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How to Better Collaborate with Coworkers Remotely

How to Better Collaborate with Coworkers Remotely

With more and more companies hiring freelancers or outsourcing entirely, much has been written about maintaining productivity and efficiency in a physically disparate workforce. But it’s not just those labeled “remote workers” who work remotely, nor are they alone in their need for remote tools. In fact, when they’re not traveling between clients, today’s local office workers often choose to spend part of their time in home offices, and they encounter many of the same benefits and difficulties as their officially remote counterparts. If you’re one of those workers, there are number of lessons that can be applied from the remote working world to help you coordinate between the office and home.

Here at Distilled, it’s common to arrive to work in the Seattle office with but a few minutes’ window to communicate effectively with those in our London office. When I started a little over a year ago, this was something that took some getting used to, and while it might have initially been an inconvenience, there are so many great tools and techniques available to those with a bit of creativity. Here are some that we have found particularly helpful:

Embrace the Cloud

For a seamless working environment across locations and time zones, embracing the cloud is an absolute must, as cloud apps power easy sharing and collaboration. We benefit immensely from sharing apps like Dropbox or Google Drive, which allow us to store essential documents, data and projects on remote servers rather than on local hard drives or company servers. Not only does this promote better security and allow for automatic backups, but it also means that when I’m out of the office I need only to log into the app to reach my work, rather than having to coordinate among pen drives or wait for a colleague to email a file. Whatever the device you prefer working on and wherever you prefer to work, any necessary work is just click away.

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drive

    What’s more, the process is extremely streamlined, as my colleagues and I all operate within one, centralized dashboard, and sharing is as easy as sending a link or granting access. With apps like Google Docs, there’s no need to re-enter data in multiple places or funnel multiple edits among colleagues into one document; rather, simply share a document, PowerPoint, project or more, and colleagues both around the office and far away can edit the file at the same time as other team members. In fact, with cloud apps, working in a cubicle almost begins to sound outdated.
    You may also want to consider cloud based time tracking tools like Toggl and project management tools like Basecamp, as they’ll help both you and your team members see just who is doing what without any need for a physical calendar. For more great tips on working in the cloud, we recommend this guide to cloud computing, which provides an excellent grounding for those initial ventures into the more streamlined method of cloud working.

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    toggl

      Get Face-to-Face Time With Chat Tools

      Everyone’s experienced them before: group emails where the original point gets buried in a slew of non-sequiturs; a delicate point that doesn’t come across quite so delicately in a Microsoft Word review comment; little tasks that become big tasks as you wait for someone to reply. While many of these issues do exist in some form when everyone is working in the same office together, they become all the more pronounced in the remote setting.
      To address this problem, create as many faux-in-person experiences as possible with video chat technology. Sure, you could try that old standard—the conference call—but it’s difficult for someone who’s just listening in to get a handle on social dynamics, and often you’ll find your opinions buried in the exchange or that you’re forgotten about them entirely. Instead, stream into meetings with free tools like Skype or Google Hangouts, the latter of which will toggle between speakers so you’ll have center stage when you’re speaking. This technology is perfect for small-group meetings, and it also makes sense for weekly company-wide, cross-team meetings, which you might want to suggest to your company as a means for keeping not just you but also employees across the globe on the same page. It has been really well-received by our teams across timezones, allowing anyone with an internet connection to dial in, no matter the time nor location.
      Even very simple chat tools like GChat can be effective for quick, casual communication as you coordinate with team members on a project. For more tips on communicating and coordinating between workers, we suggest taking a browse through this collaboration guide.

      Be Social and Productive With Social Media

      Whether you choose to stay home once a month or several times a week, it’s important to prevent feelings of isolation. Try starting a discussion board on the private company Facebook page or in a LinkedIn group to discuss company news or even water cooler subjects, like plans for the weekend. Google+ is also a great option for this, as users can easily curate their work-based audience by adding or dropping contacts from circles while they share tips and expertise, alert one another of industry-relevant news, share big client wins, or simply spread inside jokes. It’s not off-task if it promotes a sense of well-being and creates a clear company culture.

      We share a Google+ circle among the team that has quickly become a great internal community where we can post the status of projects, questions we have, and sometimes just funny things we have found around the internet.

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      Make Time for In-Person Meetings

      Of course, sometimes there’s nothing quite like in-person interactions for building camaraderie and getting things done. The more time you spend working at home, the more important it is to make it to on-site meetings to make your presence known. If you’re really feeling isolated, suggest a company-wide retreat, or ask if you might have an in-office point of contact or mentor who can act as your advocate and keep you abreast of any recent developments that may not have made it into the company newsletters.

      Last winter, our entire team flew to London to finally meet in person. While there is no doubt overall productivity that week decreased, this was a wonderful opportunity to grow our interoffice relationships, which ultimately made working on projects remotely far more successful, as we were not connecting the projects to an actual person as opposed to just an email address.

