Manage a hectic workload with these project management tools

Aug 21, 2020

A typical project consists of many moving parts. One freelancer may be responsible for delivering one part, while another puts it all together. Deadlines that aren’t met can send the entire project plunging.

Project scheduling involves creating a timeline for upcoming tasks and establishing clear deadlines. It keeps everyone on the same page and allows project managers to address bottlenecks before they become a major issue. If you're working for multiple clients at once, it helps you manage your workflow so you're never the one who holds a project up.

Struggling to manage all your different projects? Here are five project scheduling techniques that you can use to streamline your workflow.

1. Set SMART Goals

The reason many projects fail is because they lack objectives. Whether you’re launching a new site or planning an event, setting clear goals keeps you on the right track.

Follow the SMART methodology. This is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based.

(Image Source: Hubspot)
SMART goal setting works because it provides structure to a project, making it more likely to come to fruition. Goals that are too vague don’t work because they lack a clear plan.

If your goal is to generate more traffic to your site, a SMART goal might be: Increase our monthly traffic by 15% before the end of the year by publishing at least four blog posts a week and promoting them on Facebook and Twitter.

This statement is much more concrete than simply saying you want more traffic or better search engine rankings. It lays out a specific goal and has a timeline attached to it. The next step is to put it all together and track your efforts.

2. Schedule Tasks With Gantt Charts

A single project can involve a large group of people. Keeping track of tasks for each person can be challenging, especially for more complex projects.

The next crucial project scheduling technique is to have the right tools. Writing things down in a notebook or on a piece of paper just won’t cut it.

One powerful tool that enables you to visualize your projects and view timelines for each step is a Gantt chart. Here’s an example of what a Gantt chart looks like:

(Image Source: ClickUp)

Each horizontal bar shows key information about individual tasks, including who’s working on them, as well their start and end time. It also shows the order of each task and how they link with each other.

For example, if you’re working to improve your SEO, a Gantt chart can help you visualize each step of your project schedule, from conducting keyword research to analyzing your competitors and more.

Using a Gantt chart can also help you identify bottlenecks in your workflow. If someone on the team misses a deadline, you can address it directly before it becomes problematic.

Take the goals that you created from the previous step. Break them down into the smallest tasks and add them to your Gantt chart. There are a number of both paid and free platforms that offer Gantt chart templates.

You can also consider other project management tools, like kanban boards — a visualization tool that uses cards and columns to manage tasks.

Experiment with different tools until you find one that fits your workflow.

3. Use Chatbots to Organize Queries

Handling customer queries can take time away from important projects.

One option is to implement software like live chat or conversation widgets — a chat box that integrates directly on a website. It allows visitors to interact with a customer service representative and get help.

A representative can realistically handle about five interactions at a time. That means some visitors may have to wait a long time before they can get help with their query. Not to mention that you’ll also need to spend resources to hire and train representatives.

A more efficient way to handle and organize queries is to use chatbots — software applications powered by artificial intelligence to simulate human conversations. There are also rule-based chatbots, which follow predefined steps.

Use chatbots to create ticketing systems to organize customer queries. You can even program chatbots to automate invoicing and payments. For example, after a customer books an appointment, you can ping them with a message and send them an invoice afterward.

Chatbots can help streamline many processes in your business, allowing you to focus more of your attention on important projects.

4. Automate Repetitive Tasks

Companies engage in numerous tasks to reach their target and generate more sales — building email campaigns, following up with leads, creating landing pages, etc.

But such tasks tend to be repetitive and time-consuming. Consider using marketing automation tools in your projects to streamline and automate certain workflows.

For example, using a calendar scheduling tool makes it easy to schedule demos with potential leads and avoids the back and forth. This can save you and your team tons of time.

You can also use forms to create ticketing systems to organize queries and marketing software to automatically follow up with them.

Email is another area that benefits from automation tools.

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to reach your audience and grow your business. But you can’t make key decisions about a campaign without accurate metrics.

Use an email tracking software to manage your campaigns and follow up on leads. Email tracking allows you to see who is engaging with your emails and links they’re clicking through.

If a lead clicks on a link, you can follow up with a more personalized email. And because it’s relevant to their interests, they’ll be more likely to open your email and click through.

Think about recurring tasks and find software that can improve your overall efficiency.

5. Remember to Take a Break

Getting enough rest is key to staying productive. Most adults require between seven to nine hours of sleep, but data shows that those in the workforce typically get less.

It can be tempting to pack your schedule to make the most out of each waking hour. Make sure you don’t overschedule your projects and tasks to the point where you’re not getting enough sleep.

Numerous studies show that inadequate sleep has an adverse impact on productivity. Take breaks throughout the day. Go on a walk, listen to a podcast, or meet up with a friend for coffee.

Most importantly, aim to get at least seven hours of sleep a night. That way, you’ll feel more refreshed the next day and ready to take on your projects.

Keeping track of all individual aspects of a project is incredibly difficult without a proper system in place. You’ll end up spending tons of time handling processes that can either be automated or delegated.

Use these project scheduling techniques to streamline hectic processes and improve your overall productivity.

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send us your blog post.

Addison Burke

Addison Burke teaches businesses how to grow through better digital marketing, and writes on everything from SEO to WordPress and cybersecurity.