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14 Online Tools That Help Your Team Stay Connected, Productive, and Happy

14 Online Tools That Help Your Team Stay Connected, Productive, and Happy

Being able to work remotely, or even build a company that’s remote, is not easy, but it’s possible today. Some of today’s most notable companies, including Basecamp, Buffer, Virgin, and WordPress are building companies with over 100+ employees all around the world. How did they do it?

They found the right ‘tools’When your team members are living on opposite sides of the continent and in different time-zones, effective tools are vital to your team culture, productivity, and success. We’ve tested hundreds of online tools to maximize how we stay connected, productive, and happy.  Here is a list of top 14 online tools that you will find useful for yourself and your team. The first four deal with connectivity while the last four help to make your team happier. The remaining six tolls help to increase your team’s productivity.

1. Slack – Keeping Everyone Connected

Slack is a powerful and free way to coordinate with your team and keep everyone on the same page.

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    2. Help Scout – Customer Support Inbox Managed In One Place

    When we first started, we coordinated all of our customer support through Gmail. That got messy — fast. With Help Scout, we can now invite our support team to the application, and coordinate all of our support tickets in one place. They also have a knowledge base feature that allows you to systematize your customer service.

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      3. Intercom – Live Customer Support

      Intercom is a live chat support tool that allows you to send manual and automated notifications to visitors and customers inside the app based on their behaviors. It helps our customers get direct, immediate support, and helps us keep everyone happy.

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        4. Basecamp – Creating company milestones, goals, and organizing files

        Basecamp has been around for over 17 years. Which is far longer than most team management tools out there. And their product shows it. It’s a great tool to organize everything in your company, or even for yourself to keep everything organized. They have a free plan for one project (also known as Basecamp), and you can input as many users as you want.

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          5. Stunning– Helping Customers Update Billing Information In One Click

          Stunning is a new tool we’ve recently adopted in order to recover lost revenue in our business. A common issue that every business runs into is failed charges. This could be due to fraud, card expiry, or just the customer’s bank rejecting the charge for security reasons.

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            What Stunning allows us to do is help update, remind, and empower customers to update their information with one-click.

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              6. Trello – Coordinating Future Blog Posts, To-Do Lists, And More

              Content marketing has been the biggest driver of our website growth thus far, and it’s growing faster by the month. People often ask how we’re able to brainstorm, organize, and publish so many articles at a time. Before, we were using a Google Spreadsheet, which got pretty chaotic.

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                Now we use Trello to organize everything into various sections: Ideas, To-do’s, To be published, and Published.

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                  7. WordPress – Content Management Platform

                  I have yet to hear a better platform for content management, which is why companies like Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and 20% of the internet is powered by WordPress.

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                    8. Pomodoro – Workcycle To Maximize Productivity Without Burnout

                    I would often find myself working for two to three hour periods at a time, without taking a break. When you’re working on something you’re passionate about, it’s easy to put your head down without resting.

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                    The issue was, I was feeling less productive and losing my creativity after about 60-minutes or so. I’ve recently been adopting the Pomodoro Technique, where you work in 25 minute chunks, then take small breaks (~5 minutes). It’s forced me to focus on completing one important task without distraction. Taking small breaks throughout the day prevents your team to from burning out.

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                      9. Invision – Design And Development Collaboration In One Place

                      Invision allows our team to collaborate and share comments on design layouts, feature builds, and even prototype new ideas inside the app. It’s saved us a lot of time and keeps our entire team aligned to one vision of the product.

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                        10. Zapier – Automation Of Recurring Tasks (IFTTT For Business)

                        If you’ve used IFTTT for your personal automation, you’ll love Zapier for your business. It allows us to automate important functions of our business, without needing to develop it on the back-end.

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                          11. Five Minute Journal – Daily Reminders To Express Gratitude and Appreciation

                          The five minute journal was originally recommended by Tim Ferriss, who uses it in his daily routine. It’s easy to be caught up with the current events of your day, and lose appreciation of what you have in your life. The five minute journal gives you the template and framework to record down your thoughts, and what you’re most appreciative for before you start your day, and before you hit the sheets.

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                            12. Calm

                            Meditation And Peace Of Mind On-Demand

                            Whenever we feel stressed out, Calm is a go-to tool to get grounded again. It provides soothing background noises for you to enjoy, including a guided meditation practice that lasts 5 to 10 minutes.

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                              13. Strides – Powerful Habit Tracker With Visual Data Analytics Of Your Habits

                              We are what we do repeatedly. As boring as it sounds, having daily routines is what gives us the freedom to do what we want in our lives. I’ve tried multiple habit tracking online tools, but Strides is one of the best based on visual appearances and usability.

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                                14. 8tracks – Curated Music Selected Based On What Mood You Are In

                                8tracks gives you music collections depending on what mood you are in.

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                                  Featured photo credit: businessfitnessblog.files.wordpress.com via businessfitnessblog.files.wordpress.com

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                                  Last Updated on January 15, 2019

                                  How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

                                  How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

                                  Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

                                  In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

                                  Step right up, don’t be shy!

                                  Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

                                  The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

                                  Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

                                  Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
                                  So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

                                  A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

                                  Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

                                  Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

                                  When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

                                  Culturally Conditioned

                                  We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

                                  I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

                                  The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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                                  Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

                                  Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

                                  Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

                                  1. Broadens Your Network

                                  After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

                                  2. Improves Your Communication Skills

                                  I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

                                  Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

                                  3. Continually Learning

                                  So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

                                  Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

                                  4. Increases Self Confidence

                                  Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

                                  Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

                                  So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

                                  How to Talk to Strangers

                                  Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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                                  1. Say Hello

                                  Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

                                  Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

                                  Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

                                  2. Ask About Them

                                  Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

                                  You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

                                  As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

                                  3. Just Do It

                                  One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

                                  When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

                                  Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

                                  4. Don’t Take It Personal

                                  One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

                                  When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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                                  5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

                                  I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

                                  One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

                                  6. Detach

                                  A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

                                  Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

                                  7. Share Your Stories

                                  Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

                                  To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

                                  So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

                                  8. Give a Compliment

                                  Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

                                  When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

                                  9. Relax Your Body Language

                                  If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

                                  When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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                                  If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

                                  10. Practice, Practice, Practice

                                  Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

                                  Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

                                  After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

                                  The Bottom Line

                                  As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

                                  There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

                                  Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

                                  Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

                                  More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

                                  Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

                                  Reference

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