If you're a typical busy project manager, the last thing you want to do when in the middle of your tasks is to learn a new way of managing them. However, that day may come where Project arrives as part of your work Office Suite and you have to learn it - fast. Before you can sign yourself up for additional training, which will show you the ins and outs of the program, here's a quick start guide to getting your project off the ground.

For this example, let's say that you have to create a new product prototype for your packaging business. The first step will be to give your project a start date. If you neglect to enter one, the software will enter the current date as a default. This is an easy step and one you will know already.

The next (and more difficult) step is to get all your tasks into the program. Try to enter as much as you can think of - consider each of your staff or team and what they will be bringing to the project. The designer of the packaging, the company providing the materials, the accounting personnel in charge of the budget and many others will all bring their own set of tasks to the table.

You should enter these down the left of the schedule. You'll then need to think about how long each task is going to take (in hours), and what resources (i.e. staff) it's going to take to complete. You don't need to add exact durations at this stage, nor should you set an end date (the software will do this itself, based on what you entered, to help you see if your tasks versus resources versus timescale is realistic).

Usually, tasks are resource driven. If a member of staff (a resource) calls in sick, then this will correctly alter the project as a whole. Try to avoid fixed durations, as this doesn't take such fluctuations in availability into account. When looking at your project calendar, remember bank holidays and other dates where staff may be absent from working on the project.

Tasks are inter-dependent in a project. For example, the manufacturers of your new packaging cannot start making the prototype until the designer has completed his blueprint, so these two depend on each other. You can link tasks by dependencies in this way. Another example is that the marketing of the new packaging cannot happen until you have, for example, employed a customer relations person, and so on.

After you're reasonably happy with your project, save it as a baseline. Remember to consult with other people on your project. They might spot something that you haven't that is either unrealistic or unmanageable. Show your basic project report to people both on your team and the outside (the manufacturers and any third party) for the same reasons. No project manager is an island! If your work/resources to time ratio looks good, you're on your way. While your project is under way, schedule yourself to get more training on the nuances and many tools Project can offer you to make your job easier. You and your team will all benefit as a result.