Maximising productivity in the workplace means getting the most value out of every hour of the working day. To achieve this, you need to ensure your team’s workflows are fully synchronised, and that all tasks are completed in an efficient and timely manner.
Coordinating projects, tracking task completion, and ensuring accountability can be difficult without the right tools, especially if you operate a remote or hybrid workforce. Thankfully, a wide range of affordable, user-friendly and effective productivity applications make it easy to manage your team’s workflows and foster a truly collaborative culture.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to 6 productivity apps you should consider using in your business in 2024, before going on to explain some of the big changes coming to Microsoft Planner early next year. Let’s get started.
Microsoft To Do
Microsoft To Do is a simple, free-to-use personal productivity application that integrates seamlessly within the Microsoft ecosystem.
To Do’s ‘My Day’ feature provides a personalized schedule of the day ahead, making the intuitive and attractive application perfect for personal task management, while also including the functionality necessary to assign tasks to colleagues, designate due dates and trigger frequent reminders. To Do syncs seamlessly with Microsoft Outlook, and flagged emails show up as tasks, so you’ll never forget to follow up on those important messages.
Accessible as a web app, on android, iOS, windows, mac, and within Microsoft 365, Microsoft To Do helps you manage your personal and work-related tasks whether you’re working from home, in the office, or on the go.
If you operate within the Google ecosystem – Gmail, Google Workspace, Google Calendar etc. – then Google Tasks is a great place to start your journey into productivity applications. Google Tasks appears within the sidebar of Gmail and Calendar, and integrates seamlessly with both, as well as with Google Docs.
While Google Tasks occupies the feature-lite end of the productivity app spectrum, this intuitive little application features enough functionality to help you manage everyday activities with ease, and enhance your productivity. You can create tasks and specify due dates, create ‘subtasks’ to divide your workflow into manageable chunks, trigger notifications when deadlines are reached, and categorise tasks into lists to segregate personal errands from work assignments.
Google Tasks is free to Google account holders, and can be accessed via the web, or as an iOS or android application on mobile devices, affording complete task management mobility.
Price: Free. Premium version available for $35.99 per year.
TickTick is a To Do list and task management application designed to be an all-in-one personal organiser. TickTick supports a vast range of platforms, including iOS, android, Windows, Mac and Web, and contains over 30 features, making it a powerful and effective productivity tool at this price point. Key functionality includes:
· Fast and Easy Task Creation. Use your microphone to set up tasks from voice commands, or set up tasks from emails in a few clicks.
· Stay on Top of Deadlines. Assign due dates, task durations, enjoy automated reminder, and configure recurring tasks.
· Organise Tasks and Workflows. Organise items into folders, lists, tasks and check items. Apply tags to tasks, assign priority levels and sort, filter and search to quickly find what you’re looking for.
· Stay Productive. TickTick features an integrated pomodoro timer, to ensure your work sessions stay focussed and productive.
· Calendar Views. Multiple calendar views provide empowering visibility, ensuring you never fail to meet your deadlines.
Price: Personal version is free. Enterprise options start at $13.49 per user/month.
Asana is a widely-used productivity application known for its clean and sharp design. Featuring a Kanban board layout, Asana makes it easy to visualise project workflows, categorise tasks, set priorities and monitor progress.
Asana is recognised for its versatility, with its ability to adapt and support the workflow demands of numerous business departments, including marketing, operations, IT and business leadership. The platform also supports a myriad of third-party integrations, allowing it to complement and enhance the tools and services you’re already using.
Asana’s key capabilities include:
· Automation. Create custom rules that expedite task creation, and enable cross-platform automations with over 200 integrations.
· Project Visibility. Timeline, board and list views make it easy to maintain project visibility across teams and identify productivity roadblocks.
· Monitor Progress. Reporting tools and customisable dashboards make for easy and effective workflow progress management. Build personalized visualisations and derive meaningful insights from project data.
· Data Protection Features. Maintain compliance and safeguard sensitive information with numerous data protection features, including encryption, regional backups, two-factor authentication and more.
· Effective Collaboration. Messaging and comments make it easy to coordinate and manage resources for teams. Set goals to aid motivation and inspire remote and hybrid teams.
Price: From $9.80 per user/per month
Wrike is an industry-leading workplace productivity platform, used by over 20,000 organisations around the globe. Deep customisability, over 400 integrations, and a minimalist interface that belies rich functionality, make it a compelling productivity option for businesses of any size.
