As you might imagine, we work with a lot of folks just starting their Marketing, HR, and Sales careers. I can tell you from personal experience that entry-level positions in these fields normally involve the execution of many administrative-type tasks (for example, managing the promo closet). These activities are important, but can also be very time consuming. Unfortunately, that doesn’t often leave much time to work on the big picture, strategic stuff that we really want to tackle.
Thankfully, there are a number of FREE online tools at your disposal to help you claim some time back from your day. The four apps below, even in their stripped-down entry-level versions, help our team keep their arms around multi-step projects and activities. This, in turn, allows us to remain focused on creating value for our customers. Each of these programs also features a companion mobile app and, best of all, they are scalable—they grow as your team expands or your projects become more complex.
Check ‘em out:
Imagine a world where everything related to a project is located in one place, wrapped with a bow. That’s Trello. We’re talking files, emails, IM conversations, checklists, etc, and that’s not to mention various 3rd party integrations. Trello presents complex projects in a visually organized way (kanban), allowing you to manage every detail without having to search through volumes of emails or folders. Projects are housed in individual “cards” on a “board,” which are organized in columns representing different project stages. You move these cards across the various columns as you complete the customized checklists for each project stage. Best of all, the cards are searchable, so even years down the road you can quickly find any information you need.
We use Trello to manage all our orders. Everyone collaborating, from our Designers to our Account Managers, can explore the details of any project on demand, yet they only receive notifications when they are required to complete a task. This saves us hours each month that we would otherwise have to spend monitoring each project.
How do you keep up with 10 different conversations via email? And how do you ignore email conversations where you are copied, but the topic isn’t really relevant to you at the moment? We don’t know either, which is why we utilize Slack. Slack uses real-time conversation “channels” that anyone in your company can join and leave as they like. An entire record of the thread, including attached files and photos are available to view so that you can quickly get up to speed when you join (or rejoin) a conversation about a particular topic.
At Brandstorm, Slack serves as a problem resolution forum. Not everyone needs to be involved in solving an issue with let’s say a particular supplier, yet the information stored in that conversation may become relevant again in the future. We love how all the channels are searchable, so that we can quickly find the right conversation.
Every business wants to know now much time is spent on certain activities, even if the hours are not billable. Data insights generate discussions around efficiency and task prioritization, and that’s when productivity gains can be realized. What makes Harvest so great is the fact that it features a Google extension, meaning it is very easy to pause and resume time tracking as you move from project to project. That extension also integrates with many different web-based apps (in our case, Trello). Time tracking can be categorized into various buckets and the reporting is both intuitive and insightful.
Harvest is our go-to tool for logging design time accumulated on customer projects. We also use it for employee time studies, so that we can improve our internal processes and create more capacity for our team members.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could link a series of apps together, say for instance all the ones above? That’s what Zapier does. Let’s say you’re starting a new project that requires time tracking. With this app, you can set up a trigger between Harvest and Trello that will automatically create a new Harvest project whenever you create a new Trello card. And the creation of a new Trello card can prompt the generation of a new dedicated Slack channel. In that way, Zapier helps you avoid duplicate work and streamline your workflow across teams.
We utilize Zapier to connect all the apps we can, and it seems every month we find new opportunities. The growing list of all available links between applications can be found on the Zapier website.
We hope you some of these apps will help you find time in your day as they do for us. As I mentioned earlier, all of these programs have a “forever free” option, which makes for a very attractive ROI. As you grow, you may decide to opt for a paid option, but to be honest we've found the starter versions provide just about everything we need.