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The Project Admin Blog
Jan Kalis & Project Partners
Jack Dahlgren MVP
MS Project Experts
Microsoft EPM Solution, PJ
We’re officially in the holiday season, and you’ve been nominated to cook the big dinner. Whether you’re a little nervous as a first-time host or you’re a veteran who wants to be more organized, Project can help you with event planning to make all of your holidays less stressful and a lot more fun.
I recently used Project to successfully host Thanksgiving dinner, but you can apply the same techniques to any large meal. For everybody who isn’t familiar with Thanksgiving, here's more information, but all you really need to know is that for a lot of Americans, the day revolves around a huge meal featuring a turkey.
Since this was my first time hosting the holiday meal at my house, my primary goal was to make sure the turkey didn’t dry out before it finished cooking. I also wanted to make sure all my side dishes were ready at the same time as the turkey.
Every cooking magazine I read said a timeline is critical so you don't forget anything. That’s why I immediately turned to Project (inspired by a previous holiday dinner post).
First up on my Project tasks was to list my resources: myself, my husband, one of my guests who wanted to make dressing at my house, my stove top burners (4 burners = 400% availability), and my oven. My new oven is one of the split units with a small top oven and a large bottom oven, so I listed these separately at 200% capacity each since they can hold two pans each. (By the way, if anyone is in the market for a new oven, I love this configuration for entertaining!) Project is flexible, so you can adapt the plan to fit the size of your own cooking space.
Big Oven (2 pans)
Little Oven (2 pans)
My tasks list (partial):
The first thing I scheduled on the Project task list was the turkey since it takes the longest to bake. I knew we wanted to eat at 4pm, so I used Start-to-Finish links to work backwards so I'd know what time I needed to start prepping and then roasting the turkey. For the other items I turned to the Team Planner view to schedule my work:
Since my guests were to arrive at 2:30, I wanted to have as much done as possible before their arrival in order to enjoy my own party. My husband actually had more going on during his day since he also smoked a turkey for leftovers. He had the nerve to mock my schedule, so I decided to leave his tasks off my list. (That’ll teach him to make fun of a good idea.)
If you want to get really creative with the Team Planner view, you can color code each item. I chose festive holiday colors just for fun.
Using the new Project reporting feature, you can also see how much work everyone has to do:
One other quick tip: I used a custom field in my tasks list to track oven temperatures since I had multiple side dishes to plan for.
And the results? I actually came in a half hour ahead of schedule since my turkey cooked a little faster than I planned. But the extra time allowed the turkey to rest outside of the oven, which made it easier to carve. All my guests enjoyed the meal. And I didn’t end up exhausted or stressed.
I would in the future allow a little more time at the end to clean up the kitchen. (Or maybe I should just assign that to my husband.)