Updated: Jul 27, 2020
When you are an entrepreneur, every minute counts along with every penny. You have to be scrappy but also efficient. In my many years of being an entrepreneur, I have tried countless apps to boost productivity, only to then use none of them.
Below are the three apps I have stuck with for years and actively use. Plus, I have been able to maintain free accounts with all of them. Saving that $$$$
TIP: I also included a 'tip' within each category. This is essentially my learning mistake of being an entrepreneur and not making use of the tools properly. Hopefully, this helps you not make the same mistakes. :)
Nothing will ever replace a whiteboard but Trello does a pretty damn good job. Trello allows you to monitor projects with all of your teammates. You make lists to create steps for your chosen workflow. I usually use ' GOALS - TO DO - DOING - DONE - ACCOMPLISHED.' What separates them? A Goal for me are the huge tasks, like updating our website, launching a new service, creating a product, etc. Within that Goal, it is separated into numerous small tasks that then need to be completed. Those tasks will move through the 'To Do - Doing - Done' funnel. Whereas the Goals will move towards the Accomplished list once completed. This helps me visualize all that we have done (and all that we still need to do,) in an organized manner.
After you create the lists, you are going to want to make the cards, which are like virtual sticky notes. You can label them accordingly, assign people(s) to tasks, add due dates, add notes, checklists, more descriptions, and even comment on them. This really helps all team members work together on the common end goal. Although we may all have different tasks, we rely on each other to get to the next phase. Having these cards available to everyone allows for full transparency and communication along the way.
If you have Slack, you can add Trello onto Slack and get reminders of due dates. To link it to your Google Calendar, you do have to pay extra. Personally, I have done fine without that since I check Trello frequently.
TIP: When I first got Trello, I made a board for everything. It was overwhelming having to re-check every board to see where we were at with progress. This resulted in me not using Trello often and trying to manage projects through email. I later found out that I could combine multiple boards and still be just as organized - honestly more organized. I started using the labels tap and that changed everything. Why wasn't I doing that before? Now I didn't need a board for social media, admin tasks, employee assignments, and client work. All I needed to do was create a new label.
Being an entrepreneur, you may not feel like you have to track your hours. Especially when you don't have clients where you need to submit hourly reports. However, tracking your own hours for tasks like emailing, writing proposals, admin, bookkeeping, and reporting is extremely helpful. It helped me become aware of where I was wasting time and could become more efficient. I even installed a timer for 'wasting time,' when I would catch myself checking social media and doing tasks that didn't really need to be done. It took some self-discipline at first, but once you start seeing the reports, it helps fuel your motivation to use it.
I also enjoy Toggl for tracking my teammate's tasks. I can see what tasks they have been spending their time on. This is beneficial because, if I find that a task is taking longer for a client, we can adjust billing for that. Or when we are working on internal projects like updating pitch decks or the website, I can accurately see how long it takes. Sometimes we have a habit of underselling how long certain projects will take. Toggl helps you visually see how long you typically spend on those projects, so you can better manage your time and schedule.
TIP: Don't forget to look at the reports! Sometimes, we can get caught up with just looking at the timer and only seeing the past week. I didn't think I was spending too much time on my proposals when doing a little each day. Then I started looking at the reports and actually saw how much time I was wasting, for something we don't even charge for - yikes! Safe to say, we started templating them.
Have you been caught emailing a client back and forth multiple times to schedule a meeting? My email inbox was full of emails from clients going back and forth about what time worked best for them, over multiple different time zones. It was exhausting and wasted a great deal of time.
Then I found, You Can Book Me, where I can link up my calendar with their automated scheduling app. I get to choose what days and times I would like to be open to meetings through their settings. You Can Book Me already knows when I am busy, so no more worrying about double-booking appointments. This app isn't just great for you, but also your client. As they can easily book a time that works for them and also reschedule their appointment if they need too.
Oh and before I forget, it automatically creates a calendar invite for you and the other person. Another email saved! You Can Book Me automatically RSVP's 'Yes' for you, this way, you don't need to worry about adding it into your calendar yourself.
TIP: When I first got You Can Book Me, I gave too much access to my time and felt like I was going from meeting to meeting and not getting any work done. Then I realized I could block off certain times of the days for no meetings and block off whole days. Life-changing!
I hope you enjoyed these project management tips! What are some of your favorite tools?
Sustainability Boss Lady, Marina McCoy