Effective Project Management with MS Project – Planning for holidays

When developing a project schedule, you can spend days making sure the schedule includes the correct tasks and realistic estimates, but ultimately if the schedule is unrealistic, then the project is going to be in trouble. If the project manager has resources working through weekends and public holidays, when in reality they don’t, there is no way the project will be completed by the expected end date. By communicating a delivery date that is too early and then missing that date can lead to bad perceptions of the team and project as a whole, ultimately the project is labelled as a failure. 

Public Holidays

When developing a schedule, it constantly surprises me the number of people that forget to take public holidays in to account. If you’re developing a plan for an organisation that respects public holidays, it is essential that your schedule does too. This couldn’t be easier in MS Project, thanks to the Change Working Time function and Project calendars. Project Calendars allow you to select working and non-working dates and times for your project. Out of the box, there are three calendars provided:

  • Standard Calendar – Assumes the project resources will work Monday to Friday 8:00am to 5:00pm with a one hour lunch break;
  • 24 hours – Assumes project resources will work 7 days a week and 24 hour day shifts
  • Night shift – Assumes project resources will work Monday to Saturday nights, on various shifts.

These calendars can be easily updated to add additional exceptions to cover the public holidays.

To change the calendar, simply select the Change Working Time option as outlined below.

Project 2007

Project 2010

Select Tools > Change Working Time


On the Project tab, select Change Working Time


A change working time dialog will be displayed, select the Standard (Project Calendar) option from the For Calendar combo box at the top. This ensures you are setting up a working exception against the Project Calendar. Once you are happy you have the correct calendar, enter the public holiday details in the exception box.


Once the holiday information has been entered, MS Project’s scheduling engine will take these dates into account when scheduling, making sure no work is scheduled on those dates. You can see this in the diagrams below, the left schedule does not have a holiday for the 26th Jan, whereas the right hand schedule does causing the duration of the second task to increase.

Schedule before holiday

Schedule after holiday



Scheduled Staff Leave

Just like public holidays, staff leave can also be reflected in a project schedule so that it is taken into account in calculating the duration of tasks assigned to that person.

MS Project allows you to set up individual resource based calendars, similar to the project calendars set up for a public holiday, but on an individual resource basis. To modify these calendars, first make sure you have the resources you wish to assign leave against within the schedule, either assigned to a task, or just within the Resource sheet. To change working time of the resources, select ‘Change Working Time’ once again, but this time select the resource name from the For Calendar option.




Next time we will look at using the concept of schedule contingency to try and plan for the unexpected.

3 thoughts on “Effective Project Management with MS Project – Planning for holidays

  1. Pingback: Effective Project Management with MS Project « EPMSource

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