4 Simple Ways Budding Project Managers Can Start Creating Gantt Charts

Organized Project Planning When remote teams are becoming more and more common, it isn’t surprising to see project managers struggling to stay on top of things. One project involving a number of tasks with just as many people working on it can spin out of control.  You’re not only working with people, but you’re also working against time and resources.

And this is where a Gantt chart steps in. If you aren’t using one as a budding project manager, you may want to. Gantt charts are an essential tool to project management. They keep a detailed track record of a project’s critical path at any given moment.

It keeps you up to speed on important factors like the progress or status of a task. Interdependent tasks and resources can be allocated, visualized, and coordinated. And with the internet and your everyday computer, Gantt charts can be updated as needed.

But technology needs and personal preferences are diverse. We know there are many other simpler, quick fix tools that can be used to manage projects to varying degrees. Looking to step things up? Need more complex features?

Whether you’re stepping into a project mid-stream or need to consolidate your project calendar with an existing one, there are ways you can integrate existing tracking sheet and schedule data into a Gantt chart.

1. Convert Google Calendar, Base Camp & Trello Into A Gantt Chart

Now Google Calendar, Base Camp or Trello are probably the most popular free tools online. They’re easy to set up, offer the basic project tracking essentials and can quickly get you started.

Google Calendar, as a project planning tool, needs no explanation.  Basecamp, known for its highly collaborative nature and tracking features, is a popular go to option for managing teams. And Trello is a web app that uses individual (and collaborative) task cards grouped into boards in lieu of a To-do list.

So if you need to suddenly create professional-looking tracking reports or share your calendar with others, great news is that you can create a Gantt chart from all 3 tools using Ganttify.

Gantt Chart Creation Webapp

Ganttify is a webtool that does what it sounds—it takes your data and “Ganttif-ies” it without having to do much but log into your accounts (note that with Trello, though, your task cards need to have a start and end date included).

2. Create Gantt Charts In Microsoft Excel

If you’re just starting out on managing your first project, chances are you’ll turn to familiar tools like Excel where you’ll construct your own tracking sheet with basic formatting and formulas. However, don’t be afraid to get a little more complex and use Excel to create a Gantt chart.

Officetimeline.com, for instance, offers up a detailed, step-by-step tutorial manual on how to create a Gantt chart Microsoft Excel users can set up. Note, that creating one from the beginning can be time consuming, but as your projects become more complex, you’ll be glad you invested the time.

For those who don’t want to create things from scratch, though, you can still get the job done by using a Gantt chart template.  You can find a variety of them online. Here are a few to start you off:

  • A simple 4 week project timeline Excel template from Office.com
  • A free version of Gantt Chart Template Pro from Excel expert, Jon Wittwer, at Vertex42.com
  • GanttExcel.com also has a template you can download that has both a paid and free version
  • Chandoo.org offers a variety of Gantt chart templates for project management

3. Import Excel Data Into Microsoft Project 

For a more specialized project management tool, Microsoft created MS Project. While part of the popular MS Office suite, the project management software program isn’t included with the desktop suite.

This program offers the high end features that are needed for more multi-level complex projects that need high level monitoring and workflow analysis, cost calculations, in-depth planning, enterprise-wide access and more.

However, if you started tracking your project with MS Excel and are switching over to MS Project, there’s good news. You can simply import Excel into Microsoft Project. When you create a new project, choose to create one from Excel. From there, the MS Project import wizard will guide you through the rest.

4. Create A Gantt Chart Online

Online project management is common nowadays. And with cloud storage and remote teams, being able to take and keep things online is essential.

It isn’t any wonder that you can create Gantt charts online free from the very beginning, making it easily accessible from wherever you or your team are. Though you get what you get with online versions, the essential features are there.

Ganttic.com is an online resource planning, scheduling and management tool. While paid accounts will provide you with more features, for project managers that are bootstrapping it, there’s a limited free account available. It allows you only 10 resources to track. but despite the limitation, Ganttic.com has features that are streamlined and simplified.

