How to mark individual tasks as critical in Microsoft Project

As a project manager, you have to prioritize your attention to those tasks of your project which are most critical. And by critical I don’t mean in the sense of being on the critical path, but tasks which are critical from a quality and/or business perspective. How can you mark those ‘success-critical’ tasks in Microsoft Project? I will show you in this article.

Marking individual tasks as critical

I am using the following construction schedule as an example. It has over 150 tasks.

How to mark individual tasks as critical in Microsoft Project
This schedule has so many tasks! Therefore we want to mark individual tasks as critical

I have gone through every task and noted down the tasks which I want to monitor very closely. There are 5 tasks I want to mark as critical:

  • Obtain building permits
  • Set equipment in mechanical room
  • Remove debris from building and do final clean-up
  • Elevator inspection and certification
  • Perform Fire Marshal’s inspection

To mark individual tasks as critical — per our own definition and not with regards to critical path relevance — we need to use one of the custom fields in Microsoft Project.

To do so, I click on Add New Columns and choose field Text1:

Individual tasks can be marked critical with a custom field

Show field Text1

Next, we rename the field from Text1 to Business Critical:

New field: business critical to mark critical tasks in Microsoft Project

Now we have a custom field for selecting critical tasks. But we still need a way to flag individual tasks.

We want to mark mission-critical tasks with a “Yes” in the new column Business Critical.

We can set up this kind of selection option easily in Microsoft Project.

How?

Right-click on the new column Business Critical and choose Custom Fields:

Editing a custom field to mark critical tasks

In the following window, select the button for Custom attributes to “Lookup”. Then press the Lookup … button.

Enable lookup table for custom field

In the next window we have to define a lookup table for our new custom field, Business Critical. A lookup table is just a list of values that we want to allow to be used for the new custom column.

Make two entries, as shown below:

  • Yes
  • No

Microsoft Project: Editing a lookup table with which we can highlight critical tasks

Close the dialog.

Now you can mark any task you want as ‘critical’

If you have gone through the steps from above, you have achieved your goal: You can mark any task in Microsoft Project as ‘critical’, and critical being up to your own judgement.

Use the drop-down in the newly created column Business Critical and set the value Yes:

MS Project: Now we can mark individual tasks as critical

Now I can mark the five tasks from above as critical which I want to monitor very closely. And I can use a column filter to select only tasks marked as critical.

Create a filter to show only critical tasks

Lastly, we need to create a custom filter so that we can filter out all critical tasks:

Go to View –> Filter –> New Filter:

MS Project: creating a filter to show only critical tasks

Creating a new custom filter

Now you can select the new custom filter ‘Business critical tasks’ to easily filter critical tasks:

Here is the result …

I can show only the tasks I have marked as critical:

MS Project: Showing only tasks marked as critical

This was easy, right?

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Adrian Neumeyer

Hi! I'm Adrian, founder of Tactical Project Manager. I created the site to help you bring your projects to success. In the past I've worked as an IT project manager for 10 years.

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