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3 Ways to Work Smarter in 2018: Our Favorite Tools for Better Organization & Communication

The reality of work in the digital age is that face-to-face communication is a luxury. In many organizations, you have at least one or two team members working offsite. In our organization, Countryside publications, all of our editors and writers are offsite. How do we ensure effective communication and organization in a remote environment? Well, of course, it starts with hiring and partnering with the right people. The truth is, some people do not have the wiring to do effective work in a remote location, but that’s not what I’ll be discussing today.

Today I’d like to share my favorite tools to communicate and stay organized in a virtual environment. If more effective organization and communication are on your list of New Year’s resolutions, give these tools a try. Best of all, most of these programs are free or inexpensive, depending on your needs.

Faster Communication

Staying organized starts with consistent and constant communication. We all love to get answers as quickly as possible so we can wrap up projects and move on to other to-do’s. That’s where chat / video tools come in. What I love about Chat programs like Zoom is using them on my mobile device, in case I am away from my desk and need to get back to a team member quickly. Sometimes a phone call isn’t an option. Sometimes a quick text chat is the best option.

Tools That Can Help: Try Zoom or Slack for video conferencing, casual chatting, quick questions, file sharing, and screen grab. Save emails for more complex directions that need to be documented. Weekly video chats are a great way to keep yourself visually connected with your teams. You might also like Google Hangouts or Join Me.

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Zoom employees on a video chat. Photo used by permission from Zoom.

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Quick chat on Zoom to keep a project moving.

Better Project Management

Whether you are in charge of trafficking large projects or simply want to keep track of your own deliverables, there are numerous tools available. Sure, you can go old style with a notebook and pencil (I’ve got those lists, too), but if you spend your day on a computer, it can be nice to have a web-based system for easy access, from any device, anywhere you have an internet connection.

A Tool That Can Help: TRELLO is a web-based project management tool that allows you to collaborate with other users on project details. Projects and to-do lists are organized into “boards.” Color coding and deadline notifications help everyone keep projects on pace. Within each board is a series of projects, so you can keep different areas of your business separate. You can also upload documents and photo files. What I love about TRELLO is no project is too big; no project is too small. We’ve managed some of our biggest sales initiatives through TRELLO, but I’ve also put together my own personal boards for Christmas lists and school projects for my kids. Of course, these I keep for myself.

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TRELLO board view courtesy of the CountrysideNetwork.com team.

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Individual TRELLO board example

Stronger Collaboration and Feedback

When you have several team members who need to constantly collaborate on a plan, you need a living document. Our specific team need is to manage a digital editorial calendar, and since nearly a dozen people need to be in this document daily, it just makes sense to have a web-based, living document system.

Tools That Can Help: Google docs (like WORD, but a living document) and Google sheets (similar to EXCEL, but a living document). Users can be invited via gmail or can simply be given a link to the documents to contribute. Limitations can be set for different permission levels. Evernote is also a good option. What I love about Google docs and sheets is that you always know you are working on the latest and greatest file. You never have to wonder what version you are editing.

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Google sheet editorial calendar view courtesy of the CountrysideNetwork.com team.

What tools and techniques do you use to stay organized on your team? 

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Steph Merkle

Written by Steph Merkle

Steph Merkle is the Content Director for Countryside Publications, a multichannel community for modern homesteaders. She lives along the foothills of northern Colorado with her husband, two young kiddos and a feathered flock of chickens.

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