Our initial discussion sparked a follow-up request from astute readers, like yourself, who wanted to dive into ways these products can be used to manage others. In other words, we want to quickly and easily use these products as tools for delegating work, communicating deadlines, collaborating with your team, and getting things done.
So in this follow-up post, we’re going to highlight two project management products that I think you should be familiar with.
For those of you not yet using these products
If you’re nodding your head, please allow me to re-introduce the simplest project management app you’ll ever see, Workflowy.
Think of Workflowy as a giant whiteboard in your office—with the added bonus that everyone can also access it remotely.
If something needs to be done, you add a bullet. When items are completed, you cross them off, or delete them. You can also indent sub-items below higher level objectives, to create sub-lists.
Please don’t tell my boss, but here at Chrometa, we actually manage our entire product roadmap using Workflowy alone. (We also have a whiteboard in the office, but it’s more for nostalgic and dramatic purposes).
Here’s an example of a “Workflowy” I drew up to manage my items for this article.
To add a new bullet point, you just hit the Enter key on your keyboard. To indent, hit the Tab key.
To “delegate” an item, I just wrote in the name of the person responsible in parentheses at the end. How nice of me to delegate the completion of this article to my key engineers!
(Just kidding, I will remain with you to the bitter end here—for better or for worse).
If you’re not yet using any tools for managing your firm’s tasks, start with Workflowy. It’s ideal for managing to-do lists. If and when you need more horsepower—specifically the ability to assign tasks to individuals more formally, collaborate with your team members, and set deadlines—we’ll turn up the volume with our next product.
The stalwart strikes back
In my last piece I half-jokingly mentioned that Basecamp’s interface appeared to be out of 2004, and that we couldn’t be too harsh because it actually was. Since then, the talented team at 37 Signals has officially launched their next edition of Basecamp – proving you can’t keep a good web app company down, as it has a really slick look and feel.
Like Workflowy, you can setup a to-do list. Here’s the equivalent of my previous list in Basecamp.
When creating my items, I can also give them each a due date, and assign them to a member of my team, or myself:
And I can add comments, attach items, and invite my team members to collaborate on these tasks:
The key advantage of Basecamp over Workflowy is the inherent ease of following up on tasks – with your team members, and also yourself! For example, I can view my open to-dos:
I can also see everything my firm has going on, and due, over the next several weeks:
And how do we follow up on these assignments…preferably without having to actually do it ourselves? For this, Basecamp caters to the manager who wants to simply delegate once, and never speak of the task again!
First, it emails daily recaps to team members, dropping their new assignments directly in their inbox:
Also, open to-dos can be sorted by team member, by due date—so that you can, at a glance, see who should NOT be leaving the office early today.
How to get started today
To recap: If you don’t use anything beyond email today, go open a Workflowy account (it’s free, you can’t beat that). Just setup a bullet-point list as I outlined above, and you’ll be off and running. When you outgrow Workflowy, go check out Basecamp for your more advanced delegation and task management needs. (Basecamp also has a free plan, with premium paid options.)
Brett Owens is chief executive and co-founder of Chrometa, a Sacramento, Calif.-based provider of time-tracking software that records activity in real time. Previously marketed to the legal community, Chrometa is branching out to accounting prospects. Gains include the ability to discover previously undocumented billable time, saving time on billing reconciliation and improving personal productivity. Brett can be reached at 916-254-0260 and email@example.com.