Personal project management on the web

I am a self-employed writer who publishes a new book every 9 months and primarily works from home. For my first several books I struggled with time management and found I was constantly playing catch-up for the two months before my books were due. Then my engineer husband introduced me to the application he uses at work to organize his projects: Gantto.

For my last book I used Gantto to plan out my book publishing process, goals, and the milestones I needed to hit. Early schedule items consisted of writing so many words a week (with milestone markers for finishing a quarter of the book, half, etc.), middle items included submitting drafts and doing revisions, and latter marks included publishing house schedules and promotional items — all ultimately leading to the release date of the book.  The great thing about Gantto is that I can visually see how all of those little steps lead to the final goal on one page, and if life events (illness, family trouble, etc.) crop up during the project, the whole timeline shifts to where end-goal estimation becomes far more accurate. Vacations can be added at any time for scheduling purposes.

For me, seeing the gantt chart really helped put my daily work in perspective, and I found I was much less likely to procrastinate.
gantt chart.png
There was still a bit of a crunch getting my last book out the door (unfortunately, the tool couldn’t write the book for me), but my process was tighter and the last week was far less painful than submissions for previous books. I am definitely using Gantto for my next book.

The real time collaboration aspect is likely not as key for the self-employed business owner as it would be for a larger team/business, but I actually found it a fantastic feature. If you are collaborating between two writers or a writer and an assistant, both of you can go into the schedule (simultaneously) and make changes.

As someone who has used spreadsheets in the past to track projects, the ability to shift an entire schedule of events with one click is mind-blowingly great. Add that to the price (free for one month, with subscriptions starting at $5 a month) and I am delighted with this tool.

-- Anne Mallory 05/16/12