I have been on the hunt for the right online project planning tool for a couple years now. Many times I have given up, and many other times I have started the hunt again with a hope that I will find something newly released. It feels like I am looking for something that I know is already there, but it is just hiding from me.
The first order of business for any successful entrepreneur is an ability to stay organized and keep an eye on where the next dollar is coming from. Losing focus on actions which are going to bring in more money, will soon start hurting the business.
I have always been able to keep focus on a single project. However, these days I am often running a couple of different projects, taking an online course in writing or something else, and helping a couple different friends out with their projects – both large and small. This means that at any one time I could be working with up to 10 different projects, each having a set of things to do that are anywhere from developing ideas to finalizing business critical actions.
My brain is not built to be able to keep all of these things memorized and in a prioritized order. To be honest, it hurts sometimes. The most painful part is always sitting down at my desk in the morning with a cup of coffee and not being able to recall what is that I need to do first. What of these 100 actions is the most critical? How could I make the best use of the next 2 hours?
So I need a tool that I can use as an assistant to keep me organized and focused on the right things.
What I Look For:
Probably the most important thing for me is that the tool pushes back and engages me when I am outside of the system to bring be back into it. I don’t need the tool there for me to fill it with unnecessary data. I need it to tell me what I need to do, and how to prioritize my day. It has to know me and keep me focused on my goals while at the same time being fun to use.
It needs to be focused on a single user. I don’t need something that has a focus on the team, but the layout for an each single user needs to be amazing. I feel that more often that not, we have tools being created for teams – with an emphasis on communication – and I don’t need that.
I don’t need due dates on each of my actions. I work for myself – ok, they are nice to have if I have a meetings or an event – and I don’t need them. I need a priority list to be created so I can organize myself by priority and not by date.
Top Tools I have found:
Trello – https://trello.com/
Why I like it: It is simple, and graphical. Everything is on one page for a project, and you can drag and drop and play around. It is free.
Who could use it: A team with one big project, who needs something robust, hosted and enjoyable to use compared to the competition.
What is missing for me: It is focused on team, it does not have a multi-project overview that I need, and it does not allow users to set a priority order.
Brightpod – http://www.brightpod.com/
Why I like it: It has cards for all of my “pods” or projects so I can get a very simple overview easily. There is a “me” stream of things to do and also an ability to mark a task as important. If you mark a task as important, it moves onto you “focus” board and you can see your high priority objects all in one place.
Who could use it: Teams – again – could have fun with it. It has a messaging system per action/task, so email is less necessary to keep the project functioning.
What is missing for me: It is just a paid, but prettier, version of Trello with a messaging system, and a couple of other features. But it is all about teams, and there is little support for cross-project priority lists.
Asana – https://asana.com/
Why I like it: Most of the information I need is very accessible. There is good documentation.
Who could use it: It is free for teams up to 15 people, so any small consultancy company or company that has a large number of projects with the same resources could find great use in the system for free.
What is missing for me: It is focused on a team, and very little is done for the individual in the teams – though a lot more than other tools. It is not fun to use, and feels really dry and dreary. I don’t want to use the tool, plus the Android app is slow and clunky making the “gameplay” for the tool poor at best.
The Bottom Line:
Ultimately, I am still looking for something that is fun, focused on me, acts as an assistant in serving up my list of current priorities. All I am able to find on the web is just copycat products whose unique features are often unappealing.
I dare one tool company to make their application more fun, seek to increase productivity by drawing users back to the system by engaging them when they are outside it, and serving them with their list their personal priorities as often as is needed to get the job done as efficiently as possible.
I – for one – would love to help design such a product.