10 Apps For Highly Productive Project Managers

Image Credit: iPhone by FirmBee (Pixabay.com)
Image Credit: iPhone by FirmBee (Pixabay.com)

As a project manager, your personal organization and productivity is essential to your credibility. Can you imagine taking advice from a physician who was overweight and smoking? It would be difficult to overlook those points, even if the doctor was providing sound suggestions. Likewise, personal organization is essential for project managers. In this article, I will provide an overview of some of the productivity apps and programs available. The exact suite of apps you use will depend on your budget, your organization and budget. I hope you find this article helpful as you work to increase your productivity.

Keep in mind that productivity and organization technology will not help if you have no methodology. For personal organization and management, I recommend Leading Yourself with Getting Things Done. Once you have that basic framework in place, you can improve further by using some of these tools.

Task Management Apps

Tracking and completing tasks is the bread and butter of success at work and in projects. The art of writing down tasks in a useful way is an important skill. When possible, I aim to write down tasks that are complete and ready for work. For example, if I have a phone call task, I note contact details in the notes section of the task. Let’s get started.

1. Remember The Milk (Free and Paid)

Over the past few years, I have used Remember The Milk as my primary task management tool. I like that it is available as a web application and as a mobile app. I suggest creating several categories of tasks. For example, you can have a list for household management tasks, a list for Project A and an overall career management task. I also find it helpful to set certain tasks as recurring (e.g. to review certain accounts or websites on a monthly basis).

2. Nozbe (Paid)

Nozbe is a task management tool that I have seen quite a few people recommend (e.g. Michael Hyatt and Jeff Sanders). While I have not used it myself, it does look promising. I like the fact that there is an option to work with teams. Bringing your team onto a single app has the advantage of fewer emails sent back and forth. As much as I like email, it is not my favorite way to run a project.

3. Microsoft Project (Paid)

I have used Microsoft Project from time to time and find it to be an excellent product. You can plan tasks, create a Gantt chart and manage resources. I also like how the course integrates well with the rest of the Microsoft Office suite. The one challenge I have with the application is the sheer power and complexity of it. I will make an analogy to Microsoft Excel. I am a heavy Excel user (use the application for hours each day). Yet, I’m very aware of the fact that I am using only a fraction of the application’s power. Fortunately, there are many companies, books (e.g. Microsoft Project 2013 Step by Step by Carl Chatfield and Timothy Johnson) and other resources available to help you develop your skills with Microsoft Project.

4. Microsoft Outlook (Paid)

In my corporate work, I have used Microsoft Outlook for years. It is a powerful product especially if your whole organization uses it. In addition to email, I also find Outlook’s calendar and task management capabilities powerful. As an established and popular email application, there are many training resources and software enhancements available. For example, David Allen offers a guide on how to implement Getting Things Done with Microsoft Outlook. In an organizational context, the ability to book meeting rooms is helpful (and view the calendar availability of other people).

Calendar Management Apps

As Stephen Covey explained years ago in his bestselling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” there is a constant tension between the urgent and the important. Successfully managing both requirements takes training and a robust calendar. For ease of use (e.g. repeating calendar appointments), I prefer digital calendar tools. That said, I often use Moleskine notebooks when I attend meetings, conferences and courses so paper tools are still valuable.

5. Google Calendar (Free)

If I could only have one calendar tool, I would choose Google Calendar. I was first attracted to it because it is free. Over time, I learned more about the app. For example, I love the fact that I had set multiple reminders for appointments (e.g. 1 week ahead, 1 day ahead, 1 hour ahead). That is a helpful feature when you have a task that requires planning and preparation. I also like the fact that you can have multiple calendars with different colours. I also like the fact that Google Calendar can be connected with other websites and calendar tools (i.e. it is easy to add appointments and events to your main calendar).

Tip: You can also create and send calendar invitations by email with Evernote. It is a great way to keep your meetings organized.

6. Week Cal (Paid)

When I’m out and about, I like to have a clear view to my calendar. To that end, I use Week Cal. It displays my Google Calendar in a readable and useful way. This was the first smart phone app I ever purchased. At $2.49, I think it is well worth the cost. I also like the fact that it integrates smoothly with Google Maps to show me where my appointments are located. The app is also available on the iPad and Apple Watch. The company states that they have over three million users, so I would expect them to be around for years to come.

7. Schedule Once (Paid)

Do you organize a lot of meetings and phone calls? Do those scheduled events involve people outside of the organization? If so, Schedule Once is a great tool. I started to use it in August and find it helpful. Rather than trading emails back and forth, you can create your calendar availability and give someone a link to request an appointment with you. If you are a consultant or coach, there is a lot to be said for this resource. It did take me a week or two to learn how to use the tool. Now that I have learned it, it looks like a charm. A free trial is available for those interested in using the website.

Note: If your scheduling needs are more ad hoc, I recommend Doodle as a useful tool to gather availability to set up a meeting or a call.

Information Management

Keeping your information organized and available is important. In fact, I earned a Master of Information Studies degree where I explored this topic in great depth. In this section of the article,  I will discuss a few apps you can use to keep your information organized. I will also point out that digital information management is only one part of the puzzle. For many of us, there is still a requirement to manage paper records and physical workspace. Those are important points to consider and they are beyond the scope of today’s article.

8. Evernote (Free and Paid)

I have used Evernote for several years and consider it to be an excellent product. With over 90 million users, Evernote is a robust company that we can expect to stick around for a long time. What exactly can you use Evernote for? You can use it to store meeting notes, keep notes on your goals (thanks Michael Hyatt! Learn more with his podcast Getting the Most Out of Evernote), keep track of interesting books, movies or other items you might like to use. There is also great value in using Evernote as a place to store your rough notes, outlines and project notes – all those points that you write in traditional notebooks.

