Table of Contents
Perhaps for that same reason, ClickUp can appear intimidating to the the first time visitor. With its seemingly endless list of features and tools, getting started can be confusing. Adopting the tag line “One app to replace them all” is a double-edged blade.
Here, we will take our first steps in understanding what tools are available at our disposal and define a framework to mapping them in the system. This will setup a foundation for structuring using ClickUp.
We will end the article with a few fundamental tips on making ClickUp more approachable.
This article can also serve as a high level glossary of features that ClickUp offers. Which is why I use the word ‘toolkit’ quite often through this post
This article will NOT
– Make you an expert in ClickUp
– Dive deeper into the features
– Deal with actual case studies
We will build towards that through future articles once we have a logical foundation to start with.
Visualizing the structure
We will keep it light on information density at feature level and focus more on the structure of ClickUp in operation. This infographic provides a compact view of the ClickUp ecosystem. Use it as a map to orient you through this post.
Decoding the Structure of ClickUp
Having a growing arsenal of features is what makes ClickUp intimidating. But I’d like to think of this as a buffet. You are not expected to take everything from every station. Give it a once-over then pick and choose what suits your plate. Hungry yet?
The first step to demystifying ClickUp is to create a mental map of its structure. ClickUp operates at two levels:
One is at the Task level, or as I’d like to call it the Atomic level. This is where the required action is defined in discrete units. The second is the Hierarchical level. This is where tasks come together to form logical groupings and sequences.
Let’s understand the behavior of ClickUp at each of these levels
Atomic Unit (The ClickUp Task)
The driving force of any platform that helps organize work, tends to be the Task. At the instance of recording a task, adding rich dimensions to it ensures that the task has a well-defined purpose and access to resources. Let’s look at the robust set of tools ClickUp offers at this level.
Task <-> Subtask
Every task has the ability to be broken down into sub-tasks. ClickUp supports 7 levels of nested subtasks. I have never needed to cut a tasks down to so many sub-levels, but it’s there if you need it. Tasks and subtasks support the following:
Once tasks start to pile up, you will need a system to group and organize them into related tasks, projects or departments. Once the level has risen above tasks, ClickUp’s behavior is, at this level, oriented towards organization. The highest container of workflow units is called a “Workspace” in ClickUp. Think of this as the entirety of your organisation. Within this Workspace lies the hierarchy of ClickUp. This is how it flows:
A collection of Tasks and Subtasks can be grouped into a List. The list is a mandatory unit of task organization in ClickUp
Collection of Lists/ Chat windows/ Documents can be pooled into a Folder. It is possible to have folder-less Lists, but not the other way round
Spaces can be a collection of (any of) Lists, Folders, Chat views and Documents
Although not an optional form of organization, the “Everything” view cuts across all spaces and allows some cool aggregation of tasks that is not possible at any of the levels below it
ClickUp offers the following features to deal with Hierarchy. Unless specified otherwise, assume that all these features are available across the hierarchy.
Quick controls that let you cut through large collection of tasks and pull out data by parameters such as date, assignee, custom tag etc. to suit your current requirement. A custom combo of grouping and filtering can be saved as a separate view for you to revisit
- Kanban (Board)
These are just different ways of viewing the contents of a List. Changing the view highlights a different aspect of the task allowing you to choose the right view for the right workflow.
- “Me” mode
- Default View
ClickUp lets workspace owners and admins standardize the behavior of any list or view. You can prevent team members from modifying carefully calibrated setups, create a default view and even auto-filter tasks to display only the tasks assigned to the viewer
- Sprints (Folder level only)
Run customizable Sprints and Agile workflows with thoughtful automations on how to treat unfinished tasks and loading new sprint cycles.
Bring any web tools you’re working on into the ClickUp environment.
Enjoy a wiki-style document creation and editing environment. Supports linking to tasks, @mentions, “/” commands, code blocks and embeds from both outside and inside ClickUp
A simple way to define and track organizational or personal goals that can be separate or can derive its progress from the workspace you created.
Interaction and Monitoring
The ClickUp environment is made richer by the ability to use digital workflow mapping tools. You can save time, encourage consistent routines and become the single source of truth for your digital productivity ecosystem
- Automation: Deploy predictable elements of tasks or the task as a whole, by mapping it against a trigger event in your Task/List/Folder/Space.
- Integration: ClickUp supports native integrations with popular Calendars, Email services and a host of other work tools. External integration can be brought in through the use of Zapier, Integromat etc.
- Templates: Capture repetitive tasks and sequences that are typical of your workflow and convert it into a template. These can be manually invoked or connected to automations to create a beginner friendly work environment for your team.
- Dashboards: Create high level, purpose-built dashboards that can convey key metrics and progress, reveal bottlenecks in the system and aid decision making. ClickUp offers “widgets” which allow visual representation of data through charts, graphs and custom task/list portfolios to help you monitor your organization.
General tips on using the toolkit
Understanding the structure allows you to step out from the shadow of feature-mountain and see the logic of the system. Here are a few tips on how you can derive value from ClickUp’s toolkit.
- You don’t need every feature. I’d like to change the buffet metaphor mentioned at the beginning of this post. ClickUp is like having a 126 piece DIY toolkit + power drill. If all you need to do is hang up a picture, you might not need all of it just yet.
- Define your workflow before you deploy ClickUp. I mean, really get into the weeds. Sit down with your team, sequence the tasks of each division, map inter-divisional handoff or collaborations and connect the whole thing to form the circulatory system of your organization. This becomes the blueprint to replicate (and refine) in ClickUp.
- Prioritize simplicity over comprehensiveness. Many organizations are in a hurry to ensure that the entirety of their functions are mapped and processed through ClickUp. Doing this in one go creates a bloated and unfriendly setup that turns off new members of the team and drives down adoption of the platform over a period of time. It is better to start simple and scale up to ensure that the team scales up with it.
- Create a sandbox. Make a private Space. Invite one or two enthusiastic colleagues to be your guinea pigs. Then don’t be afraid to experiment with the tools you’ve chosen for the workflow
This is by no means an exhaustive list of things that ClickUp can do. Many features deserve their own spotlight. But that would be another article for another time. Right now I hope this article gives you an overview of how the nuts and bolts that make ClickUp come together.
Go back to the infographic and see how much of the post’s material you can relate to now. This blog will return with more material that talks about Workflow case studies using ClickUp.
If you’re an individual or an organization that is already curious about ClickUp and are looking to see what it can do for you or your team, reach out!
Disclosure: This article may contain affiliate links. Which means that, at no cost to you, I get a small commission if you choose to buy through my links. Please go through my Disclaimer notes for more info