Steering a project through the stressed and stressful waters of an always-moving organization can be a daunting proposition. These days, the average office worker is burdened by an untold number of deadlines, meetings, emails and tasks—and that means they probably don’t have the time or headspace to dedicate their full talents to you and your project. Luckily, you can help make things easier. To better ensure project success—whether what you’re making is for a client or an internal stakeholder—check out these five project management tools that save time, money and energy.
Gantt charts and scrum boards
In an era of infinite content—armadas of words constantly battling for our limited attention—a simple visual can be refreshing and highly effective. Gantt charts use basic horizontal bars to display project phases and progress. With a quick glance, your teammates will be able to see what work is currently getting done (or at least what work should be getting done) and when their contributions will be needed. They’ll also be able to see how much time each phase is expected to take. Scrum boards function in a similar manner and work great for projects that are on a less rigid timeline and that involve multiple teams. The board displays different project phases—planning, execution, etc.—and markers for each team. As they complete phases and make progress, teams can move their markers across the board. This allows all involved to see the bigger picture and their place within it.
It’s easy to agree to do something, much harder to remember to do it. Especially when every stray message seems to come with a new request. That’s why an online tool for task assignments is so valuable. Those responsible for completing a portion of the project—whether that means designing a logo or crunching the final numbers—can log in and easily see exactly what they need to do. Depending on their account settings, they’ll also receive email notifications about looming deadlines. On the flipside, project managers can keep tabs on their team and make sure all tasks are being completed on time without having to scroll through long email chains. This helps avoid costly delays and unnecessary frustrations.
In an agency environment, resource allocation is key. Project managers need an effective tool to schedule and track hours for every member of their team in order to prevent overbooking, missed deadlines and unhappy clients. But this manner of organization need not be limited to the “creative” world. Wouldn’t it be helpful, even in a corporate office, to have a clear picture of team members’ availability? Ask your team upfront to estimate—to whatever extent is possible—their availability through the course of the project. Have them mark down any days they’ll be out on vacation, days they won’t be able to put their heads down and work due to meetings, and days they have other deadlines. If you have a sense of hourly availability, you’ll be able to build realistic timelines. An online resource allocation tool will make it easy for you and your teammates to track actual hours against estimates and adjust accordingly, allowing for smoother future workflows.
Giving feedback means different things to different people—some offer rigid and prescriptive edit requests, others vague feelings and reactions. Sometimes different stakeholders will present conflicting opinions. All of this makes it difficult for the person receiving the feedback to know how to proceed. Who are they supposed to listen to?
Feedback tools allow stakeholders to vote on and rank different versions of deliverables, making it easier for a group to provide cohesive direction in a fair manner. If a certain individual’s opinion should carry more weight—perhaps they boast significant relevant expertise—you can adjust their vote to count as two.
Progress reports and post-mortems are crucial parts of any project—and they don’t need to be a time suck. Rather than spend valuable hours creating a custom report, choose an out-of-the-box option. You’ll be able to input relevant numbers and figures and let the program generate appropriate formatting and data visualizations.
That means you’ll be able to start planning your next project that much sooner.
Set aside time for yourself
Ensuring you have some free time to devote to the people and things you engage outside of work is vital for your mental well-being. Ultimately, this mental time-out can help you stay energized and passionate about your work. After all, it’s important to keep things in balance.
That balance also includes getting a full night’s rest to recharge overnight and regular exercise—all integral to maintaining that upward growth track. Indeed, a Harvard study concluded that insomnia can cause the average worker to lose up to 11.3 days of productivity each year, while a separate study came to the conclusion that a steady exercise routine helps lower stress levels, improve concentration, speeds up cognitive abilities and sharpens the memory.
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