A design agency is a very busy place, with a lot of moving parts. As a project manager (PM) I use a few different tools to help keep our team on track. I have tried numerous tools but these are what works best for myself and my team. Between the 5 tools discussed in this blog, I bet you will find one that you like as well!
When was the last time you used a sticky note? I use them almost daily and I bet you have used one in the last week or so. Whether for the specific steps of a project, or simply items to pick up from the grocery store,we all like checking items off a list. Trello is the digital version of sticky notes.
So what is Trello? According to Trello.com, “Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards.” Each “Trello board” can have as many cards as desirable and can be divided into columns to help sort tasks.
Trello’s other features include:
- Assign multiple people to a board to divide tasks
- Ability to assign Due Dates to cards
- Include attachments on cards
- Insert Checklists
- Ability to comment
- Labeling and filtering options
According to a study done by The Radicati Group Inc. the average corporate email user receives an average of 71 legitimate, non-spam email messages a day. Depending on what your daily responsibilities may include, a friendly reminder can help make sure that nothing falls through the cracks for yourself or your workplace. As this tool’s name states, Followupthen helps you follow up on tasks by providing a reminder in your email inbox for whenever you need it.
Followupthen is very easy to use and allows the user to set a reminder for whatever date or time they would like. Want to set a followup for 1 hour, 1 week, 1 month, 1pm Monday or maybe June 1st? The format is always as follows: Day/Time@followupthen.com. Just send an email to one of the following addresses in order to set up your reminder:
Followupthen helps keep email inboxes clean and allows you to focus on the tasks at hand without forgetting vital items for your team. I highly recommend it to anyone who receives many emails a day or simply likes having another avenue for reminders.
Chances are, you have probably already heard of Evernote and for good reason. It is one of most well known apps for organization and note taking. I use Evernote the most when I am on the go because it instantly syncs from the app on your phone to the app on your desktop or laptop. When opening the app you can begin to take notes, sorting them into specific “Notebooks” for which you can create the topic or category. Another great feature of Evernote allows you to add pictures you have taken to one of your notes, and it even allows you to scan documents and save them in a note. This can be extremely helpful for collecting receipts for your business, attending a conference and not wanting to carry around all of the flyers and papers that are passed out, or everyday note taking.
One of the features that truly sets Evernote apart is its ability to capture content from the Internet via the “web-clipping” tool (shown in the image above in the top right hand corner). This tool allows the user to take a screenshot of the page, bookmark the page, capture the full page, simplified version of the article you are viewing or capture the entire article.
The combination of the web-clipping tool and easy-to-use note-taking system make Evernote a robust and great application.
When I was in college, I would create in-depth outlines for every class I was in and before every test I would take. These outlines quickly became my preferred method of note taking and were also a vital part of any group project I was on. If I had known about Workflowy when I was working on my degree, it would have made my life much easier.
Workflowy is able to sync with other users, so any notes or outlines you take can easily be shared with your team or classmates. For me, this means I can take excellent notes in client meetings that my team can instantly see and process, so even if they are not in the meeting, they can get a good feel for the project we are working on.
So how does one get started with Workflowy? The first step is the usual sign up. After that, the user is presented with what appears to be a blank word document. Everything that you do in Workflowy starts from this first line and bullet point, and is in one easy to find place as part of one list. Like any other outline, as you create more and more content, your outline begins to look increasingly overwhelming. Workflowy combats this issue by allowing the user to zoom in to the notes they want to view, and hide the notes they don’t. As you can see in the first image below, there are a number of bullet points in this outline that have subcategories underneath each initial point.
This presents a very busy looking document where things may be hard to find. In the second image shown below, the document looks much cleaner and the subcategories have disappeared. Hiding and showing information is as easy as clicking the minus [-] or plus [+] button next to each bullet point. One of the other main features is the ability to search your Workflowy based on a keyword or phrase, which is great for those extensive outlines.
Most project managers will tell you that they cannot do their job without the use of some type of project management software. For our team that is Teamgantt. According to Teamgantt.com “TeamGantt is the refreshing solution that brings gantt chart software online. You can now plan and manage your projects with this super easy to use gantt software. Inviting your co-workers, teammates, and friends to view and edit your gantt chart is fun!”
As a project manager, Teamgantt allows me to map out projects step by step and clearly establish tasks, milestones (also known as checkpoints), and due dates. I have found that in order for our team to be as efficient as possible, having all of the timelines for each step mapped out from the start makes a massive difference. Project timelines are constantly changing due to a variety of factors, so having an accurate initial estimate of how long each task will take allows for our team to smoothly make adjustments if there is a delay. Teamgantt has a number of features including the ability to attach documents, make comments and assign team members to specific tasks. Our team uses Teamgantt as a reference guide and high level view of the projects we are currently working on and it certainly makes my life easier.
Keeping a team organized and on task is not a simple job and requires constant attention and adapting. Tools such as Trello, Followupthen, Evernote, Workflowy, and Teamgantt help keep ZoCo on track in a variety of different ways, but every business is different. What works for me may not work for you. My advice to any Project Manager is to keep trying tools and systems until you find one that works for you. Once you have that in place, you can continue to evolve it as you and your team become more and more efficient!
If you have an organizational tool you love and want to share, feel free to tweet at us @zoco_design or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe you can introduce us to our next favorite program!