Do’s and Don’ts: Use Actual Start and Finish Dates

You know that setting a baseline is important for tracking and reporting. It is equally important to enter each tasks Actual Start and Finish dates, particularly if different than the Baseline dates.

In the figure below I have modified a table to show the Baseline, Actual and current Start and Finish dates. The Baseline has been set but Actual dates have not been entered.

Do's and Don'ts: Use Actual Start and Finish Dates

At this point entering any percentage of schedule or work completion will copy the current Start date to the Actual Start. The assumption is that if an Actual Start was not entered the task started on schedule. See the figure below.

Do's and Don'ts: Use Actual Start and Finish Dates

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Since tasks can be started earlier or later than planned the Actual Start must be entered to model reality. The next figure illustrates the task starting a few days later than planned.

Do's and Don'ts: Use Actual Start and Finish Dates

Notice that the Baseline and Actual dates enable the comparison of the planned schedule to what really occurred.

Do enter Actual Start and Finish Dates along with a set Baseline. Model reality for accurate tracking and reporting!

Related Content

Webinars (watch for free now!):
Differences Between a Healthy Project and a Healthy Schedule
Project Talk – ‘Timing Is Everything!’ – Working with Timesheets and Tasks Updates in Project Server

7 Incorrect Ways to Use Microsoft Project: Date-Related Planning
You Produced a Great Schedule…Now What?


Written by Sam Huffman
Sam Huffman first gained insight into Microsoft Project while working as a member of the MS Project development and support team. He has maintained his depth of knowledge of MS Project with each release and is a leading authority in the use and features of MS Project, Project Server and Project Online. Since the early 1990's Sam has honed his instruction skills by delivering training programs to thousands every year. Sam is a frequent content contributor to the Microsoft Project User Group (MPUG) and speaks to groups often about MS Project, Enterprise Project Management and the discipline of Project Management. He was awarded Microsoft Most Valuable Professional from 2010-2017. Check out his blog on MS Project. The softcover version of my newest book Microsoft® Project Do’s and Don’ts is now available for purchase! It is portable, brief and to the point so you can find help when you need it. Through tips, best practices and examples it will help you jumpstart your project!
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  1. Kelf,
    I am unsure what the purpose of your question is, but I know of no way to complete a task with no dates associated.


  2. Kelly and Brenda,
    There are too many variables here for me to have an answer for you!

    I encourage you both to take a look at a few articles that pertain to the issue you are bringing up. Try this query in your browser: “task finish date not accepted”. You’ll get some very good explanations of the scheduling and tracking variables and how they interdependent they are.

    You could start by copying the url that follows into your browser. The article it refers to explains the basics so you can dig deeper to resolve the problem you are having.


  3. Hi Asif,

    I do this all the time. The only way to record revisions I’ve found is to put a note in the task with the changed info, e.g., “2/16/18 – changed duration from 8 to 10 days causing finish date to move to 2/27…”

    If you are using Project Server, it does save revisions, but the compare project feature is too clumsy to use for this purpose.

  4. And the number of historical revisions Project Server saves is limited.

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