Read on to find out how to make your new project management tool work for you or listen to episode 003 – “No I won’t allow to you “not like project management tools”” below!
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In my opinion, using a project management tool is a non-negotiable in your business. Heck, even in your life! Without mine, I honestly wouldn’t know what I was meant to be doing each day.
Are you one of those people who tends to say things such as “I don’t like structure” or “I prefer to go with the flow?” or even “I’ve just never been able to use a project management tool”? Well, I’m writing this post with you in mind. Because, while I do envy you – if I try to work without structure, I get nothing done, and my “flow” is more like “halt”(!) – I don’t believe you can run the best business you possibly can without some sort of project management tool. Let’s start off by working out which tool you should be using.
Step 1: Which Project Management Tool Should I Use?
It can be pretty daunting to get started, what with all the options that are out there for you to try, but it really is just a hurdle you need to overcome – do a little research (I’ll help you out here!), then just pick one and get started. I’ll cover it later in this blog post what to do if you really just aren’t jiving with your chosen tool! In my opinion though, here are the ones you should probably choose from first:
- ClickUp: An absolute beast of a program, with every feature you could ever really need. Will absolutely grow with your business. The free version is amazing too but I love the paid version particularly for the unlimited custom fields!
- Asana: A really good starting point if you’re a bit “tech-phobic”. The free version has less features than ClickUp’s free version but that’s good if you feel you might be overwhelmed with too many choices.
- Trello: In my opinion, a little too basic for a “true” project management tool, but if you are a team of one and really just want to dip your toe in the water, it could be a good first option for you.
- Notion: The true customisation King. You can literally set up Notion HOWEVER feels good for you. For some this will be a dream, for others too much pressure. The lack of recurring tasks really does bother me though.
If it were down to me to choose for you (which it usually is with my long-term retainer clients and me), I would start with ClickUp on the premise that this is the one tool you’ll use for the rest of your business life. If you are totally non-techy though, go with Asana. (This isn’t me saying Asana is basic or anything like that, just that ClickUp can be a little overwhelming if you just want somewhere to manage your to dos.)
Step 2: Learn How to Use Your Tool
If you have a project manageent tool that you use, but you find yourself avoiding it, the reason might be because you just truthfully don’t understand how to use it. Like how to find what you’re meant to be working on today, how to assign things to a team member or what the difference is between a folder and a space.
Take a step back from your tool, head over to YouTube and search for any sort of “ClickUp Basics” or “Asana How To’s” type videos. I don’t have any specific recommendations here, but YouTube is a goldmine for learning things for free (I can attribute a LOT of the things I know to YouTube!).
Once you feel like you actually know where everything is and how to use your tool, that’s going to make things feel SO much better for you and like you are actually ready to tackle your new (or neglected!) project management tool.
Step 3: Are You Using Your Tool Properly?
If you’ve gotten this far into my blog post, I’m going to assume that the answer here is “no”. So, let’s change that!
If you just have one space, labelled “Your Business Name”, with a bunch of random folders underneath and lists labelled in a way that doesn’t make a ton of sense – ie, you have “Website” and “Clients” in the same folder, then this is your first and ultimately biggest mistake. Even worse if you just have the one list with everything in there! It’s no wonder you hate your project management tool, because you’re not going to feel any more organised at all over just using sticky notes or a bit of paper. Okay, you might feel a little bit more organised because all your tasks are out of your head – but they’re also in no particular order, they’re all jumbled and I’m betting you have about 400 due dates that are all overdue.
You’ll want to start out by creating different spaces, folders and lists that make sense for your business from a “departmental” level. A few spaces that I have in my ClickUp are “Business HQ”, “Operations”, “Delivery” and “Team”. For example, I don’t want anything to do with my clients (Delivery) getting in the way of anything I’m working on in my own business (Operations) or vice versa. I want them all nice and separate. And then as an example inside Delivery, I have a different folder per client and lists in there to do with the type of work I’m doing for them or the stage they are at with working for me – eg. an “Onboarding” list or similar. You could have a Marketing space and house all of your marketing methods in there. Personally, my marketing is in a folder in my Operations space, but it’s personal preference really, as long as it makes sense, is clearly labelled and isn’t confusing as to where things are!
