Project management software as a part of your research management strategy: Part ONE

Do you have a to-do list a million miles long, and multiple projects with different funding and reporting requirements? Do you have a team of graduate and undergraduate students that are all working on different aspects of your research program and the feeling that it’s becoming difficult to keep everything straight using your current organizational system?

My research team consistently sits at approx. 10 graduate students and postdocs each academic year.

My ability to keep track of all of the different projects was compromised, and my email inbox was serving as my to-do list which was making me crazy (and was not working that well). I moved my team onto Asana 2 years ago (although there are many other similar project and team management tools such as Trello, and Basecamp that have similar features). I have found that using Asana has improved my organization and (I think) improved my relationship with my graduate students. In the next couple of productivity posts I am going to tell you how we are using Asana as a research team since this is a question I get asked by a lot of my colleagues (including some who have adopted this system).

The first question I always get asked is if we are using the paid version of Asana. Asana is free for teams of less than 15 people. My team is less than 15 people and I am cheap so we are using the free version. The paid version has some additional bells and whistles that might be nice but the free version works just fine for our purposes.

Step ONE

  • I first added all of my team members to the group site.

  • I create a “project” for each member of the team. Each project has “followers” linked to it. In most cases, the projects are student specific and the followers for each project are the student who is leading the project and myself.

This is a screenshot of the Main site setup that shows all of the different projects currently underway in my group.

This is a screenshot of the Main site setup that shows all of the different projects currently underway in my group.

  • The other key item related to the original team setup is the team conversation option. This functionality has served to reduce my daily email significantly!

  • Instead of sending group emails and then having a long chain of email replies to all group members we now use the conversation tool for this purpose instead of email and it has been a game changer because it keeps all of the replies time stamped and tagged to the original post.

Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 9.10.26 PM.png

Set up a team site for your research team or lab group and give it a try. Then stay tuned for future posts to learn more about how we are using Asana in my research group.

Hitting refresh on your approach to graduate student mentoring

Guess what? I wrote a guest post on the stylish academic blog about a really fantastic leadership book that I read this fall. If you are thinking that your leadership and mentorship approach could use a reboot I think that the book This is Day One might be just what the doctor ordered!

So curl up in your chair next to a fireplace over the holidays and give this book a read. It might just change your approach to the way you lead at work as well as at home.