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Emi Kirschner on Take Back Time With Better Project Management: Zoho Project Management
I am super excited to talk about project management, planning and communications because this is so important to our success. It is something that a lot of entrepreneurs have great challenges with, having the right tools and the right mindset and focus. I know this is going to be a great show for you. Not only that, but I have a dear friend and an amazing individual. She’s an investor, a serial entrepreneur, a coach and an international speaker. I only hang out with high achievers. Emi Kirschner is here with us. She really masterfully brings her deep intuitive abilities and her analytical sense to help creative entrepreneurs and visionary leaders to build their businesses and make the impact that they want to make while also doubling their revenue. She’s an expert in creating and implementing strategic long-term plans, increasing productivity and performance while reducing stress, increasing sales and building leadership. She also teaches young people between the seventh and twelfth grade how to write their business plans and pitch to investors. Emi, welcome to the show.
Thank you. That was the best intro. It takes two great minds to be super excited about project management.
We know it’s important. We’re going to do some technical review of Zoho Projects and other types of project management tools as well as get into some of your brainchild around that whole thinking process.
I’m excited because I’ve probably used four or five different project management tools. They are all helpful for me, works the way my head does. It’s so much easier to manage multiple projects and big projects, and some that have timeframes and some of the ongoing things that every month we’re doing a different set of tasks for.
Let’s talk about that. You’ve used a couple of different project management tools. What kind of tools have you used so that people can understand? What are some of the other tools out there?
We’ve used Asana. I think it’s called Monday but they’re using a different name now. I like Zoho better. We used Trello, which is great at least for me for simple things. My team and I, our planning is far too complex for it to manage effectively. We used Freedcamp for a while. I’m pretty sure there’s something else out there. We’ve played around and looked at a lot of different tools when we finally moved to Zoho Projects. It was through that trial and error too, “This one’s great but it doesn’t do X, Y, and Z. This one’s great, but it doesn’t work for my head.”
What were the top things that you were looking for when you were going through and trialing? Granted to those out there, you might be looking for something different. I don’t want to say you have to do it this way, but I find it fun to pick apart other people’s brains to see what’s important to you.
I’m going to also add too that there’s no good or bad here. For me, it’s about finding the thing that works for you. One, there had to be a comfort level with all of our team members. When we were looking at this, I have four people on my team, two of them were really young and it needed to be simple to use. People weren’t going to be reading instructions and watching a ton of videos on how to use this. It had to be relatively intuitive. Nothing against Asana but for me, it was more a glorified to-do list and I needed more than that. That’s what Zoho Projects does for me. It gives me an ability to manage the project and measure how we’re doing on the progress and see it in different views and different ways so that I know that we’re staying on track.
There’s some reporting on the dashboard that makes it easier. I can look at projects as a whole too, not just one project. We’ve got, at any given time, between four to ten things going on. It’s how we are doing as a whole because that’s what I’m looking at when I’m doing my monthly and quarterly planning. It’s not just this one thing. It’s not just my podcast. Are we getting all speakers in and materials and whatever else? Are we doing everything we need week-over-week, month-over-month?
That’s simplicity and being intuitive. Being able to measure progress was the second thing. Was there anything else that was important for you to make sure this tool can do for you?
We need to be able to store our documents, different graphics, different Word Docs, spreadsheets, whatever it goes with that project. A lot of project management tools do this too. I love Slack. We’re actually moving away from Slack a little bit and keeping more of the data files assigned to each project.
It gives you more structure. Is that why you’re moving away from Slack?
Yeah. When you get into the second or third revision of creating a social media graphic or anything else, it gets lost in Slack pretty easily. It’s tied into that one thing and it’s less searching.There's no good or bad tool; it's really about finding the thing that works for you. Click To Tweet
Those are things that until you get further down with a lot of tools, you don’t see some of the challenges that could be there. That’s why we’re doing this, it’s to get people to be thinking of that ahead of time. It’s a great metaphor for anything that we do. It’s to be able to think a couple of steps ahead as to what might happen. It’s a scenario planning so that you can see how this strategy is going to pan out and what are the different ways that we might hit some challenges.
It’s nice too because the Reminder feature for Zoho Projects works the way I’m expecting it to. I’ve had things that were either difficult to set up or they didn’t send them at the time that I thought they were sending them. I get my reminders in a way that is timely for me, that makes sense for me, that I actually go and use. The biggest thing is that we use projects on the project management system far more effectively. There’s still a learning curve and things that we can do better, but I feel way more organized. I even have my personal stuff in there. There’s one project for all my personal things and we would sub-project all of those out.
