Update: Since publishing this in 2015, Azendoo has removed their free tier of service and gone to a paid-only product. Since sometimes I was a paying customer and sometimes I was not, depending on my needs, I decided it was time to look elsewhere as it was no longer going to make sense for me and my small teams I work with to pay each month. So, sadly, I slowly and painfully migrated out of Azendoo and re-established myself in the updated and much-improved Asana.
So, you may still want to read this as an overview of the goodness that Azendoo offers. I’ll write a new “favorite project management post” covering my new system soon.
It felt like a breakup, Azendoo, but I’ve moved on and I’m happy now… I hope you find what you’re looking for… or whatever people say here.
tl;dr: If you don’t have time to read this, it’s probably exactly why you need to read this, take my advice here, and use Azendoo so you can chill. Ha! Got ya on that one! But really, this is the entire way I use my favorite project management application and why you might want to use it, or at least one like it, as well. It’s very thorough on the capabilities of the app and written primarily for “beginners” in this sorta thing.
Another sufficient title for this post could be “How I Get Lots And Lots Of Stuff Done” or maybe even: “How I Stay Sane And Never Forget Anything”
I’m going to tell you upfront, it is an application. But, if you’re one of those folks who is all “anti-app” for being productive, then well, go ahead and limit yourself to the stone age (while the rest of us will continue into the future), or take my word for it that likely you’ve simply never allowed yourself to settle in well enough to a good enough application.
I mean, I get it, we’d all like to think we can just use a calendar (as if that tool is more righteous than a to-do list or project management application for a tool) and then just depend on our brilliance and good memory to suffice for accomplishing all our ideas and responsibilities.
But tell me the last time that worked for you? I mean, really.
You may think it has… Until I tell you that I can’t remember the last time I forgot an idea (no matter how silly), or thought of a small task I needed to get done and then didn’t worry about focusing on or moving on to whatever I was doing previously, or the last time I didn’t know what to do next with my time, work, or project… no matter how long it had been since I was doing that.
I’m not fibbing, at all.
Calendars and good memories maybe worked in the 20th century, but welcome to the world of the 21st century of fragmented lives, ultra connected people, too many possibilities, not enough time, and lots of pressure to do, be, never forget, always be fast and efficient, and… You get it…
There’s a reason why project management and to-do list applications have become so crazy popular and there are countless ones out there both on web and mobile (I’ve tried sooo many)! They’re great, and I would say now, necessary, if you are to wear multiple hats and be a highly productive person.
I have no shame in saying, “This is my digital memory”, because it’s a dang good memory!
Perhaps you don’t want to be either of those “multiple-hat” or “super-productive” people though, and that’s okay. Perhaps you just want to be chill and live a slow and simple life. That’s fine…
However, I would still suggest this for taking things off your mind, never stressing up your brain with what it has to try to remember (or cluttering up your life with tiny random papers with forgotten stuff on them) and instead freeing your brain’s power and your workspace and home environments for simply being creative!
It will likely also make you more money if you use it (I’ll explain).
Now you’re in.
So without further ado, here is my favorite tool I’ve found for my sanity…
Azendoo, And All About It
I’ve used Azendoo since it was an app with sticky notes you moved around on a calendar, and it’s come a long ways in the last few years and I’ve learned some things about it, other apps, and project management in general. Let me give you a few quick caveat style tips before we dive in (cause everything else is pretty simple, really):
- You’ll see from the screenshots that there are many ways to utilize this application both as a digital storage locker of important information, a team communication app, and/or a daily to-do list app. I would recommend you use it in-part for some of each, but not specifically or primarily for any of those. I find it best to use other tools for those primarily, and this for it’s “bread and butter” usage: project management.
- Azendoo has multiple integrations into other services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Slack, and more – which I’m not going to cover other than to say, I use them and so will you.
- It is an ever developing “software as a service” tool, and therefore justifiably free in some uses and paid in others. You may see a couple different uses that are “premium features” from me, but I’m sticking to primarily the free usage. I go back and forth at times.
