Project Management Tips & Tools to Start the New Year Organized

No matter how chaotic work can feel headed into the holiday season, the start of a new year – or even a new client project – is the perfect opportunity to start fresh and regain control over how you manage your workload and team members. We recently crowdsourced #TeamStratacomm to find out what can’t-live-without tips and project management tools we’re using on the daily to deliver superior client service. Here are a few that can help you get an efficient and organized start to the new year.

Managing Email Overload

Despite the use of real-time messaging and collaboration apps like Microsoft Teams and Slack, email still outranks how we communicate. When we started to share how we each manage our never-ending inboxes, I found most of #TeamStratacomm falls into either one of two camps:

1) You let your inbox fill up and rely on the built-in “search” functions to sort by name, date or topic, or some combination of flags, alerts and categories, to prioritize and respond (and your inbox also serves as your archive); or,

2) The idea of seeing that nagging number of unread messages makes you cringe, so you interrupt what you are currently doing to respond, or you file messages into folders by client and project as quickly as possible.

No matter which camp you fall into, there are several tips from both that can be modified for your use:

  • Setup filters to automatically file away subscription or promotional emails to a separate folder to cutdown on the clutter in your inbox. Or better yet, unsubscribe! If you need help, Unroll.Me can get you started.
  • Color code emails based on sender (or by client) to help important emails standout when they hit your inbox.
  • Set aside designated times to process email periodically throughout the day. Delete or archive as many new messages as possible. Forward what can be best answered by someone else. Immediately respond to any new messages that can be answered in two minutes or less.
  • Create a folder, flag or category system for messages that require more than two minutes to answer or messages that can be answered later.

Keeping Your Finger on the Pulse

We first talked about our affinity for Asana in 2015 and our love affair continues to grow. Asana is a cloud-based project and task management tool with both free and paid platform options. Asana enables you to delegate, assign deadlines and track the status of multiple tasks and projects across internal and external client teams. It also integrates seamlessly with many other useful tools and apps. Some of the features we love most are:

  • User-friendly mobile app.
  • Ability to invite external partner firms, vendors and clients to your project space.
  • Email notifications for newly assigned tasks, reminders for upcoming or passed deadlines, and notifications when team members have completed a task.
  • Built-in calendar for scheduling and prioritizing tasks as well as option to sync your tasks to your email client calendar.
  • Gannt style timeline review of projects (premium).
  • Integrated task time tracking (with an app like Toggl) that can help you with entering end of week timesheets or keeping track of how long a certain task is taking team members to complete. 
  • Option to generate progress reports (premium).

Perfecting Your Note-Taking

While I still get giddy perusing the selection of new year notebooks and planners at Target the day after Christmas, our fast-pace work environment often makes it hard for me to capture in writing all the details I’d like in client meetings. Enter Microsoft’s OneNote. 

OneNote is a cloud-based digital note-taking app with a tiered organizational system consisting of notebooks, sections and notes. By default, you’ll start with one notebook but can create more for distinct clients or projects. From there, the capabilities of the app are endless – from recording video/audio in meetings, to typing, writing or drawing notes, to sharing or collaborating on a notebook with team members. And best of all, the content is searchable. I’ve only started to scratch the surface of OneNote’s full potential by using it as an electronic journal for my own to-do list as well as a place where I can store agendas and task matrixes with detailed notes from client meetings (bye, bye printouts and filing folders!).

There are many online tutorials that can help you get setup, but I found this tutorial on how to become a OneNote master from Lifehacker most useful. 

Staying on top of the details gives #TeamStratacomm the mind space for creativity, thoughtful strategy and best-in-class service. By adopting one or more of these tips and tools into your daily workflow, you too can be set up for success when managing your next project.

Jennifer Heilman is a vice president in Stratacomm’s Washington, D.C. office and is the day-to-day project manager for several of the firm’s leading transportation and infrastructure clients. For more tools to help you maximize your work output in the new year, jump over to read our previous blog, “Tech Tools to Upgrade Your Workflow.”

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