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How project management tools can boost your productivity

Let's talk about what project management is, what tools are available, and how they make you more productive.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer on
Reviewed by Alyson Windsor
working-at-keyboard
Image: Getty Images/Maria Korneeva

When I say "project management," you probably think businesses, enterprise companies, massive projects, and a lot of managers trying to have their say. But that's not the only thing project management is good for.

Also: The best task management software

Curious? Let's step back a bit first and talk about just what project management is.

What is project management?

Before we talk about the tools, we need to know what the tools are being used for. Project management is, by whatever means, keeping track of all the progress that goes into starting, making, completing, changing, or generally working with something with the goal of an end date. The tools you use for this vary, but can include knowledge, skills, tools, and different methodologies.

Although project management is very well suited for those efforts made by bigger companies working on massive projects, it can also apply to all sorts of things. You can: 

  • Track your kid's school assignments and studies.
  • Track your home improvement efforts.
  • Track your club's event planning.

And now, the next question.

What are project management tools?

Project management tools come in many forms and most services offer a combination of the usual tools, and some have even developed unique tools you might not find elsewhere.

Although you could certainly manage a small project with a calendar and a whiteboard, when projects start to get more complicated, more powerful tools are required. Here's a short list of the typical tools you'll find on a project management platform.

Kanban boards

Kanban boards give you a visual indication of the status of any task for a project. Each project board is broken into named columns (such as To Do, Doing, Done), where you can cards that represent each task for the project. For example, in your To Do column, you could add cards for the following tasks:

  • Dishes
  • Laundry
  • Shopping
  • Bills
  • Homework

You would start each of those cards in the To Do column. Say it's time to do the dishes. Before you start you could move the Dishes card from the To Do column to the Doing column. Then, when you complete the task, you'd move the Dishes card from Doing to Done.

That's how a Kanban board works.

Gantt chart

Many consider Gantt charts to be the heart and soul of project management. Simply put, Gantt charts are a kind of horizontal bar chart for keeping track of task progress. The chart displays tasks to be performed on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal axis. One key aspect of the Gantt chart is a timeline of events. 

For example, you could use Kanban boards and not give a single card a deadline. However, a Gantt chart depends on timelines to be effective. So, if you don't have an actual time frame for each task, the Gantt chart is probably not the right fit.

Calendar

You'll need a calendar, specific to the project, that can be shared with anyone on the team.

Dashboards

Give you an at-a-glance of the progress for all projects in a workspace.

Collaboration tools

Your project will greatly benefit from collaboration tools such as document editing, communication, and file sharing.

Reporting

You'll need the ability to generate different types of reports for a project.

And that's the shortlist of tools that you'll need for your project management efforts.

What are some available project management services?

There are a number of cloud-based project management platforms that are available. Some of these services offer free accounts that can serve small projects well enough. Each of the services includes a collection of various tools that you can employ. For any of these, I would recommend signing up for the free plan to see if what the company offers will fit the needs of your project.

And now, to the services.

Trello

Trello offers the best Kanban experience on the market. If you are pretty sure Kanban boards are the way for you and your team, Trello is the place to go.

Monday.com

Monday.com that offers every project management tool you can image. For very small (or home) projects, Monday.com might be a bit too complicated at first. If you take the time to learn the tools, you'll find it can dramatically improve the management of your project.

ClickUp

ClickUp is great for those who need to organize, collaborate, and track a project. You'll find all the tools to achieve the project goals, as well as mind maps (for planning), task templates, goal tracking, and more.

Wrike

Wrike is probably a bit too big and complicated for smaller projects. However, if you want to see just how much power can be involved with project management, Wrike is a great place to start. And, if your projects do begin to grow in scale and scope, this could be the next upgrade to your process.

Also: Tasksboard turns your Google Tasks into a Kanban board

What say you?

Have I piqued your interest in project management? Are you ready to integrate some of these tools into your daily life? Trust me, if you give any of these project management tools a try, you'll find things get done more efficiently and reliably.

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