Hello, I’m Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe - to-do app for business owners and their teams. I write essays, books, work on projects and I podcast for you using #iPadOnly in #NoOffice as I believe that work is not a place you go to, it’s a thing you do. More…

My way of project management and planning


Some time ago I wrote about how I deal with my “Inboxes” and offered a set of extra tips and tricks from my “10 Steps to Ultimate Productivity Video Course”. Today, to keep you going, I would like to focus on the other part of the productivity jigsaw: the projects.

Note: The following article appeared fist in the June 2014 issue of iMagazine - the leading lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts in Poland. I’m a regular contributor and write my monthly productivity column there.

My way of project management and planning

OK, but what are we calling “projects”?

According to a definition that comes from “Getting Things Done” book by David Allen, project is “any commitment that takes more than one step to complete.” This is a great description, however it could be more flexible. Let’s see an example: writing this blog post might be a task (“write a blog about projects”) as well as a project with several tasks (“prepare the post structure”, “write the post”, “choose a photo”, etc.)

I find myself needing to find a different solution, where sometimes I group a couple of really easy tasks into one big task consisting of several small steps… and in different circumstances I prefer to create a separate project with a number of tasks. I think it all comes down to complexity of what you’re set out to accomplish…

Here’s how I approach projects:

How I start a new project - a brain dump first…

I use my own tool for getting tasks and projects done - Nozbe. But, of course, everyone can choose a tool they find the most effective. I create a project in Nozbe and then I list the tasks spontaneously - I do a brain dump. At this stage, I don’t analyze which task should be on top, what should be the tasks’ order or what attributes they have. I just add whatever I can think of. I’ll arrange them everything neatly later.

When a project gets too complex… I don’t create sub-projects!

When a project is really complex and it contains way too many tasks, you can do several different things. Many people would create sub-projects right away. And then sub-projects for sub-projects etc. Indeed, “a ladder” like this looks really nice on the outside but working on it can become a nightmare. I know! I’ve tested it many times myself. That’s why there is no sub-project option in Nozbe… but we do let you group projects according to labels instead.

So, in place of projects and sub-projects we have peer projects with the same label. For example, I have a “Writing” label where I group all my writing commitments due for each month.

It works like a structure in a company - the flatter it is (and the fewer middle level managers there are) the better.

Project sharing - effective successor to e-mail at work

I don’t let my team use e-mail. If you want someone to do something for you, create a task for him or her. We share many projects in Nozbe. There, we add numerous tasks, we comment them and delegate the tasks to each other. In general, we communicate through tasks. This way, everyone can see what is going on, who has done what and who has added comments. There are no e-mails. Nobody forgets to CC or BCC somebody. I’ll write more about it soon.

So we have projects and tasks. Now what?

Tasks are not enough. I add some reference materials like comments and attachments to my projects as well.

What tools do I use to do this? Some apps on my iPad: Camera, Evernote and Dropbox (directly) and Editorial and other apps that save stuff to Dropbox (indirectly).


Adding photos directly to projects and tasks’ comments in Nozbe on iPhone or iPad is very practical. However, I’ve been trying to avoid saving photos which actually are not photos to my iPhone’s Camera recently. So, instead:

Evernote - as most of my notes are thre

I add photos to a note in Evernote. This way they don’t get to my photo stream and don’t clog it up. Nozbe can be easily synced with Evernote so I’m able to add any note to any task with just two taps.

Example - brainstorming on a whiteboard

When I work with my team trying to puzzle out a problem, we connect via FaceTime (if there are two of us) or Google Hangouts (if there are more people involved, although this app often hangs…) or Skype. My camera is set on the whiteboard and I draw the scheme of what we are working on. Then, I take a picture of the board, I save it to Evernote and add it to a suitable project that we share. Usually I make it a comment in one of the tasks.

Dropbox - as most of files are there

Again, Dropbox is synced with Nozbe and I can attach Dropbox files to tasks in my projects. I often write specifications and longer pieces of texts in Editorial on my iPad. I save my scribbles to Dropbox and then I just add this file as a comment in Nozbe. I do the same with the mind maps and all other files.

There is nothing wrong about a large number of projects

Because I treat numerous “complex tasks” as projects, I have quite a lot of them. There are several advantages of that: I can see all the projects at once and it is much easier to manage them. I also get more satisfaction as I complete more projects :) At the same time I use many of my projects as “folders” or “repositories” of tasks. That means they never finish: although the tasks inside them get done regularly, new ones come in all the time. A good example of this might be my “Nozbe Marketing” project or the project that I use to cooperate with my assistant.

This way I always have 50-100 projects that I manage to handle on a daily basis. Even on my iPad :)

Good luck with playing the project manager game!

Each of us manages many day-to-day projects and thus becomes a Project Manager. I encourage you to spend some time on configuring your tools and apps, arranging the projects and processing or reviewing them regularly.

You’re more than welcome to watch the following lessons of my short 10 Steps to Ultimate Productivity Video Course.

Question: And how do you manage your projects?

Thursday, January 22, 2015 /project-management/