Getting a new client or contract can be so thrilling for many small business owners, it’s easy to overlook one of the challenges that comes along with it—project management. That’s where task management software comes in. With the use of a task management app, you can create tasks, assign them to team members, set due dates, and monitor project progress. Here’s how to find and use task management apps to handle simple and complex projects alike.
What are task management apps?
Task management apps are organizational tools that help individuals and teams complete objectives and goals in an effective, timely manner. While each task management tool has a unique set of features, they typically allow you to be more productive through scheduling features and synching capabilities across all of your devices. Some apps are free, but costs vary depending on the types of account and number of users.
9 features of task management apps
- Generate and organize tasks
- Assign tasks to team members
- Prioritize tasks based on project needs
- Manage tasks from inception to completion
- Schedule recurring tasks
- Track project hours
- Send deadline notifications
- Reveal task dependencies
- Grant client access
Task management apps are types of productivity tools that can help you better manage your projects in the following nine ways:
1. Generate and organize tasks
This function lets you determine what tasks a project requires and organize them by team or department.
2. Assign tasks to team members
This lets you direct individual tasks to the people or teams best suited to complete them.
3. Prioritize tasks based on project needs
You can designate important tasks and move them up on a person’s to-do list.
4. Manage tasks from inception to completion
Many apps have task management features that let you track workflow. For instance, you could see if a marketing director has approved a topline budget for a campaign, and then later check to see if someone else from the marketing team has used those funds to formally launch the campaign.
5. Schedule recurring tasks
A task management solution can automatically schedule tasks that occur on a recurring basis.
6. Track project hours
Some task management apps offer time-tracking tools, often housed among their advanced features, like seamless integrations with other platforms and real-time notifications. These let managers and employees keep track of hours spent on a project.
7. Send deadline notifications
Task management apps can remind employees of due dates at any point in the process.
8. Reveal task dependencies
Task dependency is when the execution of one task depends on the completion of another (e.g., supply acquisition cannot begin until a budget is set). A task management app can help you manage dependent tasks by linking related tasks so your entire team has a bird’s-eye view of the stages to completion.
9. Grant client access
In some cases, you may wish to include a client in the task management process. Some task management apps provide clients updates and view-only access, while still letting project management teams guide the actual work.
4 benefits of task management apps
Task management apps help businesses of all sizes—from international corporations to sole proprietors running their own ecommerce stores. Business owners get numerous benefits from these task management tools, including:
1. Increased productivity
The best task management apps let you schedule tasks and are customizable for the unique needs of your team. Follow-up reminders are similarly automated, which frees up project managers to focus on other agenda items.
Task management apps can pair multiple employees on the same project. They can confirm when individual tasks are in progress or completed, so that no one ends up doing redundant work.
Task management apps let all stakeholders see the status of a specific task—or an overall project—and get a sense of when it might be completed.
Many task management tools provide project templates that make it easy to create, assign, and schedule tasks. And because these apps store their data in the cloud, users can log on from anywhere—including both desktops and mobile devices—to see or update the status of a task.
8 best task management apps
The best task management app for your business will depend on the nature of your work, the size of your team, and your budget. Here are eight of the best task management tools that fit a variety of use cases.
Trello is best for startup companies on a budget with fairly simple task portfolios. Among its key features are an intuitive task creation workflow, drag-and-drop project cards, and the ability to leave comments on each task.
- Pros: Trello specializes in easily digestible project visualizations, thanks to its Kanban board design that utilizes cards, columns, swimlanes, and work-in-progress limits.
- Cons: Trello’s simple user interface makes it hard to track multiple projects at once.
- Cost: Subscriptions start at $5 per user per month. Trello also has a free tier with limited features that lets you include unlimited team members.
Todoist works well for individuals or small teams that need affordable task management solutions. Its multiple viewing options include lists, calendars, and Kanban boards. A Smart Schedule tool suggests the best times in your day to take on tasks, while Gantt charts graphically represent task dependencies.
- Pros: Todoist stands out for its visually streamlined interface, collaboration tools, and feature-rich free tier.
- Cons: The app does not offer time tracking, and it may be functionally limited for full-scale project management that involves budgeting and client access.
- Cost: Subscriptions start at $4 per user per month, or you can opt for the free tier.
Airtable may appeal to well-funded project teams that appreciate the look and feel of shared spreadsheets. Its back end recalls Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. However, Airtable offers multiple ways to view data, such as a calendar or a Kanban, plus the ability to create “interfaces,” which allow you to customize the workflows for individual users.
- Pros: Airtable offers a feature-rich, visually flexible solution that captures the familiar look of Excel. Its multiple project views include Gantt charts and project timelines. Its extensive graphics capability presents team data in a visually digestible format.
- Cons: Airtable is somewhat more expensive than many rivals, although teams with five or fewer members may only need Airtable’s free tier.