- I’ve tried nuuuuuumerous other applications and even notebook methods for what I’m going to show you, and for long periods of time, and nothing has been as satisfying as Azendoo. I’ll be honest and say they took me from the popular Asana, Trello, Basecamp, Nozbe, (and more) applications because during a side-by-side trial run of many of them about 2 years ago (after deciding I needed to quit diddly-daddling with multiple for short periods of time), Azendoo was most faithful to continually and quickly improve and update all versions of their applications on all platforms. They also had the best user interface by a mile. I’ve worked with others since then and they’ve all improved some, and are cool in their own ways, but…
- Your best bet with any project management application is to just USE IT and STICK TO IT!
- Azendoo is on every popular platform you can think of (which is not Blackberry most likely), including a killer-good web application – which is a must-have!
- You can use it effectively both individually and with a team, and if you’re working with a team, it really shines!
- I use a different application for daily to-do listing for myself, in co-operation with this.
- There’s a tad bit of learning curve to Azendoo, in part thanks to it’s unique terminology, but it won’t take long if you actually try at all.
- I am not being paid by Azendoo for this gushing. I’m simply grateful.
The Many Features And How To Use It
Most of your life can quite simply be divided into “projects” and “non-projects.”
For example(s): Your business you run: project! Your milk you need to get: not a project! Your blog you write for: project! Your thank-you card you need to write: not a project! Your garage you’re cleaning out and organizing: project! Your friend you need to pay back: not a project (at least I hope not)!
Projects are typically anything ongoing, or especially, multi-step items in your life that need broken down. Everything else that are one step things to remember: get a great to-do list app (I’ll write about it soon).
For projects, Azendoo utilizes what they call “Workspaces”. Every major business, website, venture, and even my “Voth Home” has a “Workspace” I share with whoever is on my “team” in that project… or just for myself in some cases.
Note: Often, smaller projects often fall within larger ones, such as “organizing my garage” being part of the “Voth Home” Wokspace. Bigger picture thinking, here. Ha!
For these designated areas of focus, or smaller projects within a project, Azendoo uses “Subjects”.
So for one of my websites, TheMajestysMen.com, I have subjects called Overall Development, Merchandise, Website Updates, Social Media, and so on. Most of my projects have many, many “Subjects” within them.
Then, you get down to the nitty-gritty, and within the subjects you begin listing the tasks that you have to accomplish for the larger good of the project.
Tasks can also go into multiple subjects! For example, a task such as “Edit and simplify the product catalog might need to go into both “General Business Development” as well as “Website”.
You can then take notes on, and attach files to, each task in a little slide-out box. No forgetting. No losing. No re-hashing!
My favorite utilization of this feature is with my wife and I’s “Selling” Subject within our “Voth Home” Workspace. We attach all our photos of every item we decide we want to list on Craigslist, along with all the details about it in the notes section, and we never have to look for those again while we re-list it until it sells. Score!
(P.S. This is how I said you can make money off of this highly organized lifestyle… I can’t begin to tell you how much more simple and clean this has made our life! We’re quickly becoming wealthier minimalists I think. Ha!)
But, It Gets Even Better If You’re Working With A Team…
Different people can have different permission levels, and they can be in / see certain subjects and not others. Besides obvious privacy benefits, it also simplifies the work noise for those who need a more narrowed focus. If you’re the one needing to keep an eye on everything though, it also allows you to simply “look in on” subjects you don’t need to work on, but need to keep tabs on.
Then, Azendoo allows you to assign certain tasks to certain people. That person is then notified and the task appears for them in their overall task list as well. They know, and so does everyone else, that this task is clearly for them to do.
You can also comment and converse on each task. I have loved this feature! Even when you’re not hitting the all-satisfying check-mark button, you can comment on the overall development of the task, such as “I’m just waiting on bla bla bla now…” or “Has this been approved by the bossman yet?”
If you are owner / manager / leader of a team and want to see all the activity, you get a designated Activity Stream just for that. You can do it for the total Workspace or more narrowed to a specific Subject.
A feature I’ve only found useful at certain times when working within a larger organization is the ability to post public “Messages” as well, such as polls, helpful information for a team, and so on. People can also comment on these and leave feedback! This has it’s very own stream and view, just like your Tasks do.
