Managing and prioritizing tasks is key to meeting business obligations. Almost every business professional has a method of managing small projects and effectively collaborating with others to get the job done. But can yours be improved?
I recall one client who proudly showed me his task management system: He neatly printed each to-do item on a sticky note and slapped it on the bezel of his computer monitor. When a task became high priority, he moved the paper higher on the side of his monitor and shifted the other notes lower. When he was very busy, the notes overflowed to his desk, marching in two regimented lines down each side of his monitor to his keyboard.
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Sadly, his home-grown project management system crashed one night. A new office cleaner came in and diligently cleaned his monitor and desk. The next morning he found all his precisely arranged stickies stacked in one neat pile by the phone. He spent half an hour resorting his task priorities.
There's no excuse for sticking to a paper-based project management system when several simple Web services can now do the job so much better. These services also help ensure that all project team members are quickly updated about changing deadlines and new developments.
I like QG|Software's 5pm, a relatively inexpensive ($18 per month and up), easy-to-use project management service that can help you prioritize your tasks and manage smaller projects. It sports a good-looking user interface that is more customizable than most other Web-based services.
5pm is no Microsoft Project: It can't easily manage large or long-term projects. However, it lets you create and update tasks and projects either on the Web or via e-mail. Visually appealing timeline charts let you quickly check your progress. 5pm can also integrate project deadlines with some calendar services.
Overall, 5pm offers a well-rounded array of project management services that should suit the needs of most light-duty users.
No Credit Card Required for Trial
Signing up for an account is simple. You don't even need to provide credit card info for the free trial. 5pm supports most popular Web browsers, including recent versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Opera.
You will need to select your own subdomain (something along the lines of "mycompany.5pmweb.com") in order to log on to the service and to enable e-mail integration. Several short video tutorials provide basic instructions on how to use the service.
After you log on, you'll see four tabs down the left side of the display: Projects, Timeline, Reports, and Profiles. You'll probably spend most of your time working in the Projects tab. Clicking on it shows a list of projects in the left pane. When you click on a project, a list of project details, such as tasks and progress indicators, appear in the right pane. Simply hovering over a project for a couple of seconds will provide more details in a pop-up info window, a nice touch.