Compatible with both Windows and macOS, Wrike is replete with features for effective task management and effective collaboration, including task lists, subtasks, shared workflows, file sharing, scheduling and live communication. The features and benefits of Wrike include:
· Time-saving Features. From workflow automations that help eliminate duplicated effort, to automated approvals and request forms, Wrike ensures your time is spent on value-adding activities.
· Better Workflow Visibility. Live dashboards that offer meaningful insights support managers in making data-informed decisions, and help foster enhanced accountability and more effective collaboration.
· Adaptable to a Range of Departments and Goals. Wrike has been designed as the only productivity platform your business will ever need, and as such, it can be moulded around the needs of any departmental team, from marketing and operations, to project managers, IT, engineering and more.
· Gannt Charts. Interactive Gannt charts make it easy to monitor workflow progression, communicate dependencies to your team, and give every project contributor access to a single source of truth.
· Kanban Boards. Intuitive and customisable Kanban boards make it easy to maintain organisation-wide project visibility. Organise work into categories and help employees focus on their goals by providing clarity.
Price: From $9 per user/per month
ClickUp streamlines project collaboration by integrating communication and task management seamlessly into a single unified interface. The platform contains everything you need to stay on top of daily tasks, tackle complex projects, achieve your organisational objectives and much more.
The live chat feature fosters greater remote connectivity, and tagging, comments and task links ensure nothing gets misplaced in the daily bustle of the office grind. ClickUp also helps you meet your performance goals, with the ability to set adjustable targets across a range of task completion and business outcome metrics. Key benefits and features of ClickUp include:
· Comprehensive Task and Project Management. Efficient task scheduling and tracking, plus extensive project management functionalities.
· Resource and Budget Management. Ensure projects stay profitable and fully aligned with contractual obligations with effective resource allocation and budget control features.
· Effortless Communication and Collaboration. Facilitate harmonious group collaboration with easy file sharing, plus integrated chat and email functionalities.
· Immersive Data Analysis and Reporting. Gain insights from project data with easy-to-interpret visualisations and evaluate performance with process reporting.
· Works With the Tool You Use. ClickUp supports over 1000 platform integrations, supporting seamless cross-platform automation and uniting the tools your team uses.
· Tools to Combat Workplace Challenges. Additional capabilities include expense tracking, contact management, timesheets, roadmapping, customer management and employee database functionality.
Changes Are Coming to Microsoft Planner in 2024 – Here’s What You Can Expect
If you’re a Microsoft 365 customer, you’ll already have several productivity platforms at your disposal, in the form of To Do, Planner, Tasks in Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Project. Next year, the way in which these tools are packaged and delivered is set for a dramatic change.
So what’s the problem with the way they are now?
With so many options to choose from, challenges can arise in selecting the right application for any given purpose. Microsoft Planner and To Do have been around since 2016 - a long time in the world of technology - and as such, are overdue a refresh. Furthermore, 365’s mainstream productivity app, Microsoft Planner, has long been considered too basic for more advanced project management demands, a fact that has forced many users to upgrade to the far more complex and costly Microsoft Project.
So what’s Microsoft’s solution?
A number of changes aim to streamline and enhance task management across Microsoft 365. These will mostly come into effect in Spring 2024. Significant changes include:
· Tasks in Teams will be renamed ‘Planner.’ The tasks app within Teams -which incorporates Planner and To Do – is going to be renamed to ‘Planner,’ for greater simplicity.
· One Consolidated Productivity Solution. In Spring 2024, Microsoft To Do, Planner and Project will be incorporated into a single application, simply called ‘Planner.’ This will allow users to view all their Microsoft 365 tasks in a single-pane-of-glass interface, that will be available at first as an app within Microsoft Teams, and later as a standalone web application.
· More Advanced Features. Microsoft intends to broaden Planner’s appeal by infusing it with features and capabilities found in Microsoft Project, making it a more rounded, capable and advanced project management tool.
· Basic and Premium Offerings. Planner will be offered in two versions. A base-level version will be included within Microsoft 365 subscriptions, while a premium version will also be available for an extra cost. The premium version will incorporate Microsoft’s new AI-powered assistant, CoPilot, in addition to a raft of more advanced project management features, such as timelines and the ability to configure dependencies.
Workplace productivity apps are invaluable tools for coordinating projects, ensuring accountability, and adhering to strict deadlines. If you’re looking to introduce better task management to your business to support greater productivity, then you may want to consider some of the innovative solutions we’ve discussed in this article. Alternatively, if you’re a Microsoft 365 customer, you could hold tight until spring 2024 to experience the exciting changes coming to Microsoft Planner for yourself.
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