Project managers will be interested to read about Evernote Business, a version of the service that gives you added storage and the ability to share information with other people in your organization.

Note: Evernote is a powerful tool and some people find it difficult to get started. If you have challenges with learning Evernote, cut your learning curve short by buying Evernote Essentials by Brett Kelly. The book provides an excellent overview of how to use Evernote and ideas on how to get the most out of it.

9. Google Drive (Free and Paid)

There are many file sharing services available and Google Drive is my favorite. I like the fact that users receive several gigabytes of free storage. I have used the application to store and share documents such as documents and spreadsheets. If you have a lot of documents to share and collaborate with others, Google Drive is a great tool. According to the Google website, “Google Accounts include 15GB of free storage to share across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos.” That’s a significant amount of storage. There is also the option to purchase additional storage space if you need it.

10. Carbonite or CrashPlan (Backup Service)

In some large companies, there are backup services in place for the data stored on your corporate PC. That’s a great peace of mind benefit for keeping your projects running smoothly. However, what about your files on your home computers? It is important to keep those photos, documents and other materials safe in a backup. I like using online backup services because such services are a great way to proactively manage the risk of a flood, fire or other disaster with your data. Of course, these services are not free. Then again, a backup service is so important that I see great value in paying for it.

Question For The Comments:

What are your favorite apps that you use to manage your calendar, tasks, and information?

Comments

  1. Meaghan Johns says

    Hi Bruce – This is a great list of apps!

    I would add Microsoft OneNote for task management, which is a great way to keep yourself organized, track minutes & action items, and create a to do list. I would also add Dropbox for information management. This app is very similar to Google Drive, where documents can be shared with a particular group of people and accessed from anywhere.

    Cheers,
    Meaghan

  2. Jason Frank says

    Meaghan,

    I agree with you. I have been using MS One Note for about a year now and highly recommend it. Its interface works well and synchronizes smoothly across multiple platforms such as Web, PC, Mac, iPhone and iPad.

    I have recently started using DropBox and have found it to be very simple to use. It is easy to move files from one folder to another and allows you to share the folders across multiple devises and with other users. It is very simple to use.

    Kindest Regards,
    Jason

  3. Reinaldo Burgatte says

    Hello Bruce

    It is really a good list of apps.

    I have been using MS Project, Outlook and Excel for many years. I agree with you: Excel is a powerful tool. However, we generally use a small fraction of this app.

    And thanks to Google Drive my USB flash drives are definitely retired !

  4. Johannes says

    Don’t forget IQTELL, which is a great app for keeping track of tasks and projects. It also allows you to sync up to 5 e-mail adresses into one common “EZ inbox” folder (making it simpler to maintain inbox zero), plus a bunch of other useful features.

    I mainly use Outlook (David Allen style) for work, and IQTELL for my private stuff.

    There’s also an app called aCalender+ which allows you to integrate multiple calendars into one (which is also possible with Outlook). We have one Google calendar for each of the familiy members, and it is useful to be able to see the week plan for the whole family in one single view.

  5. Michael Lundsgaard says

    Thank you for an excellent take on important applications in a Project Manager everyday life.
    Personally I´ve been working as a PM for less than a year, so have still some things to learn about what works best. I´ve however been heavily addicted to PM Tools for some years now, and therefore have a couple of suggestions/comments, which partly is enforced/due to my recent workplace which have certain tools.

    Personally I prefer as a Task Management Tool, it is simple, with a clean and practial approach and yet versatile. It comes with integration too multiple environments as well as E-mail clients and Calendars.

    In my current position we´ve adopted the use of as an replacement/supplement to Microsoft Project/Excel respectively. I´m still pretty new with regards to the use, so it hasn´t quite grown on me yet. But I´ve been told it is pretty powerfull, and it has some cool features as automatically notifications and easy generation of Webforms with database behind it.

    Also we´re using Office365, som I´m pretty much married to OneDrive, which I find a bit more convient than Google Drive. But I´m still using Google Drive as well as DropBox as supplements.

    With regards to Notes, I´ve tried both Evernote and Onenote, and right now the winner is Onenote. Partly because of the integration with my “laptop/tablet” being a Surface Pro, but also because it for me is just easier to use everyday. Granted things like tags and integration with other tools is far superior in Evernote, so someday I might take a new look at Evernote.

    For communication, as a supplement, hence we have globally located customers, I´m a big fan of Skype for now. Honestly I has gone a bit downhill after Microsofts acquistion but it will work for now.

  6. Ken Wolfe says

    IQTell is the most comprehensive application on the market today. It is tightly integrated to email, contacts, calendaring, Evernote, and has built in task and project management capabilities. Its email management capabilities are second to none, from macros that let you respond to an email while simultaneous creating an action, project or delegated task and then archive the original email in order to keep your inbox clear.

  7. says

    Perhaps a iCloud could be added for the Apple universe productonauts? The UI is still a bit non-optimal, but otherwise it is a valid contender. I discuss cloud-enabled GTD in my new book, Natural Workflow: Notes on David Allen’s Methodology. Best, =Bob=

  8. Juan Calderon says

    I also recommend OneNote, but some times when they introduce a new version, sometimes it has a lot of issues. Does anyone recommend an application for Project Management in Apple environment?

  9. Giulio says

    Nirvana app is just great implementing David Allen’s GTD with a cool and clean user interface. Highly recommended for task management. I also use a Moleskine notebook because I need paper to jot down notes while speaking with real people. Evernote to collect reference material from websites, or organizing reference material or develping material for reports and presentations. iThoughts for mind mapping.

  10. Hector CHANCOCO says

    I’ve recently discovered Evernote and it’s a really time saving.
    I would recomand it to anybody for both personal and professional use.

    Hector CHANCOCO

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