      Take-Away

      Whether you work with a team of remote colleagues or you simply want to be unhindered in your last minute decision to work from home on a Monday morning, there’s no reason the traditional office setting should confine how you work. With the right tools and support from your company, you should be able to embrace all that remote working has to offer while also being more productive than in the traditional setting. So, do your research, choose your tools, and work how you please from office or home.

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      Questions? Comments? I’ll be happy to respond in the comments below, or on Twitter @stentontoledo.

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      40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2018 Updated)

      40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2018 Updated)

      Over the years here at Lifehack, we’ve discussed plenty of apps that you can use to improve your overall productivity.

      There are certain ones that many of our contributors and editors (past and present) have adopted over the long-term — there are always the stalwarts that stick around. But there are also new apps that crop up every day, adding more and more depth to the app category.

      Some of the apps are incredibly plain and simple, while others are more robust and offer more features than you can shake a stick at. And everyone has the one they prefer.

      It’s been our job (and still is our job) to keep abreast of all of the productivity-type apps out there. As a result — and as a bit of a refresher — we’ve put together a list of 40 best productivity apps for iPhone to provide you with an all-in-one resource for you.

      Productivity apps to help you get things done

      1. OmniFocus

      This app is, while pricey, considered to be one of the (if not the) most robust and full-featured productivity apps on the market.

      Download it here.

        2. Forest

        Train yourself to put your phone down and stay focused on the task at hand by playing with this planting game. It’s fun and will help you achieve more.

        Download it here.

          3. Things

          Another robust choice, this app is a favorite amongst “productivityists”.[1]

          Download it here.

            4. 30/30

            Recently covered here at Lifehack

            , 30/30 is a newcomer to the game that incorporates lists and timing of tasks into an elegant and easy-to-use interface.

            Download it here.

              5. Any.Do

              A beautiful-looking app that is both easy on the eyes and your wallet.

              Download it here.

                6. PocketLife Calendar

                This calendar app is specifically designed to be stylish and super easy-to-use. You can organize your life easily with different modern features.

                Download it here.

                  7. Asana

                  We’ve covered Asana here at Lifehack

                  , and it is being actively developed by a strong team committed to making collaborative task management a more efficient and effective experience.

                  Download it here.

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                    8. ToDoist

                    This app keeps track of everything – from simple errands to your most important projects – so you can get it all done and enjoy more peace of mind along the way.

                    Download it here.

                      9. FlowTasks

                      From the folks at MetaLab, Flow is a gorgeous collaborative task management app that is easy-to-use and incredibly functional.

                      Download it here.

                        10. Calendars 5

                        This calendar app focuses on events that help you to keep track of upcoming events and tasks easily. It has everything you need to organize, track and complete your to-dos.

                        Download it here.

                          11. Clear – Tasks, Reminders & To-Do Lists

                          A fun and innovative list-making app that relies on swiping and pinching to make things happen. Clear created a lot of buzz when it launched, and might be the perfect to-do list gateway app for many.

                          Download it here.

                            12. Due

                            A robust reminders app that lets you store and maintain reminders of all types. It’s replaced Reminders for me when it comes to the basics, and it’s worth a look if you want to keep the mundane stuff out of your head and cluttering your mind.

                            Download it here.

                              13. Checkmark 2

                              I use this app

                              for location-based reminders (such as groceries I need to get or single items I need to pick up from various locations). Checkmark is simple to use and a valuable addition to my productivity arsenal.

                              Download it here.

                                14. TeuxDeux

                                Created by Tina Roth Eisenberg and Fictive Kin — Teux Deux is simple and incredibly stellar in terms of design. If you like lists (including the popular “Someday Bucket”) and want to associate dates with tasks, then Teux Deux will be right up your alley.

                                Download it here.

                                  15. Wunderlist 

                                  Another incredibly popular choice is Wunderlist. Part of 6Wunderkinder’s software family, it sports a gorgeous design and is incredibly functional. We’ve talked about the app a couple of times here at Lifehack, so check those posts out here.

                                  Download it here.

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                                    16. Nirvana

                                    For the GTD enthusiasts, there’s Nirvana. Straight from the source: “Nirvana frees your mind to focus on actually getting things done. If you’ve had enough of generic to-do lists, it’s time for Nirvana.”

                                    Download it here.

                                      17. Priorities

                                      An elegant-looking task management app that has received decent reviews,[2] this could be the one for you if you’re not a fan of OmniFocus or Things — especially if you need (or want) to share tasks with others.

                                      Download it here.

                                        Productivity apps that help you build habits

                                        18. Productive

                                        With this app, you can plan your habits with an easy-to-use interface, schedule habits for any time of the day, set smart reminders for each time of the day and stay on track with useful feedback. This app is perfect for anyone who wants to build a habit that sticks.

                                        Download it here.

                                          19. Habitica: Gamified Taskmanager

                                          You can complete tasks and build habits in a more fun way with this app. Input your Habits, your Daily goals, and your To-Do list, and then create a custom avatar. Check off tasks to level up your avatar and unlock features such as armor, pets, skills, and even quests.

