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Getting Organized

Get your work back on track


Getting organized is hard. Ominous start, right? 

Tell us if this is familiar: You’re busy, and see yourself getting behind. You want to do something about it, but the more that comes in, the further behind you feel. You take your eyes off new work to put out fires with existing work. Your inbox gets slammed and you feel like you can never catch up. You’re bouncing from one thing to another. Pretty soon things start slipping. You know you have a problem, but you can’t stop to even think about it, much less fix it. It becomes overwhelming. 

We get it, we’ve been there too. We were working with multiple customers doing a variety of project types, and it became a game of whack-a-mole, responding to issues instead of being in control of the work. We didn’t like the feeling of always playing catch up, and knew we needed to put together a system to help us. It needed to be rigid so there was just one process to learn, but also flexible so that it would be useful for many different project types. There was a lot of trial and error, but we made something that works for us, and we wanted to share it with others. 

Once we outlined our process, we started looking for the right software to help keep it all in one place. We worked with a lot of different project management platforms over the years, but ultimately decided we wanted something different, and built our own. It’s called Unmanage, and it’s a great tool to help you get control of your work. 

In this guide, we’re going to walk you through the steps we take with our own projects, using Unmanage, to get your projects under control. 

5 Steps

Here’s the short version:

  1. Get everything in the same place
  2. Track the same basic information for each project
  3. Assign the work
  4. Prioritize and Focus
  5. Finish

Wait, thats it?

…not exactly. But that’s the core of our approach. To help you get organized, lets look a little deeper (keep scrolling)

1- Get everything in the same place

We can’t stress this one enough. You have to have all your work together in the same place.

If you jot things down on a bunch of sticky notes, scribble in a notepad, or leave it all in your inbox, you’re going to have a hard time remembering WHAT you need to do, much less when it’s due or anything else about it.

You need to be able to see everything that needs to be done in one place.

When you have an unorganized pile of tasks, you’re constantly stressed because you don’t have a clear idea of how much work there is to do, whats coming next, or how long it will take. Getting organized helps you be in control of your projects instead of reacting to them.

This is exactly why we made Unmanage. Unmanage puts everything in the same place so it can be grouped, edited, and re-arranged without erasing or scribbling things out. The ability to edit and update a project is key as work develops.

Added bonus – Unmanage is 100% web based and mobile ready so it’s available on all your devices today with nothing to download!

Image of unmanage list view

2 - Track the same information for each project

In our experience, most workflows ask for a lot of information you just don’t need, or leave out information you have to go dig up later. When looking at one project vs another, its hard to tell if you have everything you need. So we said let’s start there. 

Make sure you track the same core information for every project

When we designed our ideal process, we asked ourselves “what is core to every project type we’ve ever done?”

Here’s what we came up with: 

Project Name What are you calling it?
Team Who is working on it?
Client Who is the work being done for?
Priority How important is it right now?
Tags What’s important to know about it?
Status Where do things stand right now?
Due Date When is it due?

These are the main things on display in an Unmanage board. This gives you

  • The same information about multiple projects at a glance
  • A better feel for everything you have going on
  • A much better place to start working from

Now here’s why we chose those 7 items as our core, and whats important about each. This will be a little bit of a deep dive, but its worth it to understand how they all work together.

1 - Project Name

Ever have a list of projects, and you thought you knew which was which, but when you started working on one, you suddenly couldn’t remember the difference between it and another one you have on your list?

🙋 Been there.

Always use short, clear names so you immediately know what you are working on, and how it’s different from your other projects. Be specific, but try and keep it short.  Use “-” or “|” in the project name to help you keep things segmented. 

Example Project Names

  • ❌  “Podcast”
  • ✅  “My Podcast Name | Episode 6”
2 - Project Team

Make sure you assign someone to every project! This helps everyone to know that every project is covered, and who to go to with any questions.

We’re going to look more closely at this in Step 3, keep scrolling to learn more.

3 - Client

Ever work with someone you thought was the client and then find out they weren’t? You work with them on a project, they give you feedback, you make changes, and as soon as you think you’re approved they go: “Great! I just need to send it off for review now!”…and then come back with a whole new set of changes from someone else?


You always want to make sure you document who the client is. They should be the one who

Reviews the work

Answers questions

Gives feedback

✅ Signs off when complete

It could be a customer, it could be your manager, it could be someone’s assistant. Find that right person, and put them down as the client. 

