In case you missed it, I’ve been writing about how writers can collaborate with others (writers, readers, spouses, fans) to supercharge their creative process. You can read previous posts here and here.
If you’re working with other people, coordination is key
There’s no question about it: collaboration has its downsides. It’s tough to keep lines of communication open when you’re working with someone else, to make sure that you’re on the same page.
Information can quickly get lost in a flood of emails flying back and forth.
Communication fails can derail your forward progress.
Meetings, phone calls, and instant messaging can suck up valuable time and plague you with interruptions.
How do you keep a project on track? How can you communicate effectively, without letting the communication process overwhelm you?
It turns out that there are several communication tools that can help you keep communications clear and organized. Even better, all the tools I’ve listed have free options–and yes, even their free versions are pretty darned terrific. Check ’em out–you’re sure to find one that suits your organization and scheduling needs!
Asana is a full-featured project management web application:
- You can create tasks and projects
- Tasks can be assigned to specific team members
- Calendar view shows upcoming deadlines
- You can customize views and add notes and attachments to specific tasks
- It will automate reminders, alerts, and project updates
- It automatically tracks all activity
- Apps are available for smart phones and tablets
Asana is a great to-do application for projects with multiple contributors, but its real strength is that it consolidates all communications about the project in a single location. Instead of emailing someone to ask a question or make a request, you assign a task to them. They can respond directly to the tasks–which means there’s less chance of your questions and requests getting lost in the email shuffle.
Check out their video to see how it works:
Trello is the visual learner’s answer to to-do lists:
- Items are shown as individual “cards” sorted into categories
- Items can be drag-and-dropped to rearrange or reorder
- Each card can include things like comments, notes, attachments, and checklists
- You can add images to create customized backgrounds for cards or boards
- Each card automatically tracks activity (who did what, when)
- Apps are available for tablets and smart phones
Trello’s strength is that it’s easy to get a feel for an entire project at a glance. On the other hand, if you’re looking for the ability to assign tasks, automate reminders, or switch to a calendar view, you might prefer a more traditional project management software such as Asana.
Slack is sort of like an instant messaging client, except with hashtags, search functionality, and “channels” for specific teams/projects. It’s another nice way to consolidate all your communications in a single location, so that information is easy to find.
Slack might be a good fit for you if you need:
- A centralized channel for project communications
- A way to help/encourage team members in different geographic locations to stay connected
- An easy way to search for previously shared information
Which Tool Fits YOUR Needs?
This isn’t an exhaustive list of all available tools for organizing your project or team communications–this is a list of the tools I’ve tried and liked enough to keep using. If you’re as busy as I am (which I’d guess you are!), I’d recommend starting with one of these three tools. Why?
- They’re all reliable–in six months of use, I’ve never had their sites go down and never lost info.
- They all have a nice look and feel.
- They all have great documentation to help you figure out how to they work.
- They’re among the top-rated services available.
Even if you don’t find a perfect fit, using one of these for a few weeks will give you a better idea of what you want from a project organization tool.
However, if or when you want to take a more in-depth look at what’s available, Capterra has an awesome post, “The Top 6 Free and Open Source Project Management Software for Your Small Business,” to help you choose among the multitude of software options available.
Do you have any suggestions to help stay organized? How do you keep collaborations on track? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!