Learning Project Management with Microsoft and Google Tools

Use tools you already have to develop this vital skill

For anyone who has watched a work-related YouTube video, you’ve probably seen ads for Monday.com or other project management software. These products advertise themselves as improving your productivity, coordination, and collaboration. For librarians who are curious about project management tools but do not want to spend money or commit to learning new software, you likely have most of what you need already available to you.  

Making the most of your email account for project management 

Pre-pandemic, I remember going to a conference room for a strategic planning meeting. People from multiple departments were asked to grab a pad of sticky notes and pens, write out our ideas for what we thought the library should be working on in the next 5 years, and stick them around the room, organized around various themes. This activity mostly allowed people who do not usually get to see each other to gather and catch up but also produced numerous suggestions that later had to be collated and organized.  

This kind of work can be useful for brainstorming. Apps that can help with this include Jamboard, which can be accessed with your Google account: 

Example of a Google Jamboard
Example of a Google Jamboard

Microsoft has their own version, called Whiteboard, which also includes templates for brainstorming, project planning, games, and more. 

You can search for these apps in your browser and authenticate them with your email, or you access them from your webmail. Both Google and Microsoft use a grid of nine circles to open their list of web apps, with Microsoft placing their “waffle” on the left, and Google placing it on the right of the screen. 

These apps are different from ones you download from the Microsoft Store or Google Play Store, and only require you to be logged into your email in your browser and have cookies enabled.  

Read more by this author:

Project management using Microsoft Planner

From the above Microsoft “waffle,” one app you may be unfamiliar with is Planner, which is Microsoft’s Monday.com clone. This app lets you create tasks organized by buckets—with titles, start and due dates, and priority and progress status—and allows you to assign tasks to an email, add labels, and more. The buckets are organized horizontally, and you can use the other tabs to reorganize the info: 

A screenshot of Microsoft Planner interface organized by buckets
Microsoft Planner organized by buckets

You can also view this information in different formats. I personally find the “Grid” list more helpful than scrolling horizontally by buckets: 

A screenshot of Microsoft Planner interface with tasks organized into lists
Microsoft Planner in a grid format

The chart view can help you see your progress and priorities: 

Screenshot of Microsoft Planner with a chart interface
Microsoft Planner chart view

For me, the biggest challenge with project planning through Planner or Monday.com is that it can feel like extra work that does not tie into everything else I am doing. A useful solution is to make a Planner board that is linked to a Teams channel. You can do this by clicking the three dots in the plan’s top menu, then clicking copy plan, and choosing the Teams channel you want to copy the plan into: 

A screenshot showing users where to find the "copy plan" option in the Microsoft Planner interface
How to copy a plan to a Teams channel

Additional project management options in Teams and SharePoint

If you are not a fan of Planner/Monday style buckets or you find yourself with different needs, you can try one of the prefabricated lists offered in Teams and SharePoint. From Teams, you can add lists as an app in the channel using the “+” button in the top menu and selecting “Lists.” You can also select several other apps to add to a channel, but for now, we’re focused on lists:

A screenshot of where to find the + icon to add a list in Microsoft Teams and SharePoint
Where to find the “+” icon to add a list

With lists selected, you’ll be given the choice of options for many common issues, such as issue tracking, progress tracking, scheduling, onboarding, and more: 

A screenshot of available templates for lists
Available templates

These templates save you from thinking up buckets to place your issues in, but do give you the flexibility to edit them after you have started with a template. Clicking on an option offers you a preview of the setup:

A screenshot showing the preview of a list template for an issue tracker
Preview of an issue tracker template

For many of my projects, a Planner board is a bit overkill, and the current choice has been to use a bulleted list in a Word document. Considering how easy it is to set up a list and how much it can help with organizing and assigning tasks, I am hopeful libraries will use them more as we move beyond using Teams for just chats and file sharing. 

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