AMP'D

Digital Tools To Work More Productively From Home

Digital Tools To Work More Productively From Home

For many businesses, the idea of digital teamwork is no different than the idea of remote teams. But that’s not always the case. In a world that is increasingly digital our lives often become increasingly digital as well – be it from work or personal. Much of the information here can be found online from reviews of specific platforms, but I wanted to give you a snapshot of how we use multiple platforms in a way that keeps us organized and on track in an office that can seem, at times, like the mind of a toddler (It’s been a while since anyone has thrown a fit though).

The Setup

The major tools we use on a daily basis are Slack, Gmail, GoogleDrive, and Asana. Let’s dive in and take a look. Well, I won’t dive into Gmail. I hope that’s not necessary.

Communication- Slack

As many of us strive for the ultimate goal of a clean inbox, the idea of a quick, one-line message coming in makes us cringe. Look, I just got my inbox to the point that I don’t have to scroll and now my messages column is full of coworkers thoughts about lunch locations and a stream of “works for me” replies. All of the sudden I don’t want to go to lunch with any of them.

It doesn’t have to be chaos in your inbox.

Enter Slack.

With Slack our team members can be assigned to their specific projects to communicate on specific tasks, deadlines, and more. Tagging a specific team member is simple using the “@“ symbol. We can even create a project thread for our lunch conversations! Why is this platform useful? After all, there’s setup time, the process of learning new, getting team members to actually use it… the list probably goes on. It’s worth it. And not just for keeping your email inbox nice and tidy.

With Slack we can designate who is on what thread or, as we organize them, what project. This is great because a project that is only print-based doesn’t need a web design team to keep track of the conversation. Within this thread we can send out general messages and tag specific members. The beauty here is that everyone can see the thread and stay updated, but they don’t have to be alerted unless they’re tagged. For communication that isn’t team related we also have the option to message team members directly.

Typically we keep Slack to the finer details related to a project and utilize Asana for the broader direction.

Project Management- Asana

There’s slightly more than a plethora of project management platforms in the world. Most of them are web-based so your computer of choice is still open to your personal desires. Nearly all of them do the same things and have very minor differences. That said, a minor difference for our team could be major for yours. As a freelancer in my past life I oscillated between using Trello and Podio. Both are incredibly valid options if your mind and team work well with the Kanban card method of organization. 

Trello was our mainstay at the office until projects became complex enough to require more features. The biggest being the ability to setup timelines and string dependent tasks and milestones together. Finding something with this feature was important for us and our clients to visualize the complexity and interconnected nature of the various tasks within a project. For instance, in launching a website we need to complete certain tasks in completing the development website, which corresponds to the integration of social media posts, which corresponds to the Facebook Lead Ads, which… well, I think I painted the picture well enough. One important perk to this timeline feature is illustrating the overall project timeline and how a small delay in getting our team relevant content for the website could delay the launch of advertising. But the accountability doesn’t stop there.

We found this beautiful feature in Asana, but I’m sure many other tools offer this as well.

With Asana we can set up a project as a classic list or in a card layout depending on the project needs (more on that in a future article). Like slack, we can assign various people and teams to individual projects and, more importantly, we can assign particular tasks to specific team members. What gets me more excited is having the opportunity to create subtasks and assigning those to even different people! In Asana we outline the overall project, link relevant files, create due dates and a whole lot more.

File Management- Google Docs

In thinking through motivations for each segment, you’ll want to identify potential obstacles or challenges in the request and address them straight off: To the surgeons and nurse anesthetists, “Yes, this is a big commitment. This is a 7-10 day trip that will change countless lives, including your own.” A philanthropist could potentially object that short term mission trips are ultimately not scalable, thereby emphasizing the fact that the volunteer medical personnel are using the opportunity to train in-country (local) providers, thus helping create systemic change. A small donor might object that their $50 could actually create change, but when reassured that the consolidated amount will make a difference in a tangible way, they’ll click the donate button. 

Speaking of linked files… We have been using Google Suite for quite some time and it’s really grown on me. Like project management platforms, there are a lot of options for cloud storage solutions and they all pretty much do the same thing. What made this an easy choice was Google’s integration of Gmail and the storage size they roll in with the email platform. 

Having a background in graphic design has trained me to work with files locally (read: with the file downloaded on my computer) a lot. One nice feature with Google Drive is the ability to download an app on my computer and work with files seamlessly. The setup took some time to download the entire library to my computer, but it was worth it. Now I have the ability to open or create a file and save it without having to open my browser, sign in, navigate to the drive folder, download the file, edit the file and then upload it. I simply open a file and save it. The app does the rest. Now, the real icing on the cake is this: I don’t have to have the library saved on my computer’s hard drive, it can be saved on an external hard drive. Things may have changed with other cloud storage apps, but at the time saving to another drive wasn’t something that could be done without getting into some tricky computer coding.

Considerations

As always, there is a fear that increasing our connectivity to things, especially work, will keep us tied to the office. That’s certainly a fear to keep in mind, but there are ways around it. The first step I take is downloading the apps to my phone and then removing any notification rights. When I’m at work, I don’t need my phone to notify me about something that my computer will notify me about. This changes if I have a day of travel or if we have a large project that’s going live or could require immediate communication. But, generally speaking, the notifications are off. If I check my work email when I’m at home, that’s completely on me. 

Second, creating different lines of communication within email, Slack, and Asana means that I can mentally prioritize the notifications coming in. If I’m working on a detailed project and an email comes in, I know that it’s not a team member needing a quick reply to complete a task – I can wait for a better opportunity to check and respond. The situation is similar for Asana. If I’m receiving a notification from Asana, I know that it’s likely another teammate adding a task, completing a task, or building out a future project. I can check in on that later. Why does this matter? It limits distractions and keeps me on track. And that keeps projects on track. Setting up this system was complex and daunting, but in the end it has allowed us to better serve our clients.

About AMP’D Solutions Manager & Creative Director Edward Tuttle

Edward’s resourceful background in marketing, graphic design, philosophy and customer service create an ability to visually communicate business strategy in a very accessible manner. The area between business strategy, and a finished product is where Edward lives. In a way you could say his specialty is client-focused “visual thinking,” but that could be selling him short.

If he’s not in the office you can usually find him taking his family on bike rides & hikes, searching for the newest plants to adorn his home or dreaming of his next outdoor adventure.


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