The Best Project Management Tools


Build and Manage a Remote Team


Lesson Info

The Best Project Management Tools

This is a tool called Trello. And again, it don't necessarily care what tool you use for this, but you do need to have some sort of product management tool that is transparent, that provides access to all these people. This is another form of asynchronous communication but while Slack is a tool for communicating and ideating, brainstorming, if you will, and discussing, a project management tool or a task management tool like Trello is for actually getting the work done and for tracking the progress of that work. Now, one of the reasons I like Trello, and it's not the only one who does this, is that it is organized in what's known as a Kanban style. So you see there's sort of the phases to how things work. It goes from one end to the other and it's like a assembly line. So the phases, in some form or another, we have To Do, Doing, Done. That's it. Everybody knows what they need to work on, what everybody else is working on, and what they might need from anybody else. And you have an ove...

rview really quickly because again, with something like this, you can see the red, little due dates or things that are due. You can see that there's a checklist on this card that has 12 items on it, eight of which have been finished. This one has five comments on it, this one has a completed checklist, and there's labels that give you categories for different deliverables, so you know overall what's going on and you also see that there's certain people assigned to the different cards, so you know what you need to work on, what they're working on, what phase they're in. They can move back and forth, it's very fluid, and this helps people on the same page. You can put visual elements in here, you can attach files, you can do screenshots or screen sharing, whatever you might need, but at the end of the day, people know where things are at. Because again, with virtual, it's not like you can walk around the office and see that this person is working on that, you can actually see that. This is kind of what that is. At any given time, you can check in, get an overview, know what's going on and know if you have to do anything. The next key to being remote is process documentation. So this is a really big one. This is a tool called Process Street and there's other ones out there. There's SweetProcess, you could use an Excel document, you could do this in a Word document. There's a lot of different ways to denote this. At the end of the day, this is a checklist. We're gonna spend a little time on this because creating bulletproof processes is the absolute key to being able to go remote and scale. One of the biggest issues that you might have with going remote, one of the trepidations you might have, is the idea that something might get missed or lost and then you're just doubling your efforts and checking on things, and we don't want that. So, by identifying the way that things are done, we can actually mitigate that. And there's a few different ways to create these processes. So if you do have screencast, one of the ways that I do like to create processes, is that if something is a computer-based process, you have to screencast. A lot of people know how to do that. You can use tools like Jing or Screencast, or my favorite one is called CloudApp. And a screencasting tool, by the way, is a really important tool for going remote because it's really easy to be able to show somebody what you're looking at, maybe make an annotation if you need to. And it answers the question that somebody might have as, "What were you talking about?" So you can reverse engineer this. Take a screencast of how you currently do something, give it to somebody else to then make the SOP or the Standard Operating Procedure, like this, and then give it to a third person, have him test it, and you'll find the holes really, really quickly. Because if we can identify and create a process that works at a primary, secondary, and tertiary level, it's like photocopying something that keeps fading out. If it still works at the third level, then you're in pretty good shape. What that means is that you've reduced training cost now. You make it so that if you bring in a new person in a country that you've never had somebody in before working on, work in the company, you can give them the process and they can just follow it and get it done, and you know that no errors will be made. Now, a couple of key things is that when people are writing processes, you don't want to refer to generic assets, so you don't wanna tell somebody, "Go to the marketing Excel spreadsheet "and open the first workbook." You need to actually get more specific and say, "Well, how do I access that? "Do I need this link?" and give the actual link to it. How do they get the password, if they need to do that? Well, it's in our password sharing tool, whether that's 1Password or LastPass, doesn't matter, that's how you access and that's how you can go through the process and do it. Then lastly, you don't wanna be referring to specific people and processes, so instead of Sally in hiring, it really should be the HR manager, is the person that gets this, or the accounting department. And it's those nuances and vocabulary again and vernacular that really matter, whether or not these things work. So you identify these processes. The nice thing with a tool like Process Street is that what we end up with is templates. So you might have a template for how a bill