I get asked almost every single day what I use to plan and manage launches.
In fact in a recent thread inside the Fearless Launching community, this topic literally set everyone on fire – and sidetracked a few of us (yes, me too!)… because there are so many approaches to planning and managing… and if you’re as nerdy as I am – you want to find the best system.
I knew this was a hot topic, and I KNOW Laura gets asked constantly what system she uses to plan. Behind the scenes, I always flashback to an afternoon at her house where I watched her write down her top 3 things on an old notepad.
Nothing fancy people.
So the truth is – I’m always super hesitant to share what I use and why…because to be honest, I spent a very long time trying different tools out, and I still try things out from time to time.
Are you ready?
Okay – don’t hurt me: there really is NO SPECIFIC tool that works best. The BEST method for managing, planning, and tracking your launch is simply to choose SOMETHING that you’re comfortable with and stick with it.
Another fun fact from the LKR files… I remember a tip Laura Roeder gave on a webinar once: have one notebook that you bring to conferences and fill it up. Don’t bring a new fresh one every time. Use the same one, so you don’t lose your thoughts and wonder “which one is it in?”
The same goes for planning: pick what works for you and stick with it.
Let’s Get To Pickin’
I use 2 things to pick my project planner: my personality/mood and the project.
No one way is going to be perfect, but at least when I know what I like and what I’m going to be using it for, I’m able to get the most out of a tool that serves my natural tendencies.
We could have a whole other discussion on personality-based planning, but today I’m going to stick with the whole “environments that feel natural” and “what I’m in the mood for” approach.
For Visual Planners…
Do you like post it notes? Do you doodle a lot? Do you find yourself making mind maps on napkins? You could be a visual planner. If you even think you might be a visual planner, check out my top pick. I never knew I was one until I found this amazing software.
Trello is one of those tools that I can’t believe I haven’t been using all along. Here’s a great post with video showing you why Trello is so darn cool to use for planning out a product and for planning a launch!
When I say “visual,” I mean it’s still a list, but the cards and overall interface make it feel more visual.
Pros to Trello:
- You can spice up the view by adding anything you want to the cards.
- You can shuffle around what needs to be done.
- The second you think of something, you can just pop it on a card and put it in the bin of things to do. On a small team, this works great!
Cons to Trello:
- You can’t really create in it. I found myself linking to Evernote and/or Google Docs often.
- I don’t like that you can’t see a calendar view unless you install the add-on for that.
- Their notification system is a little wonky. You might see that something has been updated or you might not. I found it frustrating to have to go through all the cards to see that someone had left a note two days prior.
Projects that work best in Trello: launches, website redesigns, blog updates.
For Traditional Planners…
Have you used task managers in your past day jobs? You’re used to the structure, lists, lines and like seeing data in different formats? Plus, you like getting reminded about things your team or you are behind on?
Wrike is one of those tools that looks daunting at first, but as you figure out the shortcuts, you realize how powerful it is: integration with your email, calendar, Google Docs, Dropbox….even Excel, if you want to export task lists.
Wrike shines the more people you have and/or the more projects you have in the hopper.
Pros to Wrike:
- Being able to email tasks to people and have it automatically go into Wrike the right way is pretty darn amazing. This is where I fell in love with Wrike. I would often Wrike myself and loved how easy it was to get things into the system from my inbox.
- And now – they have a free version of Wrike for 5 person teams. This is great news for bootstrapping entrepreneurs.
- LKR used Wrike while I was with the team and it was so addictive – I loved Wriking myself!
Cons to Wrike:
- The one area that has been a struggle in the past (though they might change this) is a clear view of what’s coming up next – next week or whatever.
- Unless you go into the gantt chart mode (shown above) or view by each person, you won’t really be able to know what’s coming up next for you. And let me tell you gantt charts are NOT FUN to look at.
- Also if you’re attaching tons of images to your wrike task – the costs could become crazy really fast…link to images instead of attaching them if you’re concerned about costs.
Projects that work well for Wrike: ones that have a more linear schedule with tons of moving parts.
For Easy Planners…
You’re sensible: you like things easy to use, a little bit of visual, a little bit of list, and you want ease in bringing different types of workers together.
Basecamp is fun. I know that sounds super geeky, but it’s fun to click around their interface. It’s easy to input projects. They all live in separate little blocks.
If you’ve got a team of Apple or Mac lovers, they’ll love the clean style of Basecamp. It just feels good to use it. Plus, there are tons of features that make it a great choice for the visual planners and the list planners.
Pros to Basecamp:
- The environment is great for collaboration. I’ve enjoyed working in it every single time I worked with an external team.
- Many VAs are used to using it.
Cons to Basecamp:
- If you’re not into lists, skip Basecamp.
- It comes with a higher price point, and you can do this same type of list management in Evernote, Google Docs, and other free services. It was always the cost that made me think twice.
Projects that work well for Basecamp: ones that have tons of collaborators all working on different areas of the project.
A few more quick suggestions….
- Working alone and want to keep track of your task list? Workflowy – rocks!
- Free online scheduler that works well that you can add your team to? Asana!
- My go-to tracker and scheduler for many years: a simple spreadsheet using Google Spreadsheet or Excel.
Bottom line + end of story
Whatever you choose – make the choice quick and then just stick with it for a while. There’s no perfect planner and you might be tempted to change things, but you’re only wasting time sweating the details.