Have you ever felt stressed or overwhelmed at keeping track of all the moving parts of your business? There’s a lot to stay on top of when you’re a business owner, and that’s why it’s crucial to use a project management tool. In this blog post, we’ll cover why a project management tool is so important when you’re running a business and how to choose the best project management tool for your needs.
Our virtual assistant Georgia Hutchinson helps us with project management for the LIT Community – and she’s used a variety of project management tools over the years. So, we asked her to share her expertise with our members in a Business Meetup event, introducing them to the best tools – and here are some of the key takeaways.
We’ll explain the pros and cons of the various project management systems and help you choose which one is right for you. Plus, we have tips for how to get started with your project management tool!
Why use a project management tool?
As a business owner, you wear a lot of hats. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the different things going on, from deadlines to invoices to projects and emails. This can lead to you burning out, getting decision fatigue, and struggling to know how to spend your time.
A project management tool can reduce the overwhelm, help you to optimise how you spend your time in your business, allow you to see where you can improve your systems, and make sure things don’t fall down the cracks.
Here are a range of different reasons for using a project management tool in your business:
- It can help you to consolidate all your tasks
- You’ll know where to focus your energy
- It could help you reduce stress and mental overwhelm/decision fatigue
- You’ll find it easier to prioritise tasks
- It allows you to break tasks into small, specific, and actionable steps, so it’s easier to make progress
- You can outsource tasks with clear instructions
- You can see what progress is being made on projects (by yourself or others)
- You can use it to plan your week/month/year
- You’ll find it easier to keep track of how much time you’re spending on each task/project
- You can communicate effectively with teammates and have everything documented and easy to find
What to look out for when picking a project management tool
There are a lot of different project management tools out there, and finding the right one for you isn’t always easy. So, it’s important to work out what you need from the tool before you start comparing different options.
Here are some key factors I would recommend looking for when choosing a project management tool. Ideally, you want a system that is:
- Easy to use and accessible
- Easy to collaborate with someone else (website designer, virtual assistant, social media manager, etc.)
- Customizable to your needs
- Free or low cost to start with
- Customizable project/task permissions for your team
- Has the integrations you might need
- Has great customer support (especially for a paid plan)
What are your options?
Now, let’s look more in-depth at some of the best-known and most popular project management tools out there. We’ll compare their features, prices (at the time of writing) and the pros and cons of each tool.
Some of the most popular/well-known project management tools include:
- Old-school style: Journals, calendars, desk planners, post-it notes
- Asana (free/$10.99/$24.99 per month per user)
- ClickUp (free/$5/$12 permonth per user)
- Trello (free/$5/$10 per month per user)
- Notion (free/$4 per month for an individual; $8/month per user)
- More expensive: Basecamp ($99/month) / Zoho ($50/month)
Asana: User-friendly & Accessible
Asana is a cloud-based project management tool with an app you can download, and it’s currently one of the most popular options for managing tasks and projects and collaborating with team members.
In my opinion, Asana is ideal for handling multiple projects at a time. It’s user-friendly and easy to get started, so you can jump right in even if you’ve never used a project management tool before. The interface is simple and accessible, and it offers an excellent free plan – you can have up to 10 people on your team for free.
Some of the downsides to Asana are that it doesn’t offer time tracking, and it has some limitations compared to ClickUp.
But for most mental health professionals running a small to medium business, Asana provides everything you need for project management. Plus, every time you complete a task, you’re rewarded with a very cute and encouraging unicorn who pops up on your screen – if you like that kind of thing!
What can you do in Asana?
- You can have multiple projects
- You can choose between List, Calendar, or Board/Kanban view
- You can set deadlines
- Have recurring tasks
- Add an assignee to tasks
- Have subtasks within tasks – so it allows you to get granular and ensure steps aren’t missed
- You can comment on tasks and see messages you’ve sent in ‘Inbox’
- Asana sends email notifications for new tasks, comments, etc
- You can add attachments to tasks, e.g., documents or images
- The paid plan has extra features like Goals, Portfolios, and Reporting
- You can assign user permissions to individual projects or tasks for greater privacy
Trello: Simple & Straightforward
One of the earliest project management tools, Trello is a simple option offering a Kanban or board view. You can drag and drop tasks to move them from one status to the next. It’s simple and ideal for visual learners/workers, allowing you to get a clear view of who’s working on what, what progress is being made, and where you are with a project.
While Trello is a little limited, it’s suitable for solopreneurs or if you want a very straightforward tool to use.
What can you do in Trello?
- You can create cards for different tasks
- Drag them from one status to another as you work on them
- Color code your cards
- You can break a project into smaller tasks using checklists within a card
- You can create automated recurring tasks
- You can comment on the boards
- There are templates you can use to get started
- There are some integrations with other apps
- You can only access different views (table, timeline, and calendar) on the Paid plan
Notion: Customisable & Adaptable
Notion is the project management tool we use for running the LIT Community. What sets Notion apart is that it’s very customisable and adaptable, so you can set it up with whatever you need.
But Notion is not just a project management tool – it can actually do a lot more than that, which is why we chose it for Team LIT.
For example, you could use it to record and store SOPs and business documents, as your business handbook, or to draft & store your content among other uses. It can also function as a database or simple CRM.
Notion is fairly easy to use – although if you want to get the most out of it, you might need some time playing around and working out how you can use it best for your business. Or you can keep it simple and take advantage of the Templates Gallery – simply duplicate a template, and then you can go straight ahead or tweak it to meet your needs.
What you can do in Notion:
- You can have multiple views – e.g., a calendar view, table, or database
- You can filter tasks and data by many different factors.
- You can have columns for Up Next, In Progress, Needs Review, Completed, etc.
