How to avoid being overwhelmed by project management software

Finding the right project management software can be a challenge. Each choice comes with a long list of features and functions with different names and sometimes an unclear purpose.

When comparing, it’s easy to be overwhelmed, but it doesn’t have to be. In this article, we’ll walk you through some tips to reduce feature fatigue when it comes to choosing the right project management software for you.

1. Make a plan for your project management software before you try or buy

You have already made the decision to try project management software, or at least you are considering it. With so many great options available, you’ll be doing yourself a big favor by outlining what you’d like to do with them before looking at each software’s capabilities and features.

Not only will this help you find the right software, but it will also help you identify and exclude the bad ones.

Think about the ways you and your colleagues communicate tasks now. Would you like software to replace certain types of emails, meetings, and memos? What kinds of details do you typically include and what is the process in which you assign tasks?

Another important part of describing how you will use it is identifying who will use it. How many people do you have on your team? What types of roles and permissions will you need for each team member’s account? Will you need to include guest accounts for clients or contractors?

You can also consider whether you will need private workspaces in your software. For example, you can set the lists you create in your ClickUp workspaces as shared or private by default and switch at any time. The notion is the opposite, where pages are private until you share them with guests, unless you opt into the team account.


Project management software permissions menu

Although many project management software may look the same, answering these questions will help you understand what features you should look for in your budget.

2. Decide what features you need, based on what you already do

Here’s where things can get a little tricky. There are many choices of project management software, and with that, each software has a long list of features.

Something to keep in mind here is that less is more. You can even describe repetitive tasks or workflows with just a chart and a few checklists, as shown in the example using Notion below. It all depends on how you and your team work together.

Screenshot of a table full of checklist columns

Using time tracking as an example, just because you can do it in some project management software doesn’t mean you should. If you already have a time tracking method that works, or if you’re not currently tracking your time, and that’s okay, why go with the one with tracking over one without?

Your project management software shouldn’t add friction to your daily tasks. First and foremost, it’s a tool you can use to communicate about projects effectively, so think about how you currently do that and what features would be most useful.

It’s easy to get distracted by extra features, not only because you spend time setting them up and not using them, but they will clutter up your workspace. This brings us to the next point.

3. If it’s flashy, decide if it’s durable

If a certain feature catches your eye and you decide to use it, ask yourself if it’s something you’ll keep for the long term. For example, the Llama farm and’s battery widgets are pretty fun additions to the dashboard because they make your goals a bit game-like, but the excitement can easily fade.

In fact, you might want to avoid looking into widgets at all, as Monday, ClickUp, Notion, and Asana are all great choices without them. The image below is a simple example of a project request board using just a few of the many features available in the non-paid version of ClickUp.

List in project management software grouped by status

It’s best to choose your project management software based on its foundation and not its bells and whistles, especially if they’re just hurting your productivity.

Another thing worth noting here is the integrations. Like widgets, it’s likely that you can use the software without them. However, if you like it to integrate with other software, consider what tasks it can do before letting that become a deal breaker. Onboarding may be just another notification or step to take.

4. Some useful basic features to look for

Before we get to the basics, it’s important to note that when comparing project management software features, you visit each website individually. Each software may use a different naming system for the same functionality, making the other appear to have no specific capability when compared directly. The competition might just call it something different.

The best example is Notion. Although you won’t find a massive list of every piece of content, you can add tasks, statuses, or boards to your pages. Using blocks, you can create an effective project management system.

Task list created in project management software

Regardless of the name, some useful basics you’ll want to watch out for are:

  • Tasks, Pages, or Pulses– whatever terminology the software uses, these are the blank cards of the project management software where you can add the description, due date, priority, recipient and attachments while creating a a mission.
  • Communication tools—rather than switching between your project management software and email, having the tools to comment, reply, and tag others is extremely useful when collaborating or delegating projects.
  • Statutes— part of what makes project management tools great is that you and your team can tell each other you’re working on something, without making a public announcement.
  • Reminders– you’ll probably want to adjust them to suit your needs, but you’ll be grateful to have reminders in your project management software, especially when you need them.
  • Clean interface— a clean, minimal design will help you focus on the most important tasks at hand.

Don’t let features get in the way of function

Project management software may seem intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to be. If you start with a plan and stick to it, you will find the best for you and your team.

Even better, most project management software companies offer a free trial, so you can test it out before paying anything. Why not try a few by creating a project board in each?

A person typing on a laptop

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