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Managing Bigger Projects: Deskaway

Managing Bigger Projects: Deskaway

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    A simple task list doesn’t cut it when you’re working on a project with more than one person involved. Even when your project isn’t for work, a group project requires a different approach (and different tools) than one where you’re responsible for every single step. DeskAway offers an interface that can help you manage a number of projects — and offers a free version that you can use for up to three projects at a time with five team members. While there are more than a few project management web applications out there these days, very few offer a free version that you can use with more than one team member.

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    The Learning Curve

    Whenever I take a look at any sort of approach to project management, one of my big concerns is the learning curve. Many of my non-work projects involve people who aren’t really technologically savvy. I want something with a simple interface: if it isn’t entirely intuitive, I want easy-to-find resources to figure out what step is next. Deskaway makes each step in the process of creating a new project simple. It also includes explanations right on the page, along with demo videos. You get the choice of of turning the helpful tips on and off — I was comfortable taking off the training wheels after a few minutes, but I can see how someone not used to web applications would need them longer.

    One of the thoughts that kept popping into my head as I was adding information to Deskaway is that it would work well with committee-based projects. I’ve worked on a couple for volunteer organizations and it seems like this sort of interface would work for a group that wanted to share out tasks for its larger projects — like creating a newsletter or planning an event. The price tag makes it useful to nonprofits, and its interface certainly makes it useful for a wide variety of users.

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    Standout Features

    There are certain features that are considered standard for any project management application. But DeskAway does have a few features that I think make this web application stand out. The import / export options go beyond what I expected. If you decide you want to move off of DeskAway at any time, you can request a full backup of all of your project data. DeskAway makes that information available to you as a .zip file you can download for use elsewhere. You can also import data from Basecamp, if you so desire.

    The support offered for DeskAway’s users is also solid. In addition to email support, DeskAway also uses GetSatisfaction to provide help. Those tools, combined with DeskAway’s helpful instructions, make using the application simple. I also particularly like the wide variety of notification options that DeskAway offers users. If you’re the type of person that doesn’t necessarily like checking in on the website every day, you’ve got the tools you need to make sure that notifications wind up where you’ll actually see them — whether that’s in your email or in your RSS reader. All of DeskAway’s tools combine to make for an easy-to-use project management option.

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    Growing With DeskAway

    One of the other benefits of DeskAway is that it’s scalable. You may start out with just three projects you want to organize today, but if you have ten more by the end of the year, it’s not really a problem. Sure, you’ll have to switch to a paying account — but the system itself works no matter how many projects you’re juggling. You can still see at a glance what needs to done. And you can keep an eye on just what your team members are up to, through a variety of email settings, RSS feeds and even a built in blog to share information. If you really do reach the 10 projects level any time soon, you may need to make some changes from the settings you use for three projects. While you might want an update every time someone makes even a small change to your project now, but that’s probably not the case when you’re juggling multiple projects — but DeskAway offers the flexibility to go either way.

    You can also make DeskAway more a part of your company, a useful trick if you want to let clients or sub-contractors see progress on a shared project. You can upload your own logo and effectively brand DeskAway as part of your own organization or business — a technique that works for non-profits as well. When setting up your DeskAway account, you also get to establish a subdomain on DeskAway where you log in and work: it can easily be yourorganization.deskaway.com.

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    If you are growing, DeskAway’s project management tools offers an additional feature that can wind up being very important. Unlike many wikis or other tools you might consider for managing a project, DeskAway offers SSL security. While it isn’t a free feature, if you do wind up relying on DeskAway for your business needs, I think reliable security measures are bound to be a plus.

    Trying Out DeskAway

    If you’ve used DeskAway — or you try it out — please share your experiences in the comments. It’s free to sign up and takes maybe five minutes to actually get going on a project. Has it worked for you? Any features that would make it better? Any projects it works particularly well with? Let us know.

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    5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

    5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

    Not being able to stay productive at work is a problem that everyone runs into at some point; no matter how much you like your job, there are certain factors that prevent you from staying at maximum proficiency throughout the whole day.

    A lack of productive focus at work can lead to extra stress on yourself, missed deadlines, passed opportunities, raise denial, demotion and even termination.

    So, if you are someone who has trouble with your productivity, here are five effective tips on how to be productive at work:

    1. Take breaks

    First and foremost, it’s important for you to take regular breaks. Trying to work throughout the whole day will tire your brain, which will then cause you to doze off and think about something else.

    If you keep working your brain, it will fill up and get jumbled with information—sort of like a computer hard drive. Taking a break would be like resetting your computer so that it can start afresh, or de-fragmenting the data so that all the information is in order.

