Microsoft Project – Change Project Start Date and Move Deadlines

Microsoft Project has a few ways to update a project start date, but if you have Task Deadlines, your project schedule could incur an unwanted side effect if you don’t choose the right method for making the project start date change. That is, the start date will change, but task deadline dates will not move / shift with the updated schedule. In this post, I’ll demonstrate how to correctly change the project start date in a way that will also move your task deadlines in a single step.

Microsoft Project Template Review

I have a Microsoft Project template that I’ve provided to client teams with the intent that it’s reused for planning projects against a newly implemented PMO mandated cycle: Initiate, Plan, Execute, Deliver.

Each of the first 3 stages are allotted 5 days to complete; projects also always begin on a Monday and end on a Friday. The final stage is both a deadline and a milestone, the summary task titled Deliver, and I’ll show you how that’s setup as part of this post later.

For now, here’s a simplified representation of that template seen in Microsoft Project Gantt Chart View:


Summary Task as a Milestone and Deadline

The “Deliver” summary task is both a Microsoft Project milestone, and it’s also a deadline. When I first setup the template, I set the “Deliver” task duration to “0 days”, and the default behavior for Microsoft Project is to make a task a milestone when you set a task duration to “0 days”. Try it out:

  • Add a task.
  • Set its duration to “0 days”
  • Open up the task properties by double clicking it (or using Properties > Information from within the ribbon).
  • Navigate to the Advanced tab in the Task Information dialog, and you’ll see that the task’s Mark task as milestone option was automatically selected.
  • You’ll also see a black diamond in the Gantt Chart view which is the symbol used to denote “Milestone”.


Take another look at that screen shot above. Task Information > Advanced is also where you set the Deadline date. For this example, I’m creating the Microsoft Project template on Monday, April 8, 2019. And, per the PMO mandate, the project must be completed within exactly 15 working days, on a Friday…that would be Friday, April 26, 2019. So, I’ll also set the Deadline field while I’m here. And that’s it…this Summary Task is now both a Milestone and a Deadline.

After setting all of the Predecessors, everything falls into place on the Gantt Chart view – note that you’ll only see the green diamond indicating that the task is a deadline, but it was still important for this project template to set Milestone too, as that classification is used for reporting by the client…not the visual indicator.


Change Microsoft Project Start Date

What makes this template reusable for the PMO planners is that: one simply needs to change the project start date, and the entire project schedule shifts over so that the next 15-day cycle only needs to be populated with unique metadata for that specific project.

So what’s the problem?

Project Information Start Date Change Does Not Move Deadline Dates

There are two primary ways for changing a project start date. From what I’ve observed, the default “go to” method is…navigate to Project > Properties > Project Information in the ribbon, and then to set the “Start date” field.


If a PMO team member wants to re-use the template, and start a new project on Monday, April 29, 2019., that should then end on Friday, May 17, 2019. So, s/he changes the project start date in the manner shown above.

The result is: the project start date changed, the project task start and finish dates changed, but the deadline dates did not change:


The only way to fix that would be to update each of the tasks’ deadline property. This is only a simple demo, but in the real template, there is about 12 deadline updates to make if this happens.

Move Project Does Move Deadlines

The option we need  (i.e. to change the project start date and move task deadline dates) is available a few buttons over from the Project Information button.

Use Schedule > Move Project, and you’ll see right there in the dialog is a Move deadlines checkbox:


Now, when the date is changed to Monday, April 29, 2019, the task deadline correctly shifts to May 17, 2019.

Thanks for reading.

Categories: Microsoft Project


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