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Planning and control tools – Remember the milk

Category: Website Reviews January 5th, 2012 by mbc

I don’t really talk about project management on this blog. I prefer to focus on my fumbling attempts at labouring, carpentry, landscape gardening and so on. But having decided against an architect and / or project manager way back at the start of converting the barn I’ve taken on the project management (above and beyond co-ordination of the original building work) myself. I don’t especially enjoy project management, it’s a part of what I do when in my day job and so isn’t new or challenging, more a necessary evil than anything else. However, I have used some tools that have assisted me and I thought it might be worth writing about them and perhaps making a recommendation or two.

Remember the Milk
I avoided to-do lists for a long time, but as the small, easily forgotten details began to mount up during the final phase of the project they became essential. I needed a solution that would be available pretty much wherever I was and whatever I was doing, I’m prone to leaving notebooks just where I don’t want them to be (in the ‘other’ room, in my ‘other’ jacket…) so a technology based solution accessible from my phone or any PC was what I wanted. After a pretty broad sweep of the available options I settled on Remember the Milk (RTM):

  • RTM allows access to to-do lists via the web,
  • via dedicated apps (as in the case of the iPad/iPhone application),
  • or via interfaces with third party applications such as the Blackberry Task application, Twitter and email

…so ticks all the boxes for me. I can access my lists from any of the various computers I use via the web (with a quick and easy to use Google account based login so no need to remember another password). I use the iPad app for heavy duty planning, updating and editing. I use my Blackberry Task list for checking the to-do list when I’m out and about, ticking items off or adding items in ‘real-time’. All my bases are covered!

You can create multiple lists – I keep separate lists for each project I’m involved in (one for the Barn, one for software projects etc.) and general lists such as my Shoppinglist to which I post all items to be bought which can be quickly referred to when in B&Q or wherever. All items can have text tags added and URL’s or locations associated with them. I use the prioritisation feature to ensure that the most pressing items always rise to the top of the list (& my attention).

You’ll need to buy a $25 per year Pro account to make use of the smartphone / iPad apps, but I think that’s money well spent – certainly carries my recommendation.

RememberTheMilk.com

www.rememberthemilk.com

In their own words: Remember The Milk is the popular to-do list that’s everywhere you are: from your phone, to the web, to your Google apps, and more. Used by millions worldwide.

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Project Management ~ Google Documents

Category: Products & Materials April 7th, 2008 by mbc

I now organise nearly all my documents for the project using Google Documents. These are mainly letters and the spreadsheets I use to juggle finances and it works well for me. As I access the internet from at least two different places most days the ability to store documents on the web is perfect for me.

Functionally, the tools are light-weight equivalents of Microsoft Office applications with stripped back functionality. This doesn’t really cause a problem as those things you can’t do are often those things you really don’t need to be doing. For example, there is a limited set of six fonts in the spreadsheet application, but do I really need more? And there is a relatively simple set of formulas, but do I really want the complex stuff in a web application?

Another nice feature is the ability to publish documents to the web for sharing with others. This is basically a push button exercise – chose Publish and a long hard to guess URL is generated that will link to your document. You can distribute this URL as you see fit, making online collaboration easy. I’ve used this method for distributing user instructions for one of the websites I’ve developed and it is hard to beat for speed and efficiency of communication.

This is also a way to avoid worrying about backups. I trust Google to keep my documents accessible better than I trust myself to do so. Additionally, you can always export a copy of a document to your hard-disk.

If you always access the web from the same computer and are happy to handle your own backups then this may not be the option for you, but otherwise, highly recommended.

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Project Management ~ Basecamp

Category: Products & Materials March 24th, 2008 by mbc

For me, the cornerstone of project management isn’t a gantt chart or a risk register, but lists. In Basecamp, I find the ability to create and maintain all the lists that I need to keep track of my barn conversion. It also provides you with the ability to share files, text, and messages and track time & tasks with other members of a project team. The emphasis is on project collaboration and communication. I’ll not rattle on too much about the details, best for you to take a look yourselves as a limited, free version of the software is available that will be sufficient for most small projects.

I’ve long been a admirer of 37signals (the company behind Basecamp). Minimalist software providing stripped back functionality with a style of its own – pushes my buttons.

The great advantage of online applications such as this is their access-anywhere-ability. All that is needed is internet access – not as ubiquitous as a notebook (those moleskine notebooks are still a favourite of mine) but the next best thing AND completely water-proof.

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Progress

Autumn 2013

Right that’s the summer over with, now I can get on with some real work without the distractions of other things (like holidays and playing with children, all that enjoyable stuff that gets in the way of progress)… With few major jobs (painting, boxing in – nasty stuff!) left inside, mainly fiddly things that need […]

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