This is also a great way to start doing a “task audit” and find out if all of your tasks are in ClickUp, because for example, you could navigate into your Instagram list, housed in your Marketing folder, and see every task you do for marketing your business on Instagram. If it’s empty, but you know you spend a lot of time on Instagram engaging, posting, etc – then you need to start filling it out with tasks. The main idea here is that everything you do, day to day, should be in your project management tool with a due date on it. This is the real magic for making your life easier in the future.
Step 4: Are You Writing Your Tasks Correctly?
If you log in to your project management tool at 9am on a Monday, and the first task you see is “Create webinar”, then I totally understand why you’re stressed out! I don’t think anyone would find that sort of task helpful – other than those who might forget they need to create a webinar (I’m looking at myself of course – that’s why my ClickUp is my life <3). Your tasks really need to be broken down into bitesize chunks – so for example on the webinar task, we should really have something like:
- Create Webinar Slides on How to Improve Your Sales Using Copywriting
- Research webinar topic
- Draft webinar outline
- Create webinar text for each slide
- Proofread and edit webinar text
- Source pictures for webinar slides
- Create finalised webinar slides
And, we haven’t even got into the tech behind the webinar slides yet – did you see how I changed the main task to be just about the slides? Your main task should be a kind of “deliverable” and the subtasks, the process to make that deliverable.
You also want to ensure you’re writing enough in your task descriptions, too. Each task (or subtask) should be written so that anyone who the task is assigned to could open the task, read the description, see any relevant documents uploaded into the task, so that they can actually just on with it – without having to message you and say “where do I find…”, “what do you mean by…” or “I just don’t know what you want!!!” (and, if you’re at that point – you can link to the relevant SOP in the task, too!).
Step 5: Are You Putting Everything in Your Project Management Tool?
If you’re not, you’re going to end up really confused. Are you still using something else to track your tasks, for example, a scrap of paper that you got out of your printer, or a to do list app, or notes on your phone? This is going to completely stress you out in the future, because you’re always going to be in “firefighting” mode – where your brain jumps to what needs to be done TODAY, which means you can never really plan ahead and it really will make life difficult for you. Your ideal set up is that you sit down in front of your computer, and it literally TELLS you what you need to do today, because you assigned yourself tasks in the past. Whether those are recurring tasks, or just something you decided last week you want to work on, it’s just going to improve your working life. Of course, you can do a spur of the moment task – I’m not a monster! But, the majority of your tasks should not be things that just came to mind this morning. Do you see how using another form of task tracking actively prevents you from using your project management tool?
Step 6: Are You Checking Your Project Management Tool Frequently Enough?
This ties in with the step before, because if you don’t have everything in there, you won’t have a need to check it. You should really be checking in every single day that you’re working, and at the very least every other day. Like I said already, you should be told by your project management tool what you need to work on each day, and therefore, you need to check it each day!
Also, you’ll need to be keeping an eye on comments – because if any of your team members do have a question about a task, they should be commenting it on the task itself in order to keep discussion in the relevant places!
Step 7: Still Don’t Like Your Project Management Tool? Try a Different One!
Sorry, but I’m a firm believer that there’s a tool out there for everyone. You might just need to kiss a few frogs to find your prince! Keep on trying, and you will get there in the end. And if you’re still really struggling and feel like it’s the strategic element of your project management tool that you’re struggling with, you can reach out to me and see how we can work together – this is my jam!
Ultimately, when you find the project management tool that works for you, get it set up correctly, use it often enough and start writing your tasks out properly, you’ll notice a drastic difference in yourself and your business. You’ll have free headspace for new ideas, you’ll spend less time communicating details to your team, and you’ll just feel happier and more fulfilled knowing that everything you want to get done in your business either is getting done, or will be soon!
Let me know what your favourite project management tool is below!