gets paid. You may have a template for how a person gets hired. And then you can run specific instances of those checklists for that particular thing. So, how this particular person gets hired, that's how we run a checklist for that, or how this particular bill gets paid. And something like Process Street will automate a lot of that and put the information into the fields for you and really make it very easy. Case in point, we use Process Street for our hiring process and I don't run that process anymore. I actually hadn't seen it in its current form. The other day, I was giving a presentation, I showed this, and while we were there live, I was able to pick somebody through the onboarding process and check their work and see the resume and move them forward through that pipeline. So again, tool agnostic, you could write this stuff down on a piece of paper, if you really wanted to. I don't think that'd be the most efficient, but you could do it and you could identify a process that way but with a tool like Process Tree, you can automate a lot of the ins and outs of it and remove some of those errors. And it's worth pointing out at this point too that the automation aspect of optimize on the outsource, we're really looking at error proofing, reducing cost, and if something is repetitive enough that a human being really shouldn't be doing it and we can automate it, then you definitely don't wanna even get it to the human stage because they will just totally disengage with that work. All right, so this is the suite of tools. We covered a couple of these already but this is one of the stacks that our team is built on. So Slack, as I mentioned, is for internal communication. Inbox by Google is the newest skin on top of Gmail. Now, a lot of organizations have really been in Outlook, they run Outlook. Fine, again, tool agnostic. I do happen to think that the G Suite set of tools is really the most scalable. They're really the most startup friendly in a lot of ways. And don't shy away from the idea of it being a startup. You could be in a Fortune 500 company with a thousand people. You can still be more like a startup in a good way, in a nimble way. So one of the things that Inbox by Google does is it makes it really easy to manage email and stay at Inbox Zero. It certainly helps to have the communication separate, like we talked about with Slack versus Inbox, but I'll give you the really, really quick overview of how I teach people to get the Inbox Zero 'cause that always seems to be useful for people. Email seems to be the number one productivity challenge that people have. When I speak around the world and I ask people, "What is your biggest productivity challenge?" That is always the top one, but the interesting thing about email overload is what it really comes down to is an inability to make efficient decisions. So I think that email is a good model for how you deal with decision-making and you can apply this to every other decision that you might make. So essentially, it's something I call the three Ds, and you can only make a decision on an email once and then you move on. Now, that doesn't mean that you're not gonna see that email again in a different form or place, but at the moment, you make a decision, you move on. So the three Ds, the first one is to delete it or decline it or deny it or say something else with a D that means no. And there's actually many, many different ways to say no from maybe to I'll get back to you, to I'll check on that. Those are all noes. Say no more. Sorry, not to say no more. Say no more often. There's a great expression. There's a really successful entrepreneur named Dean Graziosi, who I like, and he says that yes, got you to where you are, but no, will get you to where you're going. So say no more often. And this is again, we're talking about email but this implies to anything. Somebody wants you to sign something, somebody wants you to speak in an event, whatever it might be, you can say no. So that's the first one. It might be the easiest one. But let's say you can't say no, so can you deal with it right now? That's the second D. Deal with it. Now, if you can deal with something right now, and I mean in the next three minutes, deal with it right now because there's not magically gonna be another three minutes later that you can suddenly figure out how to do all this other stuff that you didn't do. And progress begets progress. Getting something done now will make you happy. It will motivate you to do more. As small of a micro goal as it might be, that's really important, so get it done right now. Now the fun thing there is that the Deal with it D could include a little subset D, which is to delegate it. So you might delegate it to a virtual assistant or to a spouse, if it's a home thing, or to a coworker. But at that point, you are done and that's the mindset that you need to get into that you've passed it on to the right place, you directed it where it should go, and at that moment, you are done. Forget about it and move on. Now, if you can't delete it, and you can't deal with it, then you have to defer it. So this goes back to what we're talking about before about having different biorhythms. There are better times and places to do anything that we do. A really basic way to put that is a lot of people love finance Fridays, so they'll only deal with finance stuff on Fridays. So if you get a invoice on a Tuesday, I'll do it on Friday. If you get a PayPal request on a Wednesday, deal with it Friday. But you have to have a system for