In an effort to continue working smarter, not harder, our team has been trying out some new task and project management tools. Being organized and communicating well is essential for success with team members in four time zones.
Apps and tools should create efficiencies not add to an on-going to do list. Before implementing a new tool in your classroom, office or home be sure to understand how it’s best used, why it’s important and how it will save you time. If a team will all be using the tool, be sure to set some best practices, structure and standards for use that you frequently update. Below is a quick scan of tools our team is currently using.
Cloud based task manager that works across all devices and allows lists to be shared individually or through a business team. Tasks can include comments, links, notes and be delegated easily.
- Best Use: Task management, both team and individuals.
- Cost: Freemium. Pro and Premium features starting at $4.99 per month.
- Pro Tip: Use of #hashtags and folders keeps your task lists clean and easy to prioritize.
— Bonnie Lathram (@belathram) February 16, 2016
Slack allows teams to organize and prioritize messages in one central program. Through message channels, direct messages and the ability to search and save conversations, and documents you’ll probably see your inbox size reduce. Slack has been gaining international attention for it’s ability to simplify your workday and was recently recognized as the fastest rising startup. We’ve heard stories about teachers/professors setting up a Slack group for every class.
- Best Use: Organized group messaging.
- Cost: Freemium. Premium features starting at $6.97 per user per month.
- Pro Tip: Use the /remind function to set quick reminders for responding to an email, letting a teammate know about your upcoming meeting or when to walk your dog!
Using Google Docs for project management allows for a rapid, iterative, adaptive process. The cloud based nature allows our team to work on docs from any device and collaborate in real time. Computer in the shop? No problem just log into your Google account for full access to all Google Docs. Sheets are used for budget and analytic reporting, docs for content curation and collaboration.
- Best Use: Document creation and curation.
- Cost: Free.
- Pro Tip: Use consistent titles that allow for easy accessibility through the searching function.
— Mary Ryerse (@maryryerse) February 16, 2016
We use Base as a contact database and business development tracker. The ability to sync Base with email has allowed for real time entering of updated and new contact information. Tag and source information helps categorize a contact and makes searching easier. The deal feature allows our team to easily project management business developing from initial conversation through contracting.
- Best Use: Contact database and business development.
- Cost: Starts at $25 per user per month.
- Pro Tip: Add comments including Google Doc links to any proposals, conversations or updates about a person so anyone on the team can easily see last contact.
Here are a few other project management tools that our team has used and appreciated the features of:
- Basecamp.Provides a web based project, task and time management, team collaboration and reporting.
- Daylite. Full service project management and contact database – but not cloud based yet!
- Trello. Visual collaboration tool for project management.
- Evernote. Organizes lists, notes and calendars in cloud based app.
- iCloud shared reminders. Users can share reminders lists from Apple devices.
- Remember the Milk. To do app that works across all devices.
Lessons Learned. After a bit of trial and error here are a few tips our team has for picking and using a project management tool.
- Fail fast. Know when a tool isn’t working for your team and either try a new method or pick a new one. There is too much important work to do than spend your time dealing with a program that doesn’t fit or suit your needs.
- Be outcome focused. When selecting a tool be clear about the job you want it to do and not do. Sometimes agreeing that it doesn’t have to be a one stop shop can actually be more helpful.
- Remember free isn’t always better. Don’t overlook a product because of its paid features. While there are lots of free versions, sometimes paying a little extra for a paid feature or service can have big rewards on efficiencies and project management.
- Create a flexible structure. While developing best practices is important for team use of a tool, don’t over process or regulate its use. Allow team members to adapt the tool and its uses to best suit their projects and priorities.
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