Ganttic Introduction from Ganttic on Vimeo

Second is Gantter.com which is a free cloud-based project management tool. This one sticks out because it works tightly with Google Apps and Google Drive, which, if you’re working with a Google based team, is perfect.

Its features leverage the power of Google’s cloud services, including real time editing, chat, and Google Drive access. You can even import and export files from Microsoft Project. Not a Google user, though? Don’t worry.  Gantter.com offers a smartapp.com edition that ties in other cloud drives you may be using.

How are you keeping track of your project and your team? If you know of any other Gantt Chart tips to expand on this list, let us know in the comments.

How To Hatch Or Fill Objects/Areas?

Part 4 of 13 in our How To Use AutoCAD series

When using AutoCAD to draft blueprints or designs, the CAD designer must keep in mind the type of material that will be used when the design is built.  For this, AutoCAD uses “hatches” that represent solid masses and materials to be used and incorporated within the design when it’s built.

When creating your CAD drawing, you can decide on the pattern to be used to represent the material intended to be used during construction with AutoCAD’s hatch command.   

The hatch command in AutoCAD is used to fill an area or selected objects with a hatch pattern or a fill. Here’s how to use the command in a few simple steps:

1.Go to the Draw panel on the Home tab. Find the hatch icon in the bottom right corner.

Using Autocad Hatch Command

2. You will see a “Hatch creation” tab. Go to its Properties panel and choose the Hatch type that you would like to insert. Choose between Solid, Gradient, Pattern or User Defined.

3. Further specify the pattern on the Pattern panel.

Pattern Hatch Type

4. Choose your desired method: “Pick Points” or “Select Boundary Objects”. The “Pick Points” will determine a boundary around the specified point. The “Select Boundary Objects” will allow you to manually select the boundaries of the area that you would like to hatch.

5. After filling the area, hit “Enter” to apply the hatch.

As you can see, when using AutoCAD for any design, being as detailed as possible is not only essential, but easy when it comes to specifying small details such as construction material.

4 Ways To Handle Common Workplace Stress Productively

In one single work day, you can go through a roller coaster of emotions. From feeling energetic to angry, your mood can swing from one extreme to the other. What matters most is how well you deal with your emotions. They can impact your performance, your work, your career, and how others perceive you.

When things get tough, it’s hard to stay focused on the bigger picture. You can push yourself to get things done, but when in a bad mood, it can become counter-productive. Sometimes even the most common workplace problems can’t be conquered by sheer will alone.

But instead of sitting around, stewing in negativity, you can get proactive about turning your day around. We’ve got 4 constructive tips on how to handle yourself in some of the most common stress-related situations at work.

Losing Sight Of Your Goals

Truth be told, being motivated 24/7 is mentally exhausting especially when major obstacles pop up. Big challenges can get to you. Losing your project’s funding, begin passed over for a promotion, sacrificing your family for work—all are enough to make you question your goals.

But you’re not alone. Even some of the most successful people need to motivate themselves. So don’t get caught up into thinking your current tedious task is the end goal. It’s only one step in the journey towards it.

A positive attitude and motivation are key, but they’re also the hardest to maintain. Give yourself a boost with a simple reminder of what your career goals are.

Lifetick Tracking Goals Online

Image Soure: Lifetick.com

Lifetick.com is a great tool for just this purpose. As a goal keeping service, it allows you to set, update and track your goals. And because goals are far more than just a to-do list, Lifetick.com comes with the ability to keep a journal, chart your progress, establish your core values, and track areas of your life to develop success-oriented habits. It has a free plan and app available.

So if you feel like you’re getting more than you bargained for, then it’s time to sit down and reassess if your goals are still right for you or if you need new ones altogether.

Feeling Overwhelmed

We all have days when things just seem to work against us. When you have more than 20 things on your plate, feeling swamped will have you jumping from one task to another.