- Cost: Prices start at $10 per user per month. A free tier may be sufficient for individuals or small teams.
Asana offers tools for role assignments (such as manager, programmer, or client liaison), budgeting, and scheduling, and its multiple project views will appeal to a variety of users.
- Pros: The Asana platform can accommodate any size team, from a sole proprietor to everyone in a large corporation. Its multiple view options include Gantt charts and timelines. The software easily integrates with Slack, Google Drive, and Microsoft teams.
- Cons: Asana is expensive compared to many of its competitors. Its task-oriented interface may not be suitable for all projects or teams.
- Cost: Subscriptions start at $10.99 per user per month. Asana also offers a free tier for smaller teams.
Basecamp is for teams that work on projects with high task dependencies (like website design that depends on deliverables from a graphics team), as well as teams with actively involved clients who’d like access to a project’s progress.
- Pros: Basecamp offers some of the most team-oriented task management tools in the industry. Its team-centered user interface includes Basecamp’s proprietary Hill Charts, automatic check-ins, role assignments, budgeting tools, and multiple project views. It also offers client access views for project transparency.
- Cons: Basecamp may be too expensive, and its extensive features may be unnecessary for solo operators or small teams.
- Cost: Plans start at $89 per month for 10-person teams. There is also a free plan for educators and students, but not for business users. Basecamp offers a 30-day free trial.
ClickUp is a strong choice for medium-to-large teams that value power and versatility in their task management solution.
- Pros: It’s hard to top ClickUp in terms of the sheer number of options available. Highlights of its features include customizable tasks, folder-style organization, over 50 automation options for everything from scheduling to role assignments, over 1,000 software integrations, real-time project reporting, time management, and budget tools.
- Cons: With so many features, ClickUp may be overwhelming for solo entrepreneurs or small teams that can’t devote much time to programming a task management app.
- Cost: Prices start at $5 per user per month. ClickUp also has a free plan, but it’s quite limited compared to the competition.
7. Google Tasks
The free but limited Google Tasks app may appeal to sole proprietors on a tight budget, or Google power users who want task reminders built into the tools they’re already using.
- Pros: The app offers total integration with existing Google Workspace products (including Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive), highly intuitive scheduling, and recurring reminders for ongoing tasks. It also runs as a standalone app for mobile.
- Cons: The tool is functionally limited and can only be used by a single user. Google Tasks is not a solution for multi-person project teams.
- Cost: Free.
TickTick is for sole proprietors or individual team members who appreciate robust tools for personal task management. This is owed to its numerous time management tools, smart lists and filters, multiple calendar views, and Pomodoro timers.
- Pros: TickTick combines the features of a task management app with a productivity app. It likely will appeal to people who work well using the Pomodoro Technique that breaks work into intervals (traditionally 25 minutes long) or the Getting Things Done (GTD) method, which involves externally recording each task and turning them into work items with defined time limits.
- Cons: TickTick is designed for individual task management, not team-based work. Think of it as a supercharged version of Google Tasks.
- Cost: Free, or upgrade to a premium version for $28 per year.
How to choose the best task management software for your business
Picking the right task management tool for your business comes down to five key considerations:
1. Team size
A solo small business owner may need a task management tool focused on their own personal productivity. Integrated teams may need tools designed for collaboration.
As a general rule, the most powerful task management software comes at a higher price. Most charge based on the number of users, so your team size will also affect the budget.
3. Task dependencies
Your business tasks may be highly dependent on each other, meaning that one task cannot be executed until a prior task is completed. If so, seek a task management solution designed for interdependent tasks.
4. Client involvement
If your client wants to chart the team’s progress on their own time, choose a task management app with a client viewing mode.
5. Desired relationship with your task management software
Do you want a task management solution that’s incredibly simple to set up and manage? Or, do you want one with immense functionality that may require more programming and upkeep? In many cases, you’ll have to choose between a tool’s simplicity and its overall power.
Task management apps FAQ
How do task management apps improve productivity?
Task management apps improve productivity by sending reminders, letting teams communicate about task status, showing graphic representations of team progress, integrating with other workplace software like Google Drive and Slack, and providing time-tracking tools.
Can you use a task management app for personal and professional purposes?
Yes, you can use the same task management app for both your personal tasks and your professional work. You can also opt to use a fairly simple task management app like Google Tasks or TickTick for your personal to-do list and a more feature-packed tool like ClickUp or Asana for professional work.
Is task management software worth the cost?
Medium to large teams with interconnected tasks may find that task management software pays for itself by improving communications and time management. Solo entrepreneurs and small teams may find sufficient functionality in the free plans offered by companies like Trello and Todoist.
What’s the best task management app for collaborating with teams?
Some task management apps are specifically designed for team collaboration. These include Basecamp, Asana, Airtable, monday.com, ClickUp, and Jira by Atlassian.