I love lists. I really do.
What I love even more, though, is crossing shit off lists.
Maybe I’m easily pleased, I don’t know. But it honestly gives me immense satisfaction.
These past few months, I’ve been using my love of checking off tasks to my advantage, with resounding success. Every week, I make a list of tasks I need to do; and I cross each item off once it’s complete. For some reason, it’s been a powerful motivator; and my productivity has skyrocketed.
So I decided to take things up a notch.
I downloaded project management software.
Project Management Software: The Whys
I’d been reading for a while about how important it is to have a project management system in place. But, frankly, I never really said to myself “Hey, this is something I need to tackle, pronto.” I like to think I’m a pretty methodical person; and my system of making a list and crossing shit off of it has served me well both in my student days and in my freelance writing career so far.
So why the change of heart, you may ask?
A few reasons:
1. Streamlining my workflow
The more my business grows, the more my stuff is all over the place.
Some of my clients use Slack. Others use Fleep. Some use Trello. Others keep it simple with just a Google Sheet and Google Hangouts. Others only communicate via email.
You get the picture.
I honestly don’t have trouble keeping track; and I’ve never ever missed a deadline, even though I did have one or two erm… close shaves? [insert witty comment about my beard here] . But it feels disjointed and disorganised, which I don’t like. Sometimes it’s inconvenient, too, because I have to keep switching platforms to do my work.
Being able to access and keep track of everything from one place makes life a lot simpler.
2. Having a bird’s eye view of my day, week, quarter and year
As much as I like the physical act of putting pen to paper, using a notebook just isn’t practical.
If you need to go back to check on something you did a while ago, it will involve flipping through endless pages (and, in my case, trying to decipher my handwriting, my shorthand and what the hell I was thinking). Notebooks also take up a lot of physical space. That’s fine for now, because I don’t have too many. But I can see it becoming a problem a few years down the line.
Project management software, on the other hand, takes no physical space at all and makes it very easy to scan through both current and past projects. This comes in handy if you need to go back to check on something you’ve done a while ago. It’s also an invaluable source of data about the nature, amount and quality of work you’re getting from different clients.
Whether it’s my music, my favourite TV shows or my client files, I think being able to access my data from anywhere is not only pretty neat, but also extremely convenient.
You never know what might happen. A client might enquire about a past project. Or I may need to refer back to something. Using project management software means you can access your client and project history from wherever you are, without having to lug a ton of notebooks around.
So, How Has It Worked Out So Far?
Setting the software up takes time. You need to input your client list, create projects and tags, import briefs, sync to your other productivity tools (such as Evernote, Google Drive, Slack and so forth)… The list goes on. Obviously, you have to do this manually, which is a fucking drag.
But I was determined to give it at least a try, so I stuck it out.
And you know what? It’s growing on me.
Once you’re all set up, it doesn’t take too long to start seeing the benefits.
I’ve only been using the software for a couple of weeks, but it’s already paying off. All my clients are organised in one place; and I can access the materials for specific projects – whether it’s an evernote, a Google document or an email attachment – straight from the app. I can also see all my tasks at one go, sorted by due date; and keep track of the time spent on each one. This isn’t only handy if you charge by the hour (I don’t). It also helps you identify bottlenecks in your workflow that cause productivity trouble.
Oh, and I still get to cross shit off, albeit only virtually.
The Bottom Line: Should You Use Project Management Software Or Not?
At this point, I think the answer to this question is a resounding yes. But with two qualifiers:
1. Start as early as you can
The sooner you start using project management software, the easier it is to set up and the faster you’ll start seeing the benefits.
2. Find one that works for YOU
There are a ton of different options out there, each with their own particular twist.
Don’t go for what others are using. Find one you like and stick to that. Project management software should make your life easier. If it’s a drag to use, it’s going to make matters worse.
What’s your favourite project management software? Do you even use one? Sound off in the comments below.