The “P” in “PM” could stand for people—that’s how important people management is to the discipline of project management. I devote many of the posts in this blog to working with and learning from people. But, process is important to project management as well. Sometimes, process can even be more fun because—let’s face it—processes are easier to deal with than people. By popular request, I’ve written this post to describe some of the tools that I use to manage my personal projects. I could happily exist on a desert island as long as I had Internet and the following apps (in order of when I adopted them):
Toodledo. The OG to do list. A lot of people will sing the praises of Wunderlist, Evernote, or todoist, but those platforms are far too complicated for my tastes. I heard about Toodledo from an unlikely source—my mom—and I’ve been using it for what feels like forever. I’ve been using it forever because it works. You create folders by category, add tasks for that category, and assign deadlines. When you finish a task, you check it off the list. Simple as that. I use Toodledo to keep track of recurring chores, financial tasks, and health obligations (like meal prep and scheduling weekly workouts.) I’d be lost without it.
Feedly. Why check websites for content you’re interested in reading? Use an RSS feed reader, like Feedly, to aggregate news sources you find compelling, and read them when you have time to do so. You can create different categories of topics to follow—mine include news, health, project management, and productivity (among others). This is a great way for me to catch up on content when I’m on the go. If I have a few minutes free during the day, I’ll scan the app for pertinent articles and bookmark the ones I’d like to read later. During my weekly review, I’ll go back through the list and post any thought-provoking content on LinkedIn or Twitter.
Google Calendar. People always ask me with wonder how I manage to remember important dates without facebook to remind me. My secret is not having a great memory. It’s having a calendar. I maintain a list of Google Contacts, including birthdays and anniversaries, and Google auto tracks them as part of a “Birthdays” calendar. I text or call the person on their special day. Couldn’t be simpler. I also use Google Calendar to track personal appointments, like workout classes, haircuts, travel, and speaking engagements. I experimented with using my calendar to time block activities, but it never worked for me, so I gave up.
Spotify. I’m not necessarily tied to Spotify, but in the modern age, I’ve finally accepted that my iPod is no longer the best way of listening to music. I need music like I need to write, so this app is essential to my continued productivity—even if I vehemently disagree that listening to pop music is counterproductive.
Google Keep, Google Drive, and Goodreads. I have two lists that I maintain in Google Keep—one is my shopping list, where I record items that I wish to buy in preparation for a Sunday grocery store or Target run. The other is a list of library books that I wish to borrow. To source the shopping list, I use Google Drive. I maintain a standard shopping list in Google Sheets that includes the universe of items that I buy on a recurring basis, and I review this list and add pertinent items to Keep once a week. To source the library books list, I use Goodreads. If you’re a reader and you don’t use this app, get on it. You can use it to track books you’ve read and want to read, get recommendations from friends, and find inspiration for new titles to peruse.
Trello. I added this tool to the rotation two years ago, and I absolutely love it. Whereas Toodleo helps me track my short-term to do’s, Trello is for longer term projects. I have lists for each of my goal areas—right now, those are health, career, writing, and finances—and I create cards for each of the tasks that I’d like to complete in these areas. I also subscribe to David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology and have lists for Someday/Maybe (current year) and Someday/Maybe (long term). Finally, I have an ideas inbox list. I use this list to log ideas that I’d like to revisit in greater depth as part of my weekly review. Logging these types of items in Toodledo would stress me out, because it can be difficult to work on them in a single sitting. I’d wind up pushing them out to the next day over and over. Trello is a trusted capture system that helps me maintain momentum on what Stephen Covey refers to as our “Quadrant II”—or highest ROI—activities.
Let me know of any essential PM tools you use in the comments!