Venture beyond email to boost your productivity

Venture beyond email to boost your productivity

Who can remember the days when you were sent on a two-day Microsoft project workshop and you couldn’t wait for it to be over?

You went back to work vowing never to use the complex Gantt charts again. Well I must say, that experience put me off project management tools for life – or so it seemed. I created my own Excel spreadsheet which worked OK for me, however it scared other people and they used it under duress.

I also used emails inefficiently to manage all my tasks – all those flags in Outlook. I was confused, not to mention the people involved in the project.

So when my Virtual Assistant encouraged me to look at the latest project management tools I was very sceptical. I had visions of complexity and I wasn’t prepared to slow my productivity as I learnt a new tool. I thought project management tools should be the domain of project managers. After spending 30 minutes investigating, I must say I was pleasantly surprised by how far project management tools have come and it made me wonder why I had held onto my outdated and incorrect perceptions for as long as I did.

At this point I must confess I didn’t investigate every tool on the market. I looked at two, used one and I have fallen in love with it.

So what can it do? It basically runs all my professional and personal projects. You can set them up by company, project, task list and task. It gives you full visibility to tasks and allows people to collaborate without the noise of emails.

It gives you a holistic view of all the projects running in your life and it gave me a realisation that I was too fragmented and unable to achieve all that I had planned.

Here are some of the advantages of a project management tool:

  • Define key milestones and align deliverables and timeframes. The tools provide a structure which guides critical collaboration upfront.
  • When setting up projects, it helps you make a choice as to what is most important. Transparency of all the things you are working on in one place can be confronting for some people.
  • Reduces email noise. When you delegate a task it structures your thinking: you select a responsible party (can be multiple), due date and a priority. This forces you to be more specific about a task – something email doesn’t do.
  • It can integrate tasks into your calendar so you know what you need to deliver for the day.
  • You can chose to have a daily summary of tasks outstanding sent to you each morning via email. It saves you going through numerous emails to get the same information.
  • There are flexible privacy options. You can invite people to have visibility on any project you like and within the project, you can make tasks private or select who has access. This gives you excellent control over internal and external people working on projects.
  • You can have task templates so you don’t need to remember all the steps to a common task list.
  • It allows you to message people linked to a task. This helps reduce email noise as it links the message directly to the specific task.
  • The web-based tool supports the growing need for mobility.
  • There are apps available for smartphones so you can enter tasks while away from the office, reducing the need to email yourself a task and cut and paste later. Worse still, write it down on paper and misplace it.
  • Visually it is very easy on the eye and you can change the colour scheme or incorporate your company logo.
  • It’s intuitive and easy to pick-up. The trial period of 30 days gives you plenty of time to learn and make a decision.
  • Support and help is very responsive. I had a reply to my email suggestions in a couple of hours.
  • A log of tool improvements so you can track your requests
  • It offers to archive old projects to reduce the number of active projects. You can get them back; your monthly payment is dependent on the number of projects you use.
  • No ongoing license fees or contract lock-in.

So what does it cost? Pricing differs by project tool, however the one I use ranges from $29 per month for personal to $149 per month for an enterprise solution. You can adjust your subscription anytime. Unlike some apps that I use 5% of the time, I find I am using this project management tool 50-75% of the time. On a per-minute basis, this makes the investment very affordable.

I have my personal preference, however the purpose of this article is to make you more aware of some great productivity tools out there and for you to make the best choice for your circumstances. This tool has made the greatest positive impact on my productivity since I made it part of my career to help people with productivity.

I did a search on Google for a list of providers to help you on the journey of discovery. They include:

  • TeamworkPM
  • Basecamp
  • PlanPlus
  • Zoho
  • NO KAHUNA
  • TODOIST
  • mGSD
  • Things (Mac)

People can often wait for an enterprise solution and revert to email, Excel or others. The options explored above allow you individual and team flexibility. I would encourage you to check compliance with your IT departments, however as they are web-based, you should be OK.

There is a great world of productivity out there if you are brave enough to step beyond paper, email and spreadsheets.

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