Student affairs projects don’t always go as planned.
You can plan out tasks, projects, and to-do lists to the ‘T’, but they often hit a downward spiral if not organized properly from the beginning. You spend hours and hours emailing members of your team, other departments and colleagues, creating timelines, and contributing your ideas. Then, you hold multiple meetings (that could have been accomplished in an e-mail) until the project is complete – then it’s onto the next one.
Colleges and universities – specifically student affairs departments – need a more efficient way to create, manage, and store information for projects.
Luckily, SA pros can finally bring their processes to the modern age with some amazing tools to help manage and organize student affairs teams’ efforts. While there are many more, here a few of the most relevant and user-friendly ones that won’t break the bank.
Tom’s Planner is a simple, digital Gantt Chart organizer (if you don’t know what a Gantt Chart is, that’s okay, we didn’t either initially) which helps you visualize your tasks and projects really well. Tom’s Planner is straightforward, functional, and easy to use. We recommend this tool for people who may be intimidated by some of the other tools on this list, which may have a bit more of a learning curve.
Basecamp has clean, minimalist interface with a lot going on under the hood.
— Ed Cabellon (@EdCabellon) January 31, 2016
What we really like about Basecamp is the feature “snooze” to plan pre-determined time away, the ability to give someone a virtual round of applause, and lastly everyone who uses Basecamp can easily communicate publicly or privately with team members.
Trello is all about boards which organize what you’re doing currently, what you still have to do, and what you’ve already done. Simply put, it’s one of the best to-do list tools out there. It’s also the tool that our marketing team uses to organize our blog posts here at Check I’m Here.
It allows you to “drag and drop” items and change lists, color-code specific items, and manipulate list items to match exactly what you need to accomplish. It allows to break projects into sub-projects or sub-tasks. You can add due dates, notes, attachments, and of course a fan favorite, make each “card” or to-do list item different colors. The free version allows integration with DropBox and Google Drive which makes it loved by professionals all over, especially some student affairs graduate students:
Asana is fairly sophisticated, with a lot of app integrations and a colorful interface. Once tasks are created, you can invite team members and delegate out subtasks.
One of the reasons why we like Asana is that you can work on projects and have conversations on the side. This limits messy e-mail notifications that often are lost in the abyss of a SA pro’s inbox. Pick up on where you left off and feel good about staying organized on those long term projects.
Slack is a bit different, focusing mostly on communication, but it’s a tool that works great with the other tools featured here. We highly recommend Slack if you want to work towards minimizing internal emails and phone calls.
slack is my fav so far, ive used basecamp. smartsheet, trello etc… need to play with integrations more tho.
— Matt Cummings (@mattwcummings) February 2, 2016
Referred to as the “office messaging app that may sink email”, Slack is customizable to each work team and easy to set up. Some of our favorite features are “do not disturb” modes to encourage work/life balance and creating separate spaces for specific conversations. This is a favorite tool by startups all over the country and large organizations like the New York Times.
All of these tools help manage all of the projects you want to accomplish and all of the tasks that make up those projects. You can upload files, schedule meetings, and have discussions about what’s going on all solely within each of these platforms. No longer will everything be in a bunch of disparate places. You can focus more, collaborate better, and just get more stuff done.
If you’re still a little anxious about going in on one of these tools, check out what we think makes them so valuable:
Weighing the Costs
Every functional area or department is different which means you may have to test out a few different tools before you find your match made in heaven. Software tools gives you the ability to be more productive which means you can spend more time on other important tasks and allocate your time efficiently.
We made it easy for you with this quick example of the amount of money you could save, simply by implementing one piece of management software with your team:
Let’s say you’re paid $15 for 1 hour.
You attend one 1 hour meetings 4 times a month.
That’s about $60 a month.
Now multiply that by the number of employees on your team.
Let’s say you have a team of 4.
That’s $240 a month being allocated for 4 meetings for 4 people.
Not only does software reduce the amount of meetings you need to attend, but it streamlines communication and gives you more freedom to focus on priority tasks that may come up throughout the day.
If that isn’t enough, incorporating software is eco-friendly and can be accessed easily on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. If you’re worried about being contacted consistently, most of the software have adjustable notification settings.
Start planning which software you want to incorporate now, so you can adopt, on-board and incorporate it into your budget for the upcoming year.
Integrating a new software or procedure into a team’s flow can be difficult, and change in student affairs generally is a hard sell. Nevertheless, being mindful of all of the benefits when it comes to team dynamics and managing people, will go a long way in convincing people to get on board with you.
The tools mentioned above will help your team be more accountable to each other since everyone can see what’s getting done (or not done). No longer will anyone have to wonder if the thing they asked their colleague to do before they start their work is done and no longer will people have to remember to tell each other either.
You can showcase accomplishments during team meetings and easily create reports from these project lists about all the amazing work your team has done. You’ll know exactly who did what so you can give proper credit. Also, in terms of your team getting stuff done, files and information can be accessible to everyone who needs them for a particular project, avoiding any confusion or delays caused by needing to double back and send anything out via email.
These softwares create endless possibilities for your team that allow for more open collaboration between different offices. All you have to do is invite colleagues into a particular project and they instantly have all the files they need, can communicate directly with collaborators, and they will be up to speed on what has been done, what is currently happening, and what is still left to accomplish (you’ll thank us later for helping you bust down those silos on campus).
If you (and your team) put in the effort and energy into integrating any of these tools, you’ll be able to achieve great things. Your students will feel better supported and your campus will be alive with engagement!
What are your favorite software tools to use with your team? Tweet us at @CheckImHere or share in the comments below!