    This is a great thing because it allows you to solve problems you were unable to solve previously, by seeing it differently; if you are able to organize your thoughts properly, you will be able to take in new information more easily.

    There have even been studies about methods of saving time and staying proficient, and taking breaks is one of the leading factors.

    According to Christine Hohlbaum, the author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World, eating lunch away from your work area every day will greatly increase your productivity. Eating in your work area will give you the illusion that you are working, but whether you like it or not, your brain will begin to wander and think of something else and then you will be working tirelessly with no progress.

    It’s important to take breaks before and during work too: if you come to work in a rush because you woke up late, your mind will not be mentally prepared for the day ahead, and you will spend the first 10 to 15 minutes trying to get organized and composed before you can actually start working.

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    Instead, you should try to wake up 20 minutes earlier than the time it would take you to “just get” to work. Take that time to stare off into space and not worry about anything.

    If you do this, your brain will be empty and ready for all the challenges it has coming for the next few hours.

    If your employer only allows a set amount of breaks during the workday, that doesn’t mean you can’t just get up and walk around for a quick break every now and then.

    Even if it’s only 5 minutes, it will refresh your brain and you will gain renewed energy to do your job.

    Learn more about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    2. Pace yourself and balance your workload

    One problem that most people run into is that they underestimate the amount of work they have to do, and end up doing 50% of the work in the last 20% of the time they have to do it. This is due to an issue of balancing one’s workload.

    When you receive a project, or are doing a job you normally do, take some time to really plan out your work schedule.

    Consider how much time it took you to do this last time; determine how you can break the project into smaller parts and which can only be accomplished on certain days, and whether anything might come up that could interfere with your plan.

    All of these questions are important for starting on a project, and when answered, they will help you stay productive throughout each day.

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    For example, if you needed to design a project to map out the amount of aid offered in various regions after Hurricane Sandy, you can break it up as follows:

    You will need to know what organizations are offering help to begin with, how much aid those organizations gave or plan to give, which regions were hit by Sandy, and which regions suffered the greatest losses.

    You start this project on a Thursday and know you have until Tuesday to gather this information.

    In order to stay productive, you need to plan out your work week—now you know you can find out which organizations are involved in helping the Hurricane Sandy Victims any day since that information is online, but gathering information on the organizations may require you to call them.

    Since phone calls can only be done during week days, you have to plan on gathering all of that information before the weekend comes.

    That is just one example of a situation in which pre-planning your project will help you stay productive; had you researched the affected regions first, you would not have received the info on the organizations until the weekend, and may have missed your chance to call them.

    That, in turn, would have wasted time you could have spent working on this project to finish it.

    Knowing what you need to do, when you can do it, and how long it will take you, is important in balancing your workload and being more productive and efficient.

    3. Put your work first

    This is an issue that usually occurs with young people who are new to the workforce: they’re often tempted with offers to go out at midday, and then come back lost in thought and unfocused on their work-related tasks.

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    While it is important to take breaks, your breaks should consist of you clearing your mind, not loading it up with other less important information—like sports.

    However, that is not the only situation where you need to worry about putting your work first before all else.

    In a work environment, the senior employees will oftentimes push some of their menial tasks onto the newer employees. If you fall into that category, you need to know that their work is not your work, so if you have tasks that need to be done, you need to do it first.

    If you are a new employee, you must learn to say no to other people even when it means you may not be in their good graces anymore. You can help others out once your work is done, but you are paid to do your own work, not anyone else’s.

    4. Don’t open your browser unless you need them

    In this day and age, everyone is constantly monitoring their social network. This is a major pain point for companies, which is why many don’t allow employees to access their social networks on company workstations.

    When you are at work, disconnect the internet from your phone and keep your browsers closed so you’re not tempted to log onto your social media accounts or browse any sites that are not work-related.

    If you keep your browsers closed and phone tucked away, only to be used in an emergency, you will find yourself being a more productive employee right away. 

    5. Try to be happy and optimistic

    If you always have a negative outlook on life, you will be more distracted and less motivated to get work done, so it’s important for you to start your day off right.

    This can be done by having a good breakfast or by taking time in the morning to watch one of your favorite TV shows before work.

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    If you are happy, you will find yourself able to work much more productively as your mind won’t wander into worrying about something else.

    Also, if you stay optimistic and keep telling yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to, the tasks will seem much less daunting and will go by much more quickly.

    Take a look at more effective ways to stay positive at work:

    15 Ways To Stay Positive At Work

    Happiness and optimism are the keys to being a productive and happy employee.

    All in all, heed the five tips above and you will find yourself being one of the most productive people at your company.

    While you do not need to master them all, each and every one of them will help you become a better and more efficient employee.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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