Without a system for academic project management, you feel overwhelmed and exhausted all the time, no matter how much progress you’re actually making. Though you can create a system on paper, or even with G Suite or Dropbox, it may be helpful to use a project management tool. In this post I review three commonly used academic project management tools, and how I came to use my favorite one: Trello.
This is the second in a series of posts about academic project management (don’t miss the first post, Academic Project Management 101).
Academic Project Management Tool #1: Basecamp Review
Basecamp was built for team collaboration and management in businesses. It has a simple user interface. Each project includes: a chat room, a message board, a to-do list, a schedule, and an area for docs and files. Many people use Basecamp to organize their labs and grant projects. You can see a two minute video that gives you an overview of the product below.
I can absolutely see the benefits of Basecamp for managing a lab or a grant project. You can assign work to people and keep all your files in one place without lengthy email chains. You can set up end-of-the-day check-ins where people can report what that worked on that day, which would be excellent for collaboration. At $99/month, though, it is a pretty serious investment if what you’re looking to manage is your own writing pipeline and publication projects. They do offer a free account for teachers and students K-12 through university, but you are asked to promise that you will only use it for “classroom work.”
Basecamp also lacks a way to visualize your pipeline completely, which is something I was really looking for in my project management program. Overall, Basecamp looks great but it is probably more than most academics need in terms of functionality.
Academic Project Management Tool #2: Asana Review
Asana is like a really, really powerful to-do list. What I like about it is that it encourages you to break projects into tasks and schedule them out. You can assign tasks to others, attach documents to tasks, and tag tasks using colors. I also enjoy the function to check off completed tasks, because that’s really satisfying. 🙂
Like Basecamp, Asana was built with businesses in mind. It’s meant for collaborative projects, and it really is like a master to-do list program. Frankly, I tried to set up my academic projects in Asana and I was quickly overwhelmed. I like the idea of the checklists and the calendar, but again, I couldn’t see the whole pipeline, and it was hard to see how projects related to each other.
You can use a basic version of Asana for free, which would probably be enough for most academics. Asana for teams costs $9.99/month, and might be appealing to those managing labs or large projects with lost of people.
Academic Project Management Tool #3: Trello Review
Trello is project management software that uses lists on boards to visually organize your projects. You can have as many lists as you want on each board, and each item on the list gets a card. Cards are very powerful. You can assign tasks to others, message and tag others on the card, link files, create lists, add due dates–all on the virtual “back” of the card. You can also drag the cards easily between lists, copy cards that you use often (which means they can function as templates), and send cards to other boards.
The difference between Trello and the other programs is that, though it can certainly be used for business, it is not pitched as exclusively that.
Rather, Trello is meant to organize anything, from your academic writing projects to your kids’ extracurricular activities. You can find Trello templates all over the internet to organize just about anything (Pinterest is a great place to look, as is Trello’s own blog). And if you haven’t downloaded my free academic writing project management Trello templates, go get them here!
The best part of Trello from my perspective is the ability to see your entire publication pipeline, and to easily move project cards through your pipeline. I love being able to see the entire pipeline at once so that you can easily identify pipeline blockages.
If you’d like to learn all the details of how I use Trello for Academic Writing Project Management, join me on April 11th for a live workshop.
At the workshop, you’ll see my entire system in action, and you’ll get a recorded version of the workshop so that you can go back to it again and again. Plus, the workshop includes exclusive templates so that you have my whole system, ready to plug in your projects and go!