Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now in Washington, DC.
Associations professionals are required to manage multiple projects simultaneously, which means there is lots of potential for burnout. Project management software can help wrangle the to-do list.
As an association professional, you inevitably juggle multiple projects simultaneously. Is there a way to complete everything without burning out?
"Absolutely, yes,” says Tim Hopkins, assistant director, digital center, at the International Association of Fire Chiefs. “You just need to know how to make the best use of your time.” In many cases, that means finding the right tech tool.
To help its 80-plus staff on that front, IAFC started using project management software a few years back. Many such tools are available; the one IAFC selected is called Asana. It allows all staff members to see their tasks at quick glance. They can assign due dates, give other team members tasks to complete, create sub-tasks, and add notes and attachments. “Plus, every staffer can access and see every project going on, who’s involved, and so forth, which makes for a much more collaborative office,” Hopkins says.
Ideally, staff—organization-wide and at every level, even your CEO—need to engage with the tool and embrace it.—Tim Hopkins, International Association of Fire Chiefs
For IAFC, using project management software has accomplished two things. First, it allowed the organization “to lay out an efficient and transparent process to accomplish organizational goals,” Hopkins says. And with the increased efficiency the software brought, staff have been able to finish projects earlier than expected, allowing them to make room for more creativity and add thinking about innovation into their work weeks.
As Hopkins points out, employees can have a great project management tool at their fingertips, but if they don’t use it, investing time and resources into the tool is a moot point. “Ideally, staff—organization-wide and at every level, even your CEO—need to engage with the tool and embrace it,” Hopkins says. “Because if only some people use it, then it comes to be a point of frustration for your regular users and can build resentment.”
Based on his experience implementing such tools at IAFC, Hopkins says the only way to achieve that level of engagement is to first get buy-in from executives and senior staff and then meet with every department individually to help them “personalize their use of the tool,” such as demonstrating how a spreadsheet it’s currently using can be easily mimicked in the new tool.
“Look, I’m not going to tell anyone it will be easy in the beginning,” he says. “But remember the end game: a staff team that is efficient, that knows where every project stands, and that feels more empowered to better serve your members.”
[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Tech Memo: Wrangle Your To-Dos."]