sometimes you want to specify a number of occurrences instead, which is in fact the easier way to schedule a specific number of meetings. You don’t have to change the Start date. However, to set a number of occurrences, select the “End after” option, and then type the number (4 in this example) in the “occurrences” box. If the Finish date you set on the Exceptions tab is too early to schedule all the occurrences, Project automatically changes it. For example, if the Finish date were set to 2/15/10, Project would change it to 10/5/10 to accommodate the four quarterly meetings.

6. Click OK.

Whether you set dates or a number of occurrences, a recurring exception can repeat up to 999 times. If your recurrence pattern results in 1,000 occurrences or more, Project displays a warning when you click OK.

Reprinted with permission from O’Reilly. 2010, O’Reilly Media, Inc.

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Written by Bonnie Biafore
Bonnie Biafore is the author of O'Reilly's Microsoft Project: The Missing Manual (2007, 2010, and 2013 editions) and Microsoft Press' Successful Project Management: Applying Best Practices and Real-World Techniques with Microsoft Project. She's recorded Project Essential Training (for 2010 and 2013), Project Management Fundamentals, Managing Small Projects, and other courses for As a consultant, she manages projects for clients and wins accolades for her ability to herd cats. She has also written a humorous novel about hitmen and stupid criminals. You can learn more at Bonnie's website or email her at
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  1. For recurring exceptions, you can set up the recurrence to be something like the second Wednesday of the month. That still might not select the correct day for a holiday. Unless there are a lot of holidays like this, I suggest adding them as individual exceptions.


  2. Hi Wins Mathew, You don’t set Friday and Saturday as nonworking in exceptions. Instead, edit the default workweek and in the Details dialog box, set Friday and Saturday as nonworking days, and Sunday through Thursday as working days.

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