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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.