Friday, February 24, 2012

Small Business Tool Review: Producteev

To start I want to say I am not Type-A. I do not feel any desire to start my day with a checklist nor do I feel accomplished by checking off items on the to-do list. Most of the time if I make a to-do list it's a smattering of 15 different colored scraps of paper I have taped to my cabinet above the computer and it's written in varying shades of Sharpie and crayon. If I ever get around to a formal to-do list I start by writing down all of the things I've done so that I can check something off- then I lose focus and the rest of the list is a mixture of high level want and low-level tasks. Then I lose my drive entirely and realize I just spent 20 minutes on a list when I could have been getting something done-- then I lose the list. Weeks later when it pops back up- it's irrelevant. I started sort of using Gmail to-do lists on the sidebar of my e-mail but it's hasn't proven to be a big motivator for me as I have to make a special effort to remember to look at it as I use a desktop client to read my mail and I don't venture out to use Gmail online. I really needed something to kickstart my week with a summary of what I need to do but organized in a way that makes since for a micro-business.

So... I want to do a short preliminary review on a new tool I've been using called Producteev. It's available in the iTunes app store and there are free downloads for Windows, Mac OSX, Android phones, and the Apple iPhone and iPad. Basically it's a platform to consolidate your to-do list with a project schedule and then you can sync between all of those platforms- Bonus! There are "workspaces" that you set up based on your needs. Larger business may need to open a workspace for every project- I have one for orders, business administration (books, taxes, supplies), and I have just started using workspaces to collaborate with other small businesses that I supply work for. I may start one for other tasks like social media.

I'm calling it a preliminary review because I've only used in a few days but so far I'm impressed. You can tag tasks with a label that helps visually sort to-do items into different categories. You can assign tasks to people and mark notes, subtasks, completions, and deadlines as needed. One thing I would find helpful would be a way to incorporate updates via SMS. I don't have a fancy cell phone so it would be neat to be able to enter a to-do item on the run but I understand that most folks could pop up an Android or iPhone app and enter it that way so I'll text my work e-mail instead and take the extra step to enter it into the tool. I have the option on my office computer to open the app from the launchpad or to log in online. Collaboration on tasks with a colleague has been helpful- especially with small business like mine as I'm the principal, the dish washer, the butler, the accountant, and the assembly manager workforce all in one so threads and ideas are able to be incorporated into a task so that you don't forget you promised to follow-up or ask about a sample. Anyway- I like to promote tools that work for me. So far Producteev has acted like a virtual personal assistant. I'm actually looking forward to the digest e-mails I have it set up to send at the end of each week to remind me not only of what I need to do but to keep me on task. Breaking up big jobs into small tasks make them able to be accomplished one piece at a time. I didn't want some giant Gantt chart corporate tool. I had enough years of formal project management to know that a tool suite like that would be nothing more than a time waster for a business my size. So far I'm in a free part of the app but can see paying for a workspace or two for when I'm collaborating on a large project with a large team to maybe put on a craft show or develop something new. I'll try and remind myself to post another review in about 6 months or so.... better yet- I'll set up a task in Producteev!

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