[photo by Mr. Mark, flickr artist](http://www.flickr.com/photos/mark_boucher/)
photo by Mr. Mark, flickr artist

human beings are predators. that’s why our eyes are on the same plane facing forward. it maximizes the area of overlap for the field of vision each of our eyes has. this overlap allows us toperceivedepth, and if you’ve ever worn an eye-patch for medical reasons (or you just happen to fully celebrate talk like a pirate day) — you have no doubt noticed how difficult it is to keep from bumping into things.

interesting information, but what does this have to do with business? plain and simply put — you can only see what you can see.

some companies have project management offices (PMOs), others have processes, and many of the rest don’t have any. so what do you use? basecamp? activCollab? ms project?… none of the above? the previous collection of tools all cost an additional fee for the full software package. because of that, you may be tempted to track your projects status in a word document, or a task list developed in ms excel.

the problem with that kind of approach is that you lose sight of a lot of great information that commercial software tracks for you. it’s not just enough to know what tasks you have open, or what projects are still under-way. you need to also be able to see who you have working those tasks or projects. you need to have the ability to see which tasks are affected another so that if schedules start to creep — and let me tell you, schedules WILL creep — you will be able to identify problem areas before they become serious issues. so following are two free options that can help you keep better track of your projects.

the first tool is agantt chart created in excel by antonio lupetti. his blog post includes a template that you can download and tailor for your uses. theadvantageof using excel is that most people have it! chances are it’s included in your business’ office productivity suite of choice. since it’s included, there’s no additional fee, and it’s widely available to your workforce. anyone can update and maintain a project schedule tracked in excel.

the second tool is another gantt chart template that you can use via google docs. and you’ll see if you use the template that the gantt char is actually pretty involved, and as long as you have a google account and your organization approves of putting company information on a shared web service such as google docs (or, if your organizationutilizesgoogle web services internally), then this template is one you might consider using as well. it will show the tasks, duration, completion percentage, and allows you to include dependencies as well.

using either of the two tools mentioned, you’ll ensure that — no matter what you decide to go with in order to track your projects — you keep an eye out on the most important information involving your projects. so stop walking blindly, and don’t feel around in the dark looking for the thread to rope your projects back into line. take off the blindfolds and open your eyes to the information you’ve been missing before.