Mark, this is a great question that has many variations for answers. It’s kind of the holy grail of managing project schedules, and difficult to explain well enough in a forum post. I believe Dale Howard did a pretty good webinar on this not that long ago, but I couldn’t find it in my feeble attempt. I’ll try to give you a basic start if you’re willing to work out the particulars. I tend to update (and everyone has their favorite sequence of fields) each task using the following set of fields (in this order):
Start: To indicate an estimated start date for an upcoming task
Actual Start: The date a task actually starts
Stop: This is the finish date of the active portion of a task. It would contain the Thursday of the status date if the task has started but not complete.
Remaining duration: Estimate of what is remaining (after the status date)
Resume: If a task is on hold until a future date
The key is to enter them in the order above as the task progresses. There are a couple of gotchas that can get in the way (predecessors and the like) that can get in the way, but for the most part it works pretty well. I found that these fields work the best, give the best results, and relatively easy to use. Good luck…