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Why Should I Use Recurring Tasks in Project Management Software?

Recurring tasks are tasks that happen over and over again, on a regular basis. For instance, as a project manager, it’s common to have regularly scheduled reporting intervals. If you have a project management status report that’s due every Friday, you can set up one recurring task rather than setting up a separate report for each occurrence.

Project management software with recurring task functionality allows you to quickly create duplicates of a task without manually creating each one.

Advantages of recurring tasks in project management software

Let’s say you have a year-long project with weekly and monthly recurring tasks and deliverables such as:

  • Weekly team meetings
  • Weekly status reports
  • Monthly executive meetings
  • Monthly customer meetings
  • Monthly project reports

When your project management software includes recurring task functionality, all you have to do is set up each of these tasks or deliverables once and then make it recurring. Without this ability, you’d have to set up each occurrence separately. That’s 52 individual team meetings, 52 weekly reports, and so on.

As you can see, the level of manual input grows exponentially. The more manual data that needs to be input, the greater the chance of user error — and the more time you and your team have to waste doing administrative tasks instead of working on the project.

What if, after the first few weeks, you discover your weekly team meetings are scheduled at the same time as those of another project, and a couple of your key players are on both teams? Rather than having your team members torn between the two, you may choose to move your meetings to another time.

If you’ve set up the meetings as a recurring task, this is one simple change. However, if you have 50 or more individual meetings in your calendar, that’s 50+ manual changes.

It’s easy to see the advantage of being able to bulk create, edit, and delete when you have a series of repetitive tasks on your project.

Any task that will happen multiple times throughout your project's life cycle can benefit from being set as a recurring task. Some examples include:

  • Weekly, biweekly, monthly, or quarterly meetings
  • Weekly, biweekly, monthly, or quarterly reports
  • Regularly scheduled audits or testing activities
  • Recurring project or phase reviews

A unique use case for recurring tasks

While most businesses use recurring tasks to create and manage a chain of repetitive tasks, this is not the only use for them. Ricardo da Palma Borges & Associados (RPBA) is a Portugal-based law firm that chose to implement recurring tasks in a unique way.

RPBA deals with two types of deadlines: deadlines imposed by clients on consulting or planning projects, and deadlines set by courts and other public entities on litigation.

Client deadlines may change over the course of a project, but court and public entity deadlines are strictly non-negotiable milestones. Not only that, but the company found that it was difficult to keep many of their initial schedules due to the continued development of more pressing matters.

The company needed something that embraced the flexibility of an Agile methodology while still allowing them to plan for and meet the strict court timelines. RPBA found its solution by implementing recurring tasks. 

Any time there are legal proceedings, RPBA creates a recurring task with two occurrences. The first occurrence becomes a strict, immovable milestone that indicates their court deadline, such as a hearing or deadline for filing documents. The second occurrence is used as the working task with a due date. This task provides the firm with a means of managing and adjusting the project schedule internally to achieve interim goals, without losing sight of the fixed milestones that each task is tied to.

With this approach, the team can seamlessly collaborate on the case in the first task occurrence and reschedule it according to their current priorities, while the milestone always remains at the same place. This ensures that the timeline always reflects an up-to-date schedule with both interim and strict deadlines, allowing team members to quickly evaluate whether or not they’re on track.

Recurring task functionality

Not all project management software will include the same recurring task functionality. To get the most out of the feature, ensure your project management software allows you to not only set up recurring tasks but also do the following:

  • Set the frequency of the task: When setting up the recurrence frequency of a task, it’s important that you can control how often the task shows up in your schedule. At a minimum, you should be able to choose whether the recurrence is daily, weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Some project management software may also enable you to select other frequencies, such as quarterly and annually.
  • Set the duration for your recurrence: In some cases, you will want a task to be recurring for a period that is shorter than the life of your project. Therefore, your project management software should allow you to specify either when you want the end date to be or how many times you want the task to reoccur.
    For instance, you may want the task to show up every week for 10 weeks, or you may want it to show up weekly until December 31, 2019. You should be able to select either option within your project management software.
  • Change individual tasks without breaking the series: What happens if you need to change your Monday team meeting for next week because next Monday is a holiday? It’s important that your software allows you to change that one meeting to Tuesday without moving every single meeting in the series to Tuesday.
    At the same time, you don’t want that one change to force a break in the entire series, because a break would split them all back into individual tasks. This means if you later wanted to mass change the time on every meeting, you’d have to do it individually for each occurrence.    
  • Change task names and descriptions: Look for project management software that enables you to change each task's names and descriptions without breaking the chain. For instance, instead of having every monthly meeting called “Monthly Project Update,” you may wish to have them called “May Project Update,” “June Project Update,” and so on.
    This functionality will allow you to keep the recurring tasks linked for edits but makes it easier for you to visually tell them apart in your Gantt chart and reports.

Further Reading
blog post

How to Totally Nail Your Project Delivery Timeline

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How to Use an Online Gantt Chart to Avoid These 5 Project Management Mistakes

blog post

Managing Complex Schedules with Recurrent Tasks