- You can have multiple users and assign tasks to people (the free plan is designed for one user – but you can add guests for an unlimited amount of time for free)
- You can set deadlines and get reminders sent to your email
- You can comment on tasks and projects to communicate or get feedback
- It’s easy to search and find things
- You can create content (blog posts, a social media content calendar) within Notion
- You can do note-taking from meetings directly in Notion and link it to relevant tasks
- You can nest documents within pages
- It has around 30 integrations with other tools
ClickUp: Advanced & Powerful
ClickUp is one of the newer and more advanced project management tools out there. It has comprehensive features, such as several different views, including lists, kanban, and Gantt charts. It also offers an ‘everything’ view so you can get a bird’s eye view of everything that’s happening within your business.
Another benefit of ClickUp is that it integrates smoothly with a lot of other tools. It also has a Docs feature, so you can create your content (e.g., blogs) directly within ClickUp.
However, the interface is quite busy and it can be harder to find things. With its advanced features, ClickUp can be a little overwhelming at first, and it takes some time to get used to it and get the most out of it as a project management tool.
But it’s very powerful and is one of the more heavy-duty project management tools. It works just as well for a solopreneur or small team.
The free plan is pretty good, with unlimited users and tasks. In our opinion, ClickUp is best suited to people who are happy to spend some time learning how to get the most out of it for their business.
What can you do in ClickUp?
- You can create tasks, including subtasks and checklists within tasks
- You can have multiple assignees for a task, so you can work on a task together
- It offers automated recurring tasks to save time
- ClickUp offers real-time editing – you can collaborate together at the same time remotely
- There is a whiteboard feature for brainstorming & collaborating
- It has lots of templates, checklists, etc – can tweak it to fit your needs
- You can create content directly within ClickUp – the free plan includes 100 GB of storage
- You can track your time within ClickUp
- You can record your screen within ClickUp (e.g. to create an SOP video)
- On the paid plans, you get access to extra features like Goals, Portfolios, timelines, etc
Which project management tool is right for you?
The right project management tool for you is the tool that helps you get work done! Consider how you prefer to work and your personality type when choosing a PM tool. You can sign up with a free account and try it out, play around, and see if you like it.
You might need to train yourself to actually use your new project management tool – but it’s worth sticking with it. It will allow you to focus on where to spend your time in your business and help you move towards your goals while reducing stress!
How to use a project management tool
Here are some tips for getting started with (or improving how you use your project management tool). This isn’t exhaustive as it’s also very individual – you’ll develop your own way of using the tool that works best for you and your business!
Creating a Project Management System
First of all, create a master list of all the tasks in your business. Doing this will allow you to offload all your mental notes into your PM tool.
Next, create “containers” for different types of tasks such as client work, admin, bookkeeping, and marketing. That will allow you to see what needs to be done in each area of your business and see where you’re spending the most time. As a result, it is easier to streamline, automate, or outsource where possible.
Are you always coming up with new business ideas, but then you forget about them or never make the time to work on them? In that case, you can have a section in your project management tool for ideas/future projects. Use this space to note things down when they occur to you, so you can revisit them later and don’t forget them. It’s so useful to have all your ideas stored in one place!
Helpful Tips for Using Your Project Management System
There are a few tips we always recommend when creating tasks in your project management tool. Following these steps will save you a lot of time in the long run, as you won’t forget what a task means, when it’s due, or any other important information. So, it makes it quicker and easier to take action and tick things off your to-do list.
Firstly, make sure to add clear deadlines for all tasks (including sub-tasks). It’s also important to make tasks specific and actionable (e.g., name the task ‘Draft, edit, upload and format blog post’ instead of just ‘blog post.’
You should also include everything necessary for each task, such as instructions, any necessary files, and attachments. You’ll thank yourself when it comes to working on the task, as you won’t need to spend ages searching through documents or backtracking to find what you need.
The next tip is important if you have a team or outsource work to a virtual assistant, graphic designer, copywriter, etc. Give each task an assignee who will take ownership of it. Ensure that the task has clear instructions and a deadline, so you don’t need to chase it up.
A helpful feature most project management tools have is the option to set up recurring tasks. This is crucial as it will save you time and make sure these tasks don’t fall through the cracks. For example, you could set up a weekly task to write and send your newsletter, or a quarterly task to complete your bookkeeping and taxes.
Some helpful resources to get started with a project management tool
Here are some further resources you can use as you dive into your new project management tool:
- Layla at ProcessDriven has a great YouTube channel for learning everything about Clickup – from beginner to advanced videos and tutorials
- How to use Asana – a playlist of short tutorial videos on YouTube created by Asana
- Guides and tutorials on how to use Notion
- The Notion Template Gallery
- Using Notion to plan your year with a free template – (one example of all the different ways you can use Notion)
- Getting started with Trello
We hope you found this guide to project management tools useful! Do you feel more confident and equipped to use a project management tool?
We’ve found that as your business grows, the sooner you start using one of these tools, the better. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself overwhelmed with all the information, tasks, and moving parts of running a business and trying to keep all that information in your head.
So, finding and using the right project management tool – whichever one that may be – is a great way to reduce stress and feel more focused.
Let us know which of these tools you’re currently using or would like to try out in the comments below!
And if you’d like more support as you start or grow your online business, check out the LIT Community! It’s our dedicated space for mental health professionals to come together, support each other, share the ups and downs of being in business, and learn together and from each other. Our members get access to our 24/7 discussion board, resources we used to grow our own businesses, our program of business, social, and therapeutic events, and our entire replay library.
While our doors are currently closed, you can sign up for our waitlist here to be the first to hear when we’ll next open them!