deferring that. So if you're using Inbox by Google that's built in, it has its own snooze functionality, which is really cool, so you can snooze it to Friday at 8:50 in the morning and then forget about it, because again, at that moment, you're done, you've handled it, or you can also use a place functionality. So, Google Inbox will allow you to snooze an email to a place. Now this is particularly relevant for a remote team, especially a team that might travel around a lot. So you could say, "Show me this email "only when I get to the San Francisco Airport." I live in New York City and over the several months living up to this, there have been times where somebody, they're like, "Hey, I just went to San Francisco "and you should try this restaurant next time you're there," and you don't necessarily know when you're gonna be in those places again or, "You should really meet up with this guy "the next time you're in San Francisco." So I just snooze those emails to the San Francisco Airport, and I arrived here the other day and all these emails popped up that I'm gonna deal with, restaurants to see and people to talk to, and you never think about it again. If you're not using Inbox by Google, then there's a tool called, which achieves the same goal of deferring an email to whenever you want. Now I mentioned this is about decision-making and not just for email. You can still bring it into email as a reminder. So if somebody says, "Hey, we should talk about this thing "in a couple weeks and let's meet here," you can write yourself a little note, based off an email if you want. In Google Inbox, you can actually do just a reminder and then defer that to a week later or two weeks later. If I meet somebody at a party and I say, "We should follow-up in a couple weeks," I can just make a reminder, two weeks from now, follow-up with so and so from the party. So the important thing there is to get into this mindset that there are going to be better times to do things and it's not worth trying to do them at those other times. If I know that I can write really well at eight o'clock at night, I'm not gonna bang my head against the wall at 10:00 in the morning and try to get that thing done. It's just not gonna happen. And you end up having control through doing that. You control your schedule rather than trying to understand, "Why can't I get this done?" Because you're trying to do it at a time that doesn't make sense for you. There's a concept, depending on which research you look at, known as peak time. So, some might call it biological prime time. And effectively, there's a time in the day for each of us, and it's different, for about 90 minutes where you are 2 to 100 times more effective than any other time in the day. And the definition of effectiveness in that situation is that you're more able to get into a flow state. If you're not familiar what a flow state is, you may have experienced a time in your life, whether it was in work or in some sort of trauma, even, where time dilated, where seconds felt like hours and hours felt like seconds. The stories of somebody sitting down and writing 10,000 words of a book or if anybody's ever, hopefully not, but I'm sure people have, if you've ever been in a car accident, you probably might have remembered that everything seemed to slow down really quickly, and that's the idea of a flow state. So in that peak time, you're more able to get into that flow state and your peak time could be any time in the day. Mine happens to be between 10:00 and noon. Some people I've seen, at eight o'clock at night. I've seen others at 4:00 in the morning. And if you identify what your peak time is, that is the time when you should be doing your highest and best work. Now if really wanna dial it in, you start to figure out the peak times in the different people on your team, then you can start to arrange schedules and coordinate things such that you don't interfere with people's peak times or that you match up people's peak times that do similar work. And I'm telling you, when I say 2 to 100 times more effective, you, theoretically, could get more work done in an hour and a half than you could the entire day or maybe even the rest of the week, if you properly manage peak time. I have a question, especially the remote team. Do you have any suggestions on how to start figuring out those peak times within the remote team, because you're not necessarily next to each? Yeah, absolutely. I actually came up with a hypothesis for this a while ago and tested it out and seem to work fairly well. Now, there's apps that can do this. So there's a thing called the CNS Tap Test. That is the Central Nervous System Tap Test, which is so stupid and basic, you're gonna think that I'm making this up. But basically, you tap your finger on a table like this for 10 seconds as fast as you can and you count the number of taps, your index finger. And for most people, somewhere between like 60 and 90. And if you do that throughout the day, you'll get a baseline or an average, and what we find is that that is a direct corollary to the health and recovery state of your nervous system. So if you're thinking that your peak state or your peak time is when your nerves and your synapses are firing at all cylinders, then theoretically, that should be the time of day when your tap test is the highest. And if you work out really, really hard and you're exhausted one day, your tap test numbers will actually be lower throughout the day and you'll still see that sort of bump somewhere. So I think