Remote work is possible largely thanks to the tools that connect us globally. Each organization, as well as each person who works in a dispersed team, creates its own ideal system over time. I would like to share with you the applications I use to best organize my time. This is the second part of this mini-series of articles.

As mentioned previously, these tools are ones that I find great for work but which also help me coordinate and survive day-to-day life. Today we are focusing on communication, which is something that needs to be clearer and more consistent when you are working remotely, as you need to build and maintain good working relationships beyond the physical workplace.

Notes

GDrive

It’s pure gold for remote work.I can’t imagine my life without it. The ease of collaboration on documents and the wide range of file sharing options are the main advantages among the multitude of possibilities offered by GDrive.

What should you be careful about? Certainly, for potential security breaches by generating a link to which even your hamster may have access, or one that is displayed to everyone in a search engine. A wise administrator in your company should obviously make sure to block this option!

I am still discovering the possibilities and limitations of Team Drives which are quite a young product. They certainly help to better manage access; however, they limit the ease of sharing a folder and, unfortunately, still do not work for people who do not have an email in the Google domain.

Evernote is a good tool for aggregating information while working remotely

Evernote

I’ve been using Evernote for at least 6 years, mostly for private and development purposes.I will honestly admit that this is not my most ordered tool. I collect all my thoughts, inspirations, ideas and questions in it. I treat it a bit like a collecting tool with ’Getting things done’ methodology. I can’t lie, I’ve thrown so much stuff into Evernote over the years that my application now resembles the room of a rebellious 14-year-old girl suffering from a hoarding problem. I am not proud of this but the advantage of this “chaos-driven” approach is that I really have everything in one place. 

Yes, it’s one very messy place but, for several months, I have been regularly devoting time to organizing it so that it covers at least 3 more steps of GTD: 

  •  Analysis: I created a “TO READ” folder 
  •  Ordering: Using a “TO SORT” folder 
  •  Review: Utilizing notebooks for individual thematic areas

Communication

Remote work can overwhelm anyone when too much communication is going on.

Slack

It is probably worth writing a whole separate, extensive article about Slack. In a nutshell: it’s a messenger with the option to create channels, groups and send private messages. Recently, a new version has appeared which includes, among other things, a long-awaited option for thematic grouping of people and channels. At last, all channels with you co-workers’ bad jokes in one place!

I think corporate messaging has at least as fans as skeptics. Many people find it a distraction that makes it difficult to get real work done. For these people, I have one piece of advice: stop using instant messaging for synchronous communication. Tools such as Slack are best used so that everyone can follow what is happening in the area of the project or company, in their own time and within the communication slots they set. Respect your own time and that of other people by not answering messages in real-time and not expecting others to do so.

Many of the features that we perceive as Slack’s flaws are actually our habits and problems with time management or FOMO. Mute channels you don’t need to follow. When you are working with deep focus, Slack has a wonderful “Do not disturb” option. Use it! If someone needs to contact you on an absolutely crucial topic (e.g. production crashed, a client is causing a storm, a programmer’s computer died, and so on), they can always choose to notify you anyway by overriding the “Do not disturb”. However, most people know to only do this in cases of emergency. 

Good, old e-mail

I use Gmail every day. I love this mailbox for many reasons, especially the easy adjustment of the view to my own needs, the wide range of functionalities, and a lot of memory in the free option. I am a fan of the “Inbox 0 approach”, which has been described many times. For me, a well-organized inbox is the basis for quickly and efficiently locating information. All important decisions crucial for your projects should be documented by e-mail. Instant messaging is unreliable in terms of searching and messages can disappear from chats. In the daily exchange of thoughts, it is very easy to forget about the most important decisions.

I believe that a well-managed inbox ensures that you are covered during heated situations. You probably know this situation, when for three weeks you have been unsuccessfully trying to get information from Xsiński that is important to you? The boss is already stamping his feet because you are not delivering the expected results. And this Xsiński is either silent, or dismisses you, or has been promising “tomorrow” for a week. This is the moment when you reach for the secret corporate weapon: i.e. CC and publicity! Link your boss into the conversation and see how fast things get resolved. Shots fired!

This is, of course, a tongue in cheek suggestion, but do I avoid e-mail exchanges that include only me and the person concerned. It is a good practice to set up a group per project, which is always added to the CC. It creates a sense of responsibility but all means information is shared universally and helps avoid creating bottlenecks.

Summary

This is the end of a two-part cycle about the tools that help me organize my work. I hope they will serve you as much as I do! However, this is not the end of the series. Next week, I’ll be sharing some thoughts on how to onboard to a new company while working fully remotely. As more and more companies learn to adapt to the reality of a longer-term situation in which many or all employees are working from home, welcoming new people on board but not making them feel distant is becoming vitally important to company culture.

Marta Ciesielska

Project manager with 7 years of experience in IT. Her unique mix of studies (linguistic and computer science) helps her to understand both devs and businesses. In her free time, she digs into psychology and NLP, and is a dog enthusiast and nerd.

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