Remove Duration from Project Plan Task Unless Certain Criteria Met


Hi there! I am working on building out a project plan template that we will use for onboarding. There are multiple branching paths and decision points that need to be made throughout the process, which determine if certain steps must be taken. I've managed to set up a way to "deactivate" tasks based on those conditions using a helper column, as seen below. When that is flagged, the task is automatically marked as

Since most of these tasks will not be needed, I have them deactivated until it is determined that yes, we will need them in the process. When the decision is blank it is deactivated, but then another helper column is blank until that decision is made.

I was able to set it up to 'delete' the task [clear the assigned to cell and move it into a background sheet that isn't used] using those two helper columns.

However, I would prefer to not have the timing for these tasks included in the plan at all until the decision is made that yes, we do need them. As it is now, that extended duration is in place until we decide no, we do not need them.

As an example, we have a task later in the process that cannot be completed until we have a certain approval. If we have it, the task can happen on 4/1/24. However, is we do not have it, we must wait 2 weeks, say pushing the due date back to 4/15. 99% of the time that will be approved, but if the owner of the dependency has been working on the assumption of 4/15 being the due date, and then we note the approval, I don't want to due date to suddenly change to 4/1. I would much rather they be targeting 4/1, and then find out later they must push back.

Given that, I suppose I have 2 questions:

  1. Is there a way to have a task duration be 0 or set up something like that with predecessors until it is decided we do need that task, at which point it fills in with a predetermined information automatically?
  2. Is there any better way to handle branching paths and decision points in a workflow?

Thank you!


  • Will Jeffords
    Will Jeffords ✭✭✭✭✭✭

    Hi Misty, I kinda think I see what you are doing above, but forgive me if I'm missing something...

    Have you considered creating one or more columns that are drop-down of "states/statuses" related to your workflow? Especially when there area multiple states in a workflow, you can sometimes leverage these in automations more easily to move things that need actions/durations/approvals around in the right sequence and timings.

    In conjunction with this, I oftentimes create checkbox columns that are the individual tasks (especially the simpler done/not done types that have minimal/no durations)...this is essentially 'pivoting' what you may be doing above with your "initiate" and "confirm" rows if a checkbox would suffice (remember that you can always "view history" on those checkboxes if you are concerned with knowing who changed the value and when they did it).

    If you want to do a quick real-time show and share...just let me know! Happy to help if I can!


  • Misty Antonacci

    One reason for some of the extra complication is that we are trying to make things as easy as possible for the end user, even if it makes things a little funky on the back end. They'll primarily be accessing this through reports, as there may be dozens of these workflows live at any given time.

    My main concern is really just seeing if there is a way to have a task "inactive" [i.e., not contributing to the overall length of the project plan] until certain criteria are met.