EP 261: 5 Project Management Tools These Small Business Owners Can’t Do Without

Jan 23, 2020 | Podcast, Software & Services

Tara McMullin is a writer, podcaster, and producer who explores what it takes to navigate the 21st-century economy with your humanity intact. Click here to support this work.

The Nitty-Gritty:

  • 5 small business owners share the project management tools they can’t live without
  • Why each tool is the right fit for the way each business owner works
  • How they incorporate the tools into their workflows
  • Plus, what tools haven’t worked for them

Project management is so much more than software.

But if you think about tools like Asana, Trello, Clickup, or Notion (referral link that helps to support What Works) when you hear project management, you’re certainly not alone.

I remember when Asana first started gaining popularity among digital small business owners. “Finally!” we thought collectively, “We can figure out how to get it all done.”

Of course, most of us quickly realized that software like Asana doesn’t solve the problem of having too much work, unclear priorities, and a decidedly nonlinear project to complete.

Project management is as much about how you approach the work that needs to get done as the software you use.

So if project management is as much about how we approach the work as it is the software we use, why do we spend so much time stressing over that software?

My hunch is that, despite all indications to the contrary, we believe that there’s a piece of software out there that will make us more productive, more organized, and more effective.

Here’s what I’ve found to be true, instead:

My project management software is only as good as I am. I can’t expect it to do for me what I’m not willing to do for myself.

But if I commit to doing the work of project management…

…if I organize my projects and get real about what’s required to bring each of them to completion…

…if I’m willing to do the work I say I’m going to do…

…if I consciously balance my big picture goals and my daily to-do lists…

…then I can find project management software that helps me do that. But it starts with me and my own approach to the work.

Now if that sounds personal, I can assure you that it is. I thought I was “broken” when it came to project management and that maybe there was some piece of project management software that could fix me. I tried a bunch. For while, I tried managing projects in Evernote–but that really just turned into me relying on my own brain, as per usual. Then, we dabbled in Trello… but it just didn’t work for us.

Then, I tried using Asana. My team used it for 2 full years but I could never get the hang of it.

That’s partly because I needed it to do something it just didn’t do–but it’s also because I wasn’t fully committed to doing the work of managing my projects. Then, I decided to grow up and do hard things.

At the same time, we switched to Notion.

Yes, Notion lets me do things I could only dream of in Asana or Trello. It combines content with task management in an completely customizable interface.

But the most important piece is that I decided to manage my projects. I decided to work the system. I committed to following through–and Notion helps me do that.

Today, you’re going to hear from 5 business owners–all member of The What Works Network members. They’re sharing the project management software they use and how it fits with the way they work.

Susan Boles shares how she manages her projects in ClickUp. Joe Taylor, Jr shares how he and his team manage projects in Basecamp. Ayelet Marinovich shares how she used Trello to manage writing & publishing a book in just 6 weeks. Melissa Emler shares how she got used to managing–and automating–projects in AirTable. And finally, Jonathan Stewart shares how he took a windy road to managing projects in Notion.

Keep an ear out for why each business owner uses the software they use and how it lets them manage the work they way they want to. Remember that the software is there to help them manage projects the way they choose to manage projects–not because it’s fixing them or the work itself.

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