Have you ever had to manage a project that does not require the power of Microsoft Project, but calls for more organization than a to-do list?
Andrea Vascellari, digital marketing consultant and CEO of itive.net, offers seven solutions in How to Use Google Calendar as a Project Management Tool, an article posted on LifeHacker.com on June 15, 2012.
I felt like sharing this article because we at Sector Learning Solutions use many of the same techniques that Andrea recommends to managing resources and deadlines for our large client-based projects in Microsoft SharePoint, as well as our smaller, internal projects in Microsoft Outlook.
For internal projects (such as planning our Marketing strategy for 2012), we create a separate calendars in Microsoft Outlook to ensure we can view all imminent deadlines for the project by work week or the month on their own – without having to sift through unrelated appointments and to-do items in our personal calendars. When we want to determine free and busy times for ourselves or colleagues, we use the Overlay feature to compare our personal calendars with the project calendar.
Outlook Appointments are used to mark milestones and deadlines, as well as block off time for individuals to complete specific tasks. Client and personal privacy is maintained using the ability to share and restrict calendar access as well as mark individual Appointments and Meetings private.
One new idea that Andrea shares in her article is the idea of using hashtags in Google calendars (e.g. 2-for-1August2012SharepointSpecial#) for internal data management. I’ve always relied heavily on Outlook Categories to group like-items together. The only issue being that you are restricted to 25 colours options. By incorporating a unique hashtag for each specific project you work on, you can reserve your category colours for more general classifications.
Outlook, like Google calendar, is searchable; therefore it makes sense that using hashtags should allow Outlook users to track and report on specific items over time. Testing time!
Right away, I noted an issue when testing hashtag functionality in Outlook. Outlook search ignores the actual hashtag character (i.e. “#”) – even when using double quotes to ensure search results match the exact phrase within the quotes. In fact, its search function appears to ignore all punctuation and special characters.
That means when I search for “test#”, a list of every appointment with the word “test” in the subject line comes up, instead of only the two appointments I created with “test#” in the subject line.
So it appears some modification is necessary to implement Andrea’s hashtag concept to work in Outlook. You can still use a special phrase for all Outlook Appointments tied to a specific project – as long as you only use letters and numbers.
For those of you just getting started with using the Search feature in Outlook, here’s a reference page by Microsoft on how to narrow your search criteria for better searches in Outlook.
Great idea Andrea – looking forward to implementing this technique to improve my time and project management!
Coming Up: Next month I’ll discuss how we use Microsoft SharePoint 2010 to manage our larger client-based projects.