Motivational Quote Nelson Mandela

You’ll feel like you aren’t prioritizing the task you should be. Or worse, you’ll be busy planning things out and figuring out where to start instead of just getting your tasks done.

A good antidote to that is to just jump in, put on your blinders and focus. Try using the Pomodoro technique that makes you work uninterrupted for 25 minutes solid with 5 minute breaks in between. Don’t think, just work.

Or if you’re having troubles deciding on what to do first, calm your nerves with a robust to-do list tool like RememberTheMilk that lets you manage your task lists from anywhere.

You can even combine both and improve your time management skills. But whatever you decide, getting yourself active and focused on one thing at a time is key.

Stepping Into A New Role

Being assigned a new project or stepping into a new role can be intimidating. You react with fear, panic and even doubt. How can you get the job done without any experience?

Be easy on yourself. It’s okay to say “I don’t know how to do this”. In fact, that’s what you want to do. The statement will force you to take stock of where you are and what new skills you’ll need.

If you need some guidance on learning skills and take the edge off, you’ll want to check out Mindtools.com. This site has a ton of articles on career-related topics. Moreover, it takes its database of articles to the next level, allowing you to design your own structured skills guide by organizing them into a Learning Plan. So you have the advice you need right at your fingertips when you feel lost.

Creating Mindtools Learning Plan

You can log in using your LinkedIn or Facebook account to start crafting your plan, however, do note that some resources can only be accessed by paid members.

Don’t forget that the first time won’t be perfect. If you start out knowing and accepting that you will make mistakes, your first footsteps will be less scary and less pressure-packed. Combine that with an willingness to learn and you’re off to a good start.

Dealing With Problem Co-Workers

When you’re working with a diverse team of members, there’s a good chance you won’t get along with every single one your co-workers or their habits. Question is, how do you deal with them?

The knee-jerk reaction is to start gossiping, bullying or even sabotaging him or her in spite. But remember that when you do, your professional reputation is on the line.

Confrontation is fine as long as it’s in good professional taste. Using “I” language, clearing the air, consulting your employer on solutions, or being open to company mediators are good alternatives in an office environment, both physically and digitally.

But if you feel your issues can’t be helped or aren’t worth lashing out about, let off some steam and unwind with Passiveaggressivenotes.com.

Posting Passive Aggressive Note

Image Source: PassiveAgressiveNotes.com

This site is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a site where you can find hilarious and relatable passive aggressive notes that people have submitted or wrote themselves. Having a good place to deflate will give you some perspective on your own problem co-worker, allowing you to let go and focus on your job. Having a good laugh is always better than permanently tarnishing your reputation!

 

As you can imagine, dealing with the emotional pitfalls of the workplace is an essential skill to master. Success, happiness and a good work life balance are things you have to work for. So don’t give in too easily. A productive tip here and there can help you achieve them one day at a time.

How To Scale Objects With A Reference?

Creating CAD Drawing

Part 3 of 13 in our How To Use AutoCAD series

For AutoCAD users, being able to resize and scale a design is crucial. It can mean the difference between a successful project and a disastrous design. This is why AutoCAD comes equipped with a ton of advanced features to make scaling designs an easy task. 

As a matter of fact, AutoCAD will go so far as to allow you to scale objects by factor or reference using the Scale command. Changing the size of objects by reference is based on the existing distance for specifying the new size of your object.

Here’s how to scale objects with a reference in AutoCAD 2016:

  1. Select the Scale command.
  2. Select the desired object.
  3. Specify the current distance.
  4. Specify the new intended size.

It’s also possible to scale the entire drawing by Reference, not only individual objects. To do that:

  1. Select all objects in the drawing.
  2. Using Reference, select two points.
  3. Specify the desired distance to scale all the objects in the drawing accordingly.

Scaling objects is a detailed oriented task that may seem tedious at first, but with the Scale command, you can master the task in as little as 4 steps.