You use projects and sub-projects. You break that project down into sub-projects. Would those sub-projects for you be like milestones or are they the granular sub-project or are they a cluster of milestones?
Some of them are milestones and some of them are groupings of tasks that need to be done together in order to contribute to the milestone.
We’ve got the document management on top of that, the Reminder function. Is there anything else that stands out that you said these are the reasons why Zoho is your number one project management tool?
This is silly, but I’m a color person and you can change some of the colors on how the data’s reported. That gives me extreme joy.
Go with joy. If it brings you joy, you should do it.
For those of you who are more creative, having some of that little stuff makes it fun. If it gives you the customized feeling, it’s helpful.
I know that Zoho and all these other programs have a free version and different paid versions. Are you using the basic functionality? Are you using the paid functionality?
We’re using paid because I need to have multiple users.
Is that the main difference between free and paid?
There are other features in there too. I don’t remember anymore. They have a really clear chart, which was always good for me too.
Do you use other Zoho Projects? I know they have other products. Do you use those and how do those integrate for you?
We use Zoho Social for social media scheduling and we’re just setting up Zoho CRM. There’s some more interaction between Zoho Social and Zoho CRM where the contacts in my CRM will automatically be tied to the social media so that if people are commenting on a particular post and they’re in my CRM, that will get tagged. I’m not sure how it interacts with projects yet. We’re playing with it.
With the project side of things, do you use any other automation tools that are linked to that?
It’s standalone. I think we can tie it to Slack, but we haven’t done that. I’m sure there are some other integrations. I tend to want to always jump into like, “Let’s add all this stuff in.” I didn’t do that with projects this time. Let’s master doing this first and really get comfortable with seeing how the projects flow and what we can do to increase our performance. One, staying on deadline and two, mastering our time. That’s one of the things that was cool with this. The way I do my planning when I’m looking at a project or starting something new is to list out some of those tasks and assign them time values. I can play with that. I’m scheduling it into my calendar and you can track time and schedule time with projects too. I have a sense that it’s going to take me five hours or 30 hours or whatever and I can break that up into the weeks pretty effectively.
Within Zoho itself, you’re tracking time and scheduling time. Is it connected to your calendar?
It is not connected to my calendar. The way I set up my calendar is in the mornings, for the most part, I have what I call focused work time. That’s my time to get content creation or planning or whatever else needs to get done the work on the business piece more. Even though it’s generally a set time, that’s where I’m playing whether I’m going to work on this project and this project. Depending on where we are with which things we’re working on.
You come back and you report it in Zoho as to how much time you spend on that project?
Yeah, there’s a function where you can start the stopwatch and it will track your time for you. I don’t use that part. I think my assistant, May, because she’s tracking her time to bill me appropriately.
I want to say for people reading this, that’s huge. I would use that function if I was working with it because I think you could use it outside and in a separate tracker as well. If you’re managing all your projects there for people who don’t track their time, it’s important to get a sense of how long things take. In our mind, we think it only takes this much time when in reality, we have a warped sense of reality when it comes to time. It’s important to track that and you have your own mechanism to do that. You don’t use that timer but for people who are reading, if they’re going to engage in this, I highly recommend that they use that.
That is key because part of what I think creates overwhelm is that we do have this crazy warped sense of what we can get done and most people are still trying to fit 32 things that would normally take three months into two days. I get annoyed and frustrated and you didn’t even want to deal with anything because of that. I started like, “The only way to fix this is to acknowledge how long it takes me to do certain things.” I’ve tracked that. I have a ballpark of how long it takes to do any number of things. That way, I can budget that time in my calendar and it doesn’t mean that it’s not over by fifteen minutes or under by fifteen minutes, but it’s at least averaged out. I can then actually see what I’m doing during the day and the week and be like, “Don’t add 62 more things.” It simplifies it.
What I like to do, I don’t know if you do this, but it’s also to look at what percentage of time you’re spending in each of those categories. As an entrepreneur, we wear a lot of different hats. What percentage of the time are you spending on sales, on operations, on prospecting and marketing or social media? Whatever it is that you’re doing yourself because I find that I always had to take a step back and ask, “What percentage am I doing?” For me to reach my goals, what percentages do they need to be? By tracking your time, you can get those figures more accurately. Do you do that with percentages?
I don’t do the percentages, although now that you suggest that, I’m going to have to add that.
There you go. We’re all always learning.
I do know you want to be looking at the time you spend in what the return on investment is for each day so that you can shift and prioritize, “Is this thing going to actually get me the results to bring in more revenue?”Know what you’re doing, what you need to get done, and be realistic with what you can accomplish in any given time. Click To Tweet
You want to focus on the right things and especially for the entrepreneurs. There are so many ways to be distracted in all of these different areas. If we don’t focus on the right things and the things that are driving revenue, we can easily find ourselves not making revenue.
