Project management tools usually conjure thoughts of complicated spreadsheets, Gantt charts, and expensive software — but it doesn’t have to. Throughout my career, I’ve managed projects quite effectively with the tools and software that were already at my fingertips. And you can, too!
Here are some suggestions for getting started:
- Use Three-Ring Binders and Tabbed Dividers
When I take on a new project, the first thing I do is create a physical home in my workspace for the project materials. This is typically a three-ring binder or an expanding folder of some sort. I use the same tabbed sections for most of my project binders: project plan, team members, budget, meeting minutes, etc. From there, I customize it for the specific project needs.
- Set Up Your Digital Files
When you create your paper filing system, set up your digital folder structure to mirror it. When I managed large events, I always knew I’d have the same types of details to manage from event to event. So I had a template I used to set up the next event and keep everything organized from the start.
- Leverage OneNote Notebooks
I love OneNote because it mirrors the physical 3-ring binder in digital structure. I can set up tabbed sections with different pages of information in each section and link to other sections of the notebook easily for cross referencing. And the search function is fantastic when you’re looking for something. You can also color code sections of the notebook for quick reference.
- Check Out Outlook Tasks
Outlook Tasks is another underutilized tool for managing project details. In Outlook, you can create sub-folders in Tasks and make project-specific task lists. Even better, you can assign a color code to the project and filter by tasks in that project. The Microsoft Office Suite is designed so the programs integrate with each other, which means you can link Outlook Tasks and Meeting requests to your OneNote notebooks for even more functionality in managing your projects.
- Explore Excel Spreadsheets
Excel spreadsheets can also serve as an effective project planning tool. If you aren’t a power user of Excel, I strongly encourage finding some advanced Excel training. It will help you learn how to manage your data in tables so you can filter, apply conditional formatting, and pull charts and data from your spreadsheet to better manage the entire project.
If you’re looking for additional guidance on how to use these tools to manage projects, here are some resources I recommend:
- Red Cape Company: https://www.redcapeco.com/academy/courses/
- Sawbuck Seminars: https://sawbuckseminars.com/services/
- Managing Projects with Microsoft Apps You Already Know: https://www.allthingsadmintraining.com/adminpro-training-series/
- Creating Your System for Project Management: https://www.allthingsadmintraining.com/creating-your-system-for-project-management/
- Project Management, Sixth Edition (Idiot’s Guides) https://www.amazon.com/Project-Management-Sixth-Idiots-Guides/dp/1615644423/
Project management doesn’t need to be intimidating or expensive! When you learn to use project management tools that are already at your disposal, your projects practically “manage” themselves!
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures.