It seems like there is an online tool to man­age just about every one of my dai­ly respon­si­bil­i­ties.  There are tools that track time, help man­age teams, com­pile cus­tomer feed­back, pay employees…the list goes on and on.  All these tools have one com­mon goal between them: to make my work-life an effi­cient, orga­nized, well-oiled machine.  I have to admit, I am the first one to sign up for that free tri­al and see if this new tool I’ve found real­ly checks all my pain points.  Unfor­tu­nate­ly, while there is some truth to their claims of trans­form­ing your work­day, it nev­er is the ulti­mate.  I always go back to using mul­ti­ple tools for dif­fer­ent tasks, even­tu­al­ly quilt­ing them togeth­er to fit per­fect­ly to me.  Even­tu­al­ly, I and the team, start­ed to real­ize that these tools are not one-size-fits-all and the faster we embraced the per­fect-for-us for­mu­la instead, the faster we could get back to actu­al­ly doing work (instead of work­ing on find­ing tools that help me do work, get it?)

In case any of the above speaks to you, here are some of the tools that make my short list


Slack

In my opin­ion, Slack is the stan­dard for inter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion.  It sat­is­fies every­thing from office chat­ter to col­lab­o­ra­tion.  In fact, a lot of oth­er peo­ple agreed with me.  Here in Char­lotte, I have seen bus­es wrapped in Slack ads and shiny bill­boards light­ing up the Epi­Cen­tre.  What makes it so usable is its design, most specif­i­cal­ly, the way you can parse out top­ics and con­ver­sa­tions.  You can keep all con­ver­sa­tions between team­mates, say about a cer­tain client or project, in one place instead of search­ing through emails and piec­ing togeth­er the big pic­ture.  It inte­grates with our inbox­es, allows us to share files, and noth­ing is bet­ter than the /giphy roulette.


Asana

Anoth­er pop­u­lar sta­ple, Asana is my pre­ferred to-do list plat­form. You can keep track of per­son­al tasks, del­e­gate out to the team, and keep track of tasks assigned to clients. Asana is anoth­er plat­form that has nailed it in the design depart­ment. I am a “list” per­son so Asana’s way of dis­play­ing and orga­niz­ing infor­ma­tion is easy for me to fol­low. Plus, who doesn’t get com­plete sat­is­fac­tion from check­ing off a task and see­ing it crossed out? One of the most valu­able fea­tures we use is it’s Insta­gantt inte­gra­tion. Web projects where there are mul­ti­ple lay­ers of build­ing, the Insta­gantt per­fect­ly plots dead­lines and mile­stones. There is a sep­a­rate view-only link you can send to clients to ensure that you are always on the same page.


Harvest

While Har­vest is now sec­ond nature to me, it hasn’t quite impact­ed everyone’s work habits. For an agency like Price­less Misc, we are track­ing things like con­trac­tor time, project expens­es, project bud­gets, etc. Hav­ing a tool that can han­dle the major­i­ty of our needs when it get down to the num­bers, is, well, price­less. Har­vest is anoth­er plat­form that plays nice with the rest of our tools. For exam­ple, you can track how much time a spe­cif­ic Asana task takes in a cou­ple clicks.  If you are a details per­son, this insight to how much time exact­ly each task is tak­ing helps you be more pre­cise with scop­ing projects. 


Trello

Asana is for finite lists, Trel­lo is for big-pic­ture. We have found that keep­ing track of ideas, pipelines, and process­es are bet­ter expressed in a more visu­al way that only Trel­lo can deliv­er. It’s design is a lot more basic than the above but it’s func­tion can­not be denied. Inside our video arm, Trel­lo is per­fect for track­ing projects through the pro­duc­tion life cycle. See­ing projects in the dif­fer­ent stages of pro­duc­tion helps us man­age work­loads and pro­vides us a bet­ter idea of when projects will be com­plete or where the bot­tle­neck may be. Trel­lo has some sim­i­lar­i­ties to Asana as it also has a list fea­ture inside each card that can be assigned to a team­mate. There were a cou­ple instances where we thought that we should stick to Trel­lo or Asana but fig­ured out that we couldn’t quite give up either.   


Boomerang

Some­times I work at weird hours and rather than send­ing out an email at 2:03am, I can sched­ule it to go out at 7:00am. It is a lit­tle perk that ends up being your favorite thing. Per­son­al advan­tages, Boomerang is great for recur­ring reminder emails that get sent to clients about dead­lines or meet­ing reminders. The actu­al sched­ul­ing piece is easy to learn and the but­ton sits to sched­ule an email sits right under­neath the reg­u­lar send but­ton in Gmail. No new non-Google look­ing client to con­fuse you. Addi­tion­al­ly, it can be a great way to clean up your inbox with need-to-know only emails. You can hide emails until a cer­tain date and time when it “boomerangs” back to you. Boomerang is the only one on this list that costs mon­ey no mat­ter what but if you like hav­ing com­plete con­trol over your out­bound com­mu­ni­ca­tions, it is worth it.  


Google Docs

This is an oldie, but a good­ie. 100% of my writ­ing and “fil­ing” of impor­tant doc­u­ments are done with Google Docs. Since a lot of project management/operations work is writ­ing heavy with a focus on doc­u­ment cre­ation and upkeep, it pro­vides the best place to orga­nize all that data. Chances are, if you are read­ing this, you are well versed in Google Docs so I won’t bore you, but I have to praise its depend­able con­ve­nience and ease of use through the years.  One of the biggest rea­sons why I and my team use it is because we are all on Macs. Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides mim­ic the PC equiv­a­lent we knew before Mac. There are oth­er shar­ing plat­forms where you can share and col­lab­o­rate, but it’s it word-pro­cess­ing and spread­sheet-mak­ing exper­tise that is used every sin­gle day.


It is still pos­si­ble that the per­fect work man­age­ment tool is in my future, but for now, my own com­bi­na­tion is get­ting the job done.

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