I mean this in the best way, but my Zapier coworkers are massive nerds. Take David Brownman, a senior platform engineer at Zapier. He and his partner, Vicky, recently bought a home, and David was psyched about all the planning—a thing I personally can't relate to.
"We were suddenly swamped with things to do," he told me, happily. "We had to figure out insurance, inspections, utilities, and more, all within our 30-day escrow period. As someone who enjoys thinking about project management apps, I was excited." (Remember: he's a huge nerd who thinks way too much about this stuff.)
I cannot imagine being this excited about tasks, but we had a great conversation, so I thought I'd share it. The main point: the tools you use to coordinate at work can also work for other parts of your life.
Using Airtable to buy a home
Back to David and his new home project.
"Finally, I'd be able to introduce my partner to well-structured project management at home," he told me. "We could group tasks into projects, assign due dates, and report blockers. With any luck, we'd stick with the system for all household chores going forward (not just the move-in ones)."
With this in mind, David wanted to set up a system that was simple to use and would work on mobile devices. He settled on Airtable because he and Vicky were already using it.
"Airtable is flexible enough that it can handle any organizational need," he told me, still enthusiastically.
David got to work setting up an Airtable database that allowed tasks to be filtered by what can be accomplished right now—meaning any tasks that can't be started until another task is complete don't show up. It also allowed tasks to be divided by who they're assigned to.
The result: both David and Vicky have lists of what needs to happen next, at all times. There's even a dashboard for which tasks are currently in progress.
So, how's it going?
"So far, this setup has been working really well," David told me. "It's a system Vicky has tolerated using, and we've been a lot more coordinated with important tasks as a result."
I admire David's commitment to organizing this project and attempt to design a system that will work for him and his partner. I also admire Vicky's willingness to play along with her partner's very specific vision for how that should work. This is the kind of give-and-take that makes relationships work, with or without the involvement of SaaS apps.
Want to learn more? Here's how to become an Airtable expert.
Using OneNote to make beer
David's project management system reminded me of the one my wife, Kathy, and I set up for our home brewing project. We started making beer regularly a year ago. 2020, it turns out, was a great year for yeast overall. For our project, we opted for OneNote.
OneNote doesn't have the database features of something like Airtable, but we didn't need that for this project—we basically needed the digital equivalent of a notebook, a place where we could compile our research, collaborate on recipes, and add notes and measurements during brew day and fermentation.
I test software for a living and could probably spend ages researching a tool that would work perfectly for this specific use case. If I were brewing alone, without Kathy, I'd probably do that (and brew a lot less often because of all the time spent doing so). But we needed to collaborate, so just like David and Vicky, we chose a tool we were both already familiar with.
And that's always the most important thing while collaborating: finding tools that work well for everyone involved. That's true at home, and it's true at work.