Never mind forgetting to ask. You’re not even at the place to remember to ask.
Tell me, what else do we need to know about Zoho Projects?
I would say with any project management tool, plan on having a little bit of a learning curve. Even though I said it is fairly intuitive, it’s about what works for your brain and playing with it. What we did initially was we took two or three projects, put them in there, set them up and started working with them before we added everything else.
Use it to test it and see how it works for you. That’s an important thing. I want to highlight it again for our audience. They quickly take on an app and throw everything in it and it’s complicated. They haven’t thought about how they’re going to use it then all of a sudden, they’re not using it anymore because they didn’t plan it out. I love the fact that you’re saying plan on that learning curve and take time to identify how you’re going to use it and test it out and all of that. It’s so important.
It does have an app on your phone too. For me, I’ll remember something as I’m standing in the grocery store line. It’s super easy for me to add it in there instead of creating a note or something to remind myself. I think for me at least, it’s one of the best project management tools that I’ve used. I like the simplicity and the data too that it can provide. It frees up that headspace of, “What do I need to do? Where are we at?” All of those things.
What does that do for your sense of time management and everything?
It gives me a sense of freedom. I run a pretty tight schedule and I like that. That makes me happy. Some people might want to have more space in theirs and that’s totally okay. It frees up the, “Am I using my time effectively?” thought because I know what I’m doing, what we need to get done and being realistic with what we can accomplish in any given time.
Lastly, are you celebrating milestones? You said you’ve got this reporter and this tracker. I’m asking that because a lot of people don’t. A celebration is important to our momentum. It’s to step back and to see what we’ve learned and to apply what we’ve learned and also to celebrate our successes.
I can’t say that we have officially other than, “It worked.” We haven’t made it into a party or a game at this point.
It’s something to think about for you and our audience. How can you even up the energy by creating that momentum especially people like yourself, people like myself? I’m always off to the next thing. It’s always, “Next thing, done. Let’s go to the next thing.” That in itself provides some momentum, but step back and give yourself a little pat on the back. It doesn’t have to be a big party or anything, but some acknowledgment of extra celebration. I love when you go to Trader Joe’s and they ring the bell, it might be to get somebody’s attention to get something. I love that whole concept. Maybe there’s a little bell or one of those memes.
Give you a little happy dance?
Yeah, give yourself a moment and maybe you can automate that when something gets checked off that comes onto your screen and gives you a little happy dance. It’s a reminder that you’re moving forward and you’re going towards your goal.
Both my assistant and I are super excited when we check stuff off the list. Even that, it’s a mini happy dance. We spend time reflecting. There’s a place where we can definitely up the ante there.
Emi, I’m sure there are people here who would love to connect with you outside of this show and hear more about what you’re doing and what you might be able to do for them. Where can they find more about you?
The best place is at TheTribeOfLeaders.com. I’m on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Emi Kirschner. I would love for people to come hang out and play with me in my Facebook community, The Tribe of Leaders.
Thank you so much for being here and sharing your wisdom and your thought process around how you’re managing your projects.
It’s my pleasure. It’s always fun to hang out with you.
Thank you all for being here because you got some important tips about Zoho Projects, which you might not have heard about before and you might have heard about some of those other tools like Asana and Trello. Basically, from what I’m hearing, it’s a glorified task list. I know that they haven’t been working for me because I used them for a little bit and I dropped them. I’m going to check out Zoho Projects and I think you should too.
- Emi Kirschner
- Zoho Projects
- Zoho Social
- Zoho CRM
- Instagram – Emi Kirschner
- Facebook – Emi Kirschner
- Emi Kirschner on LinkedIn
- The Tribe of Leaders on Facebook
About Emi Kirschner
Investor, a serial entrepreneur, coach, and international speaker, Emi Kirschner, masterfully combines her deep intuitive abilities with her analytical sense to help creative entrepreneurs and visionary leaders build businesses that make an impact while doubling revenue.
She is an expert in:
- Creating and implementing strategic, long term plans
- increasing productivity and performance while reducing stress
- Increasing sales by maximizing process and lead capture
- Building leadership skills to create stronger communication among teams
Emi teaches at the Young Entrepreneur Academy where she teaches 7th-12th graders how to write a business plan and pitch to investors. She also sits on the Board of FemCity Philadelphia, one of the largest women’s business networking groups in the area. Currently, Emi lives outside of Philadelphia with her two entrepreneurial teenage boys and two dogs. A foodie and beach lover, Emi plans her extensive travel around where she will eat and can wear flip flops.