Sometimes there are multiple people involved in review and approval and that’s fine. Make it clear to them that they need to choose a point of contact to be “the client” so that your team knows who to reach out to with any questions, and who can sign off on a finished project. Remind them that trying to review & approve by committee costs time and money, and you’re helping the process move more quickly. 

Your improved sanity is just a benefit :).

4 - Priority

When you add a new project, give it a priority. This might be based on its deadline or who the client is, or the impact of the project. This will help you focus on whats important when you’re looking at everything on your plate. 

But hey, guess what? Priorities can change! When a project comes in, it may seem important…but then you don’t hear back from the client for a few weeks (guess it wasn’t important to them). Or maybe it is a high priority, but then a fire drill project comes in, and suddenly what was high priority a minute ago isn’t anymore. 

Prioritization is fluid, and you want to make sure you have a platform that makes it easy for you to rearrange your work priorities to match.

Another note on this – priority doesn’t have to mean “How important is this project vs everything else on my list”. It can be “How much do I want to focus on it right now?”

You could have a few small things on your list that you just really want to knock out so you can focus on big important ones. You don’t even have to mark them high priority if you don’t want to! Or you can use the priority field to assign overall importance to your projects, and then use due dates or tags to determine the order in which you work on projects.

We’ve done all of the above! It all depends on the type of work you do – and we made our system flexible to meet those needs. 

5 - Tags

Tags are amazing tools. On the surface, they are super simple – just custom labels you put on a project – but they do so much to help you organize and categorize projects. The tags you create depend on the industry you are in, but you generally want them to be short and concise. (If you scroll up, you got a tease of adding tags in the video above)

Let’s say you work in media production, and deal with all sorts of mediums, like

  • Graphics
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Webcasts

Or let’s say you work in HVAC or Plumbing. You may do:

  • Installs
  • Repairs
  • Maintenance
  • Estimates

Guess what – Those are your tags.

Now here’s a great thing about tags – you can use more than one! You might have a set of tags for the project type, and another set of tags for something else entirely. 

EXAMPLE: Real estate in Unmanage:

In real estate, you’re usually dealing with either buyers or sellers, so we made a tag for each. But, buyers might be buying an existing home, or building a new one. We want to be able to track and sort that separately from traditional buyers, so we made the ‘New Construction’ tag and added it as well. Now we can see that this is a new construction buyer without having to click around for details.

image of unmanage project card features

Another thing we did in Unmanage is make it so your tags can have both custom text AND color. We found that color coordination is really, really helpful, and we wanted everyone to have that available. 

Feel free to experiment with tags until you find what makes sense for your workflow. They can do a lot of things for you. 

6 - Status

A project’s status is like a tag, but it tells you where the project stands right now.

wider view of status column

This helps you know the overall health of all your projects, plus it helps you focus on anything that may be stuck and need extra attention. All projects should have a status, even if the status is “New” or “Unassigned” or something similar.

In Unmanage, we have a few standard statuses to help you get started:

  • New
  • On track
  • On Hold
  • Info Needed
  • Completed
  • Canceled.

These should cover you most of the time, but we also have the ability to create Custom Statuses if you need them

For example, If you work in real estate, you may want to add

  • Coming soon
  • Listed
  • Under Contract
  • Closed

Or another if you do any sort of product fulfillment, you may also want something like

  • On Order
  • Backordered
  • Ready for Delivery
  • Shipped
  • Delivered

One thing we caution against, and don’t allow inside Unmanage, is having multiple statuses the way you have multiple tags. Projects should only have one status at a time. Sure, something can be on hold and backordered at the same time – but pick one of the two (probably the more descriptive one). If something is backordered, it’s on hold by default. No reason to put both!

7 - Due Date

This one is pretty straightforward, but may be the most important on the list. It’s difficult to plan a project and prioritize it against everything else unless you know when it’s due. 

There’s a couple of different ways to look at deadlines:

  • Sometimes a deadline is a hard deadline for the entire project – You have to have it completed by a certain date.
  • Sometimes you have a project that moves in phases, and you have a deadline for each phase. 

The first one is easy – just set the due date, and you’re done!

The second one is a little more complicated, but we’ve done it a couple of ways

The first way is just to create a project for each phase and give it its own deadline. Then we would name them something like “Big Project | Phase 1”. This is a really good way to do it if each phase is really different and you have different people working on them, but its not really well suited if you’re adding a lot of notes or attachments as you go since you’d have to add the same things to each different project.