Also, you get a whole view, just like your Tasks, for “Direct Messages”. This is a fairly new feature, and it’s a very useful one since almost everything else is rightly public.
Lots and lots of useful views for all the specificity you desire! They even rolled out graphs and report boxes for seeing your production lately, but, wow… I can’t imagine using those at this point… or working for the person who does! Ha!
Fine Advice On Managing And Planning Your Tasks
So that’s kinda what it does on a zoomed out feature level, but let’s note a few vital things on managing your tasks before we’re done…
A few things more strictly “user experience” speaking would be that you get a few different views to see your tasks depending on how you want to sort them. You can view all your tasks per Subject, per master task list of Workspace under “Tasks” in the space, and per User as well (but I’ve only ever had Admin access on all spaces).
This was once the full extent of what Azendoo did, which was great, but as I mentioned previously, they continue to roll out tweaks and improvements to the usability of the applications. Their mobile apps don’t yet do all of these next things, but I’m sure they soon will…
So, you can also take your tasks and view them through sorting filters such as Now, Later, Someday, and Completed. You can also then sort them by Planned Date and Due Date.
A word on these latter two options…
DO NOT EVER MARK SOMETHING AS “DUE” UNLESS IT REALLY IS!!! I mean that, incase you couldn’t tell. This is a wonderful feature they have built into Azendoo. You can PLAN to do a task, even though it’s not actually due, and you should! But, never get into the habit of marking things due and then ignoring them.
Why? Because when it comes time you actually have a due date, you’ll likely ignore that too. You want to train your brain to treat one as great advice you’ll try to stick to and one as vital, absolute, no-doubt-about-it, most-urgent, most-important advice.
No matter what tool you use, stick to this advice and it will save your life!
You can also sort tasks by Assignee within the Workspace, which I figure is more for people who are managers and love managing… but, whatever… can be useful…
Lastly, quite recently we’ve been given this semi-handy ability to place dividers within your Subject’s task lists that let you further subdivide your lists to your heart’s creative content.
An example of how I’ve used these would be “Need Price” or “Not Quite Yet, But Soon” within the “Selling” Subject I have.[Subdivided lists, Need Price PHOTO]
When it’s all managed well, the ideal scenario is that every day you can login to the web app, view exactly what needs done for the day in every area and project in your life, have it prioritized, sorted by urgency, and know exactly where you’re picking up next!
Closing Thoughts And Encouragements
Again, if you’ve even slightly just scanned this, you could likely feel overwhelmed. I would encourage you rather than being intimidated, to just begin using it! It’s the only way to learn and fully use anything!
The user interface seems odd to most people who aren’t app aficionados, and most anyone over 35, but you’ll catch on really quick and it will begin to make total sense. You’ll soon wish your paper notebook was so easy… if you still have it after this.
Free or Premium – A Bit Of Frustration
Also, it seems they continue to tweak a bit of what they’re allowing for free or for paid users. I believe they’ve begun limiting the amount of Workspaces that free users can have – maybe even to just one – and if that’s the case, that’s a bit sucky!
One thing I’d recommend though – and I use this even though I have nine Workspaces – is to utilize one Workspace as a “catch all” for smaller Projects-as-Subjects until you are certain you want to go all in. You can then subdivide those lists and still use them for project management and task sorting, tracking, file attachments, reminders, etc.
It’s not ideal, but it works well!
I willingly do this with one Workspace I call “Other Websites” and I put each website I’m currently working on for a client or is just a small idea and not a full blown multi-faceted project I know I’ll need major help or precise management with.
However, software-as-a-service providers need pay, of course, and the target people needing this application will benefit from the premium versions enough to typically justify the costs if you dive all in.
Let Me Know How It Goes, Or What You Use!
I love to hear how others benefit from this, help you get settled in or maximize your scenario, answer questions, or even hear if you have a different use case or favorite application.
P.S. And remember… I’ll soon write about my Daily To-Do List Management, and Team Communication, and how they are different but integrated with this system. So, stick around!