 

How To Work Excel Like An Accountant Without The Degree

Calculating Taxes In Excel

Not everyone has the skills of an accountant or financial analyst. But if the stress of tax season has taught us anything it’s that we could certainly take our cue from them and handle our finances better than we currently are.

Knowing even a tenth of how to use Excel is an extremely valuable asset to have. From organizational purposes to simple data visualizations, the uses of Excel are unlimited.

We’ve already showed you how to work with your data in Excel with a few basic tips. So we thought it’d be a good time to take things up a notch.

If you want to improve your data analyzing chops, we found some advice, MS Excel resources, and tips to help you to start working with Excel like an accountant without the degree!

Use Excel With A Specific Goal In Mind

There are many things an accountant can use Excel for. A cost accountant could open up a spreadsheet, for instance, to gain some insight from data in a PivotTable. But for you, your situation may be different. You may use Excel for. . . .

What would be your financial reason to learn MS Excel? Answer this question and you’ll be driven to master the program and take the next steps.

Keep Information Organized & Accessible

Although Excel is powerful calculation tool, you have to admit that it’s a great organizational tool. And this is where you can get your feet wet.

You can use it to track and organize almost anything. And for accountants that is key. But if you’re not analyzing corporate invoices, don’t worry. You can still use it in your everyday life.  Use it to keep wedding plans in order, keep track of your monthly budget, or keep your online research. It’s up to you.

Another simple way accountants use Excel? As a means of transparency, giving their clients access to their data and vice versa. You can imagine how this would help if you need to export your data to and from different sources and people.  So no matter what your goal is, learning how to work collaboratively by sharing your Excel workbook with others is another good start.

Know Your MS Excel Basics

If you don’t have any experience with numerical analysis, you’ll need to start from the beginning.  Learn the basics of Excel–and learn them well!

On Quora, a wide range of accountants and financial professionals naturally have differing opinions on which Excel skills are the most valuable for finance and accounting. But what’s generally understood without saying is that basic Excel skills and knowledge are required.

Thus, once you know your way around Excel (simple formatting, data entry), you can start in on features for working with your data. Think MS Excel Pivot Tables, Remove Duplicates, and Text-To-Columns. The aim of this step is to go from not knowing anything about Excel to knowing how to use it for basic calculations.

Get Serious About Excel

This step includes learning about trends like Excel’s impact on Business Intelligence.  It also means trying to get more precise with your Excel spreadsheets and data analysis. To do so, you need to know where to go.

If you’re at a loss at how to start in on seriously and actively learning about Excel, a few Quora professionals outlined what they thought was the best way to learn Excel.  So take a look at the thread. From online resources and courses to certifications and Excel oriented events, there’s no limit on how far you can go.

Use MS Excel Keyboard Shortcuts

Another suggestion to boost your learning is to use keyboard shortcuts for the basics. This is because once you master a skill, you should make it as efficient as possible. You’ll have bigger tasks to perform once you have the basics down. And wasting your time on  the smaller things can slow you down.

Keyboard Law Technology

 

Pakaccountants.com outlines the kind of MS Excel keyboard shortcuts accountants use. And it’s a powerful list when you consider how much they accomplish. For other keyboard shortcuts, you can access Microsoft’s official list of Excel keyboard shortcuts on their site.

Use MS Excel Cheatsheets

If you can’t remember all the functions and formulas there are, don’t worry. It’s doubtful that even power users can remember them all.  For this, you can simply print up and use an Excel cheatsheet and refer to it when needed. So even if you don’t know which function or formula you need, you’re more than capable of looking it up.

Just Dive In

There is absolutely no substitute for hands-on experience. If you’re going to learn Excel, learn it! Spend time with the program. Many are intimidated by it. But the key to overcoming that is to start understanding MS Excel. So explore it. Test it out. Just dive in.

And if your own personal motivation isn’t enough, another great reason to learn Excel? There are jobs that pay extremely well for MS Excel skills.  It’s nothing but a win-win situation when you learn Excel.  So step up your game and see how far you can go!