that there's an app called CNS Tap Pro, which is on Android and iPhone, but if you just look up CNS Tap Test in one of the mobile app stores, you'll find something of that regard. So you can do that for a couple days and start to identify when that peak time is. So it's something worth doing with a remote team to see how people match up, and then see what you can do. So ideally, you wanna just separate it so that your peak time is protected. Nobody touches you, talks to you, bothers you with anything, just do what you're best at. But next level would be that you have two people who do marketing strategy and their peak time happens to match up, that's gold, but you kind of have to get lucky with that. Email, Inbox is for external communications. Slack is for internal. We bridge the gap with Intercom. Intercom is an amazing tool. It's basically a shared inbox. That's the best way to really dumb it down and simplify it. It's a shared inbox. You can have as many people as you want in it and it can pull in from email, text message, your business Facebook page, your business Twitter, and live chat on your website. So if anybody contacts you through any of those means, it will show up in this inbox and it doesn't look different. If it's a text message or Facebook, it's just a new message. And then anybody on your team who's on there, whether it's your vertical leaders or your whole team, your customer service team, whatever you want, they can pick it up. The first person who's available can pick it up, the next available agent. They can respond to the person externally. They can also make notes internally. So when you look at Intercom, it's really cool because you'll have the external message from the person, note between you and somebody else in the team, and then external note back up to the client. You can put save replies in there, there's a built-in Help Center, and it's smart. So if somebody asks a question, there's an article about it in the Help Center. It will actually suggest that you drop it in there for them. You also can get a lot of data in an almost analytic level on who the people are that you're talking to so you can see what page of your website they're on or have ever visited. You can see what country they're in, what language they speak in. You can even automate messages based on that. So if somebody visits your website from Germany and you could say, "Hey, we have German-speaking assistants," like a popup, as a thing, "Let me know if you have any questions." So, that really bridge the gap because you really do want to eliminate emails in the internal communication tool and this is how you bridge the gap with something like Intercom. I mentioned Trello before already as the project management tool, and there's two more worth mentioning. So in the vain of asynchronous communication, there's a tool called FIKA, which again, tool agnostic, doesn't really matter. There's another one called, and it's basically a video walkie-talkie. Honestly, you can even do this now with the new iOS 11 update. You can do it in text messaging, you can do a quick video update. So you record a quick video and then you can send it to somebody over Slack or over text messenger or even in Trello, you can put it into Trello. And you can draw on the screen. You can just be very visual about it. The important thing there is not only are we allowing for asynchronous communication, meaning, I talk when I want and you hear and respond when you want, but it's also the modality in which you like to communicate. So some people might really like typing and writing out in text, some people do. Other people hate it. I'm one of the ones who doesn't like that. I would much prefer do voice or video and just say what I need to say or even point at something and show you. I had a meeting this morning with a client who was showing me how he has a paper with all these graphics on it and he had a meeting with somebody and he wrote all these notes on and he's like, "But now, how do I give this to an assistant?" I was like, "Why don't you just take your phone "and do a video of it and point on the page "and tell them what the notes were "and then give them the video?" He's like, "Oh, that makes so much more sense. "I can do that." So you need to remove as many barriers to your ability to get an idea out of your head as possible. And one of them is, again, not just the synchronous versus asynchronous but the actual mode with which you communicate. So, FIKA's great for video, as is There's another tool called Recordify, which is just audio but same idea. But so now we have a question from the internet, so let's take that now. "What are the best online storage system for storing "and sharing large files? "My team is constantly sending files back and forth." From Trish. Thank you, Trish. Dropbox for business probably is the best bet. I think some people would say that Google Drive might be really good. I personally don't like that. I think that Dropbox really is the most flexible. Most people I'd say, like, Dropbox is pretty widespread. Some people have personal accounts with Dropbox, they have the business accounts, and the nice thing with Dropbox is that it's not just necessarily sharing a file. You can actually give people a folder of information, so it becomes much more collaborative. Dropbox also actually allows you to create documents inherently within it. And in addition, if you put a Dropbox link into Slack or into Trello, it will actually unfurl the link and put that information in there live. So if that