                                          Download it here.

                                            20. Streaks

                                            This app follows the model of the popular “don’t break the chain method” in that you use the app to track how you are donig in the pursuit of your goal. Great for goal-setting — and an easy and elegant interface to boot.

                                            Download it here.

                                              21. Remember The Milk

                                              Another popular to-do list app, Remember The Milk has a huge following. It has plenty to offer, including the ability to share tasks with others.

                                              Download it here.

                                                22. Day One Journal

                                                When it comes to journaling, nothing really beats Day One. Its latest update added a slew of features that will make you want to start making journaling a habit.

                                                Download it here.

                                                  Productivity apps that makes organization easy

                                                  23. Evernote

                                                  Touted as the world’s most widely-used productivity app, Evernote an be used simply as a notetaking app or can be customized to be your GTD app of choice — among other things.

                                                  Download it here.

                                                    24. Pocket

                                                    You can save an article, video or link you want to read or watch later to Pocket from anywhere including your computer, Safari, email, and your favorite apps like Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard, and Feedly.

                                                    Download it here.

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                                                      25. Sync.Me

                                                      This app identifies unknown phone calls, warns you from annoying spam calls, and adds a caller picture to your contacts from Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

                                                      Download it here.

                                                        26. Droplr

                                                        One of the most popular file-sharing apps out there today. Straight from the source: “Stay productive on the go. Droplr for iPhone keeps you in sync and makes sharing on the iPhone natural.”

                                                        Download it here.

                                                          27. Dropbox

                                                          Before iCloud, there was Dropbox. And there still is Dropbox, which is still widely used by both Mac and PC users all over the globe. It’s like having a flash drive in your iPhone. A must-have.

                                                          Download it here.

                                                            28. iDolly 

                                                            In conjunction with Dolly Drive and DollySync, iDolly allows you to edit and share your documents from your iPhone.

                                                            Since all your changes sync automatically to all your devices, the current version of a document will always be accessible because Dolly Sync keeps everything in sync. Very handy.

                                                            Download it here.

                                                              29. Soulver

                                                              It may seem odd that a calculator app shows up on this list, but this is no ordinary calendar app. Ben Brooks over at The Brooks review describes Soulver as follows: “It is what calculators would have been if they were invented at the same time computers were, instead of what we have with most calculator apps.” [3]

                                                              Download it here.

                                                                Productivity apps that help you work smart

                                                                30. Captio

                                                                A simple capture tool. Straight from the developers: “It’s simple. Open Captio and start typing. When you’re done, hit Send. The note is immediately delivered to your email inbox.”

                                                                Download it here.

                                                                  31. Drafts

                                                                  A tremendous capture tool that allows for simple capture, followed by sending items to various applications such as OmniFocus, Things and more.

                                                                  Download it here.

                                                                    32. NoteShelf 2

                                                                    This is a perfect note-taking app for you. You can take beautiful handwritten notes, type, annotate PDFs, record audio & create lists. You can organize them into categories or groups.

                                                                    Download it here.

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                                                                      33. Doodle

                                                                      This app links directly with the Doodle service, which is one that allows you to plan and organize meetings far more efficiently and effectively. Lifehack contributor Steve Dotto has written about Doodle more in-depth here.

                                                                      Download it here.

                                                                        34. TextExpander (Legacy)

                                                                        I have saved countless hours of time with TextExpander, and despite its inability to be as robust on iOS as it is on the Mac, it is still a worthy app to have in your arsenal.

                                                                        Download it here.

                                                                          35. Launch Center Pro

                                                                          A quick launcher for the iPhone that doesn’t just launch an app…with some of them it can do much more. This app saves you time by launching complex actions in a single tap.

                                                                          Download it here.

                                                                            36. GoodReader

                                                                            This may seem to be an odd one to make this list, but here are plenty of reasons why it is here with this article.

                                                                            Download it here.

                                                                              37. LogMeIn

                                                                              Want to be able to control your Mac from wherever you are? Then get this app.

                                                                              Download it here.

                                                                                Productivity apps that improve security

                                                                                38. 1Password

                                                                                There is simply no better password manager out there. I’ve even put together a 1Password Emergency Kit worth looking at here.

                                                                                Download it here.

                                                                                  39. LastPass Password Manager

                                                                                  You can store passwords and logins, create online shopping profiles, generate strong passwords, track personal information in photo and audio notes.

                                                                                  All you have to do is remember your LastPass master password, and LastPass autofills web browser and app logins for you.

                                                                                  Download it here.

                                                                                    40. Truecallers

                                                                                    Identify and block spammers, search for unknown numbers and call friends easily with this app. With a community-based spam list from over 250 million users, you’ll need this app.

                                                                                    Download it here.

                                                                                      There are plenty of other options out there (and we’ve heard from readers in the past as to what they enjoyed using), but these 40 are among the best.

                                                                                      Reference

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