If thats the case, what I like to do is either create a custom tag or status for the phase (or just change the project name to reflect the current phase) and I’ll update the due date as I go along.

Example: I’m in “Phase 1” and the due date is August 1.

I do the work for phase 1, and then update the project to reflect that I’ve moved to Phase 2, which is due Sept 1.

Just make sure you keep your due date accurate for whatever stage you are currently in, and for whatever makes sense for your industry.

3 - Assign the work

Tell us if this these scenarios sound familiar:

Hey, who is working on this one?”

“Me? I thought you said YOU were doing it?”

“Who do I talk to to see what’s going on with this project?”

Take the guesswork out by making sure it’s clear from the start who is in charge of every project. If you have a team, choose who is working on what. If you work solo, hey, guess thats you. Assigning provides clarity

  • You know that every project is covered
  • Everyone knows what projects they should be focused on
  • Everyone knows who to talk to if they have a question about another project

Once you’re assigned to a project, make sure you are keeping it up to date! As things change, make sure you post updates, add files, update the status, etc so that you and everyone else involved always know exactly where things stand. If you wait to update things later, you’re going to forget something. Don’t put it off! 

4 - Prioritize and Focus

OK, things are organized now, and the work’s been assigned. This doesn’t mean your list is manageable yet though. You might still have 100 things to do on your list. 

I’ve faced that, and it makes my brain go into shutdown. Even if you grab a few things off the pile and get them knocked out, you’ve still only done 2-3 out of 100 things. As likely as not, 2-3 new things came up while you were working, so you don’t feel like you made any progress. Ouch.

To appreciate the progress you are making (because any completed project is progress!), You need to filter out what isn’t important, and focus on what is.

Filter out what isn’t important, and focus on what is.

That means looking at the list of 100 things and making a ‘focus list’ by selecting a few that

  • Need attention and/or
  • Can be accomplished in a short timeframe 

These might be things you can completely knock out, or they may just be projects you need to push forward, but aren’t ready to finish. Just look through your list, and prioritize whats important right now. 

Now, take that focus list, and set aside a specific amount of time to do them. We like to start the day or week by looking at our active projects in Unmanage to see what needs to be done. Then we use sorting and filters to make our focus list. 

Deadlines feel stressful, but when done right, they create structure. Your 100 project main list spread out across an indefinite amount of time is insurmountable. 5 projects in your focus list for the week is achievable. Just be sure to give your self a reasonable amount of time to do the work.

When at the end of the week you finished 4 or 5 projects you had on your smaller focus list, you feel a lot better than you would have if you finished 5 or even 10 in your large 100 project main list. This energy and satisfaction you get from being in control of your work is empowering, and snowballs to help you get even more done.

5 - Finish

That’s it! You have everything in one place, its all organized and you have your focus list. Keep working those projects, and get the satisfaction of marking them complete. When you finish, grab your next batch, and stay in control of your work. 

Other thoughts

This is only a guide – you can use it exactly as we laid out, or you can draw inspiration from it and tweak it to match your needs. 

Don’t be too rigid with any part of the process if you don’t have to be. You want broad guidelines, not super precise. Be flexible. Your goal isn’t to have the most perfect tracking info, it’s to get your work done more effectively! 

Spend your time on the work, not every little detail. Try different ideas, and find the best balance for you and your team. 

Give your team a framework and some guidelines to stay within, but let them handle the details. Some people may need to document every detail and substep in order to stay on track – but that may totally bog down someone else who just needs broad strokes to keep their work moving forward.

Guidelines we usually start with for a team are:

  • Everyone uses the same platform
  • Check for new projects assigned to you regularly (usually daily – beginning of day, or end of day)
  • Keep your projects up to date as you go
  • Ask for help if you need it, don’t wait till its almost due
  • You are responsible for making sure your project gets done
  • Make sure your project is always in a place where someone else could pick it up and run with it.

We try not to tell people when or where to work, or how to do things assigned to them. If they’re getting the work done satisfactorily, and on time, we don’t want to mess with that. As long as everyone stays within the guidelines we lay out and don’t disrupt someone else’s workflow, we give everyone flexibility to work the way they need.


We really hope you found this guide helpful. They are guidelines that our team helps people use for a wide variety of industries including media production, real estate, sales, CRM, web development, and many others. 

If you’d like to learn more, we would love to give you a in depth 1:1 consultation where we look at your needs and put together a strategy to get you organized. 

If you’re ready to start on your own, give Unmanage a try today

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