changes, it will be there. And it's pretty cheap, so yeah, I would say that Dropbox for business, in this case, where just Dropbox is gonna be the best online storage option. The other thing too why I like Dropbox is that you can automate quite a few things within it. There's a tool called, which will automatically sort files in your Dropbox into other folders based on keywords. So you could say that any time I drop a file in here that has the word client in it, then it automatically moves that to our client folder. So it automatically will keep the Dropbox nice and organized. And there's another tool called Wappwolf, which is W-A-P-P-W-O-L-F, which automates full on actions in Dropbox. So you can say, if I put a file into this particular folder in Dropbox and I wanna convert it to a PDF, resize an image, and add it to Evernote and post it to Slack, and all of those things can be completely automated just by placing it in Dropbox. So, Dropbox is the tool. The last thing is Calendly. How do we keep everybody on a schedule, or not keep on a schedule, but keep schedules in sync when they need to be and be able to have meetings when we need to do as well? So, Calendly is similar to other tools you might be familiar with, like ScheduleOnce or TimeTrade or Doodle, and what it does is it gives you a public-facing appointment page, so anybody can go to this website, and they can pick a time to meet with you. Now, there's a few, little, cool things. One is, first of all, we always like to do this little hack where we buy domain names such as or, and then you can point that to your Calendly page. Neither of those are the actual URL for me. Just fair warning. But you can do that so that it's really easy so that if anybody wants to talk to you, say, "Yeah, just pick a time that works for you." Now, I said before that control is the answer to distress. In this type of situation, when you tell somebody, "Go pick a time that works for you," you are actually giving them the illusion of control, which is a good thing. You are giving them the control, but it's within a parameter that you've set because when they go to that page, they might be able to pick a 15-minute meeting but you can tell Calendly, "Don't show availability "on Mondays or Wednesdays or Thursdays, "just on Tuesdays or Fridays." And when somebody goes to that, that's the availability they will see. So they can pick the things that work for you and you can protect your peak time from one thing or another. You're also avoiding all the back and forth required to set up a typical meeting. The average number of emails required to set, or the average number of messages required to set up a meeting is 8.1, which is kind of ridiculous. This could make it one or even zero if you just say, "Hey, go to this link, pick a time." Calendly also allows them to do their own rescheduling. So if they get to that point and the meeting doesn't work for them, they can just clink a link, reschedule it, takes it out of their calendar, takes it out of your calendar, and puts in the new one. But you can also do group bookings with Calendly. You can do two kinds. One is that you can say, "For this one appointment, I'll allow up to 10 people "to come to this one thing." So maybe you wanna do a webinar every week with your team or a few of them, so pick one of the three in the week and get attended and then all the people in that group will get that information. You can also do something called a round robin. So if you have a sales team or customer service team, you can basically have somebody book an appointment and it will go through and pick the next available one and give them all that information. And then lastly, Calendly, you can automate through their API and you can pull in information to Slack so that everybody's aware of an appointment or send people a text message, whatever you need to do. So that's a really important tool for us.

Class Description

More and more businesses are gravitating to remote teams for a whole host of reasons. It cuts down on overhead and office rental costs. It allows you to recruit talent from all over the world so you can find the most qualified, most affordable employees. And it gives your team members a better shot at achieving an optimal work-life balance.

However, there are challenges that need to be addressed. When employees work from all corners of the country, or even the world, there can be problems with cohesiveness and communication. It’s important to develop new and innovative ways to keep people engaged, motivated and focused on a unified mission.

Ari Meisel leads a team of over 100 remote employees, so he’s well-versed in the pitfalls of managing remote teams and how to make them work. This course will take you through the process of setting up and managing your remote team to ensure you build a thriving, productive and successful business.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Utilize the latest communication and project management tools to keep your team united and in lockstep.
  • Avoid escalating disagreements that tend to arise from employees not being in the same room.
  • Optimize your team workflows, processes and tracking.
  • Finding balance and structure within different time zones.
  • Understanding behavioral economics so you can build a strong company culture.
  • Keeping employees engaged and excited to ensure your mission is being advanced.


Trish at Trish Mennell Photography

Great info. I wish I'd had this three years ago. Would have saved me weeks of research.