How to Boost Morale When Your Team Is Around the World

Geo-dispersed teams have their perks — especially at technology companies, where it’s possible to get your work done from anywhere. The value proposition is a win-win. Leadership teams have access to top talent from anywhere in the world, and employees can even work poolside if they want.

The problem with geo-dispersed teams, however, is that the experience can feel lonely. No matter how you spin it, you’re all alone — you may have never met your colleagues, and you’re probably confined to your home office.

If you’re running (or managing) a geo-diverse teams, it’s absolutely crucial to boost employee morale by forging interpersonal relationships. Here are 5 tips for getting started.

Step 1: Incorporate plenty of face-time

Don’t do your calls on the phone — do them on video. On a high-definition screen, it’s almost like you’re talking face to face. Phone conversations can be awkward and clunky, especially if you and your team have never met in person.

The more that you can make eye contact and read one another’s facial expressions, the more of a human bond you’ll be able to build.

Step 2: Meet up in person

Plan a fun trip somewhere as a team. Even if you’re budget-strapped, it’s extremely important that you spend time together as a group. You don’t need to do this monthly or even quarterly — once or twice a year will suffice.

Step 3: Emulate coffee breaks

Force each other to take breaks. Talk about what’s happening in your lives beyond work. At the office, coffee breaks are powerful for getting to know one another. When you’re part of a virtual team, you don’t have the luxury of running into your office mates in the hall or kitchen. You need to force these moments.

Step 4: Bring your dog (or kids) to work

Seriously — bring your baby, puppy, or kitten to your next video meeting. ‘Cuteness’ always lightens the mood and functions as a powerful reminder that you all have awesome personal lives.

At some point in your life, you’ve probably bonded with a stranger on Reddit over a cat video. Imagine what real-life ‘cute overload’ will do for your next team meeting.

Step 5: Ask how people are feeling

Wondering whether your team members are feeling lonely? Don’t be afraid to ask. Regular 1:1 check-ins are an absolute must. In addition to talking about work, make sure to get a handle over how your team members are doing personally.

Encourage your team members to be completely open and honest. Make it known that each and every person is valued and won’t be penalized for giving constructive feedback.

Final Thoughts: Identify Gaps and Pain Points

Happiness doesn’t happen by accident. Your team needs to work towards it. Pinpoint specific things that your employees want to fix — and fix them.

What lessons have you learned from being a part of, managing, or leading a geo-diverse team? Share your thoughts as a comment below.

Hundreds of Ways to View Your Tasks

Did you know that there are literally hundreds of different ways you can view your and your teammates tasks in Producteev? That’s right. When you consider the various filter options, combinations, and the number of people and projects in your company network, lots of possibilities open up. Check it out - you can sort by:

1. Project to see all the tasks and people involved
2. Person to understand their workload, task progress and status
3. Label to view the tasks that fall into a specific category


4. Creator of tasks within a project
5. Title of the tasks, listed alphabetically
6. Priority so you can address starred tasks in order of importance
7. Deadline either ascending or descending by date
8. Creation date to view when tasks were entered and their current status
9. Last changed so you can see when updates were last made to a task

10. Task status

Active

Completed

Active and Completed

Due today

Due this week

Late


11. Task type

Assigned to me

Created by me

I’m following

With files attached

What filter(s) do you use most?

Until next time,

The Producteev Team

Announcing our long awaited iPad app, one-of-a kind Outlook integration, and more!

Although it’s been a while since our last update, we have been actively listening to what our community is saying on Social Media and working hard on lots of new features for Producteev. It’s safe to say that, since we joined Jive in November 2012, we’ve never been so innovative. Which brings us to today’s announcements!

1. The best free Task Management App just got better: Introducing Producteev for iPad

Yes, we’ve all been waiting a long time for this one, but we promise it’s been worth the wait. Producteev for iPad is fast, beautifully designed, HD, and consistent with the rest of our apps for iPhone, Android, Mac, and web. What’s better, it will come as an automatic update to the iOS app, which is now a Universal app (both for iPhone and iPad).

With iPads now part of our workflow, and quickly replacing desktop computers for a lot of workers around the world, we are confident that this great addition to our suite of apps will be a winner!

 All that said, pictures are worth a thousand words, so here you go:

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Download the iPad app today from the App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/producteev-by-jive-free-task/id306289289?mt=8

2. Productivity on Outlook just got easier: Introducing Producteev Task Management integration on Outlook

For a few years now, Outlook users have been asking us for a better way to handle their task, which makes us extremely proud to announce our one of a kind Task Management integration for Outlook.

 With this integration, we’ve bridged the gap between email, calendar and tasks. In a unique way, Producteev for Outlook (available on Windows for Office 2007, 2010 and 2013) allows you to transform your email client into an actionable and collaborate inbox. Now, for the first time, you can:

  • Turn emails into tasks and assign them to team members.
  • Include action items in emails which Sync to Producteev.
  • Schedule time to work on your tasks right in your Outlook calendar.
  • Use Outlook as your desktop companion for your Producteev tasks, with seamless access to projects, people, and task tracking.

 See for yourself:

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Download our brand new Outlook integration here: https://di0skkm50b972.cloudfront.net/apps/outlook/producteev-for-outlook.exe

 3. Producteev’s offering just got bigger: Introducing Premium plans with Enterprise Grade features

 Due to popular demand, we’ve rolled out new Premium plans for Producteev with Enterprise Grade features including Outlook integration, personalized support, and network interface customization. All our users can try the Outlook integration and Interface customization for FREE for 14 days! Login to your Producteev account to start your trial.

 To learn more about our Premium plans, visit www.producteev.com/pricing.

 One closing note: If you are an Outlook user and are excited about this integration, make sure to ACT FAST on our “Early Bird” plan priced at just $899 for lifetime access to Producteev for Outlook and network interface customization – it’s only available to the first 300 customers who purchase it! Buy it directly from here : https://producteev.com/settings/premium

Thanks for the ongoing support guys, and hope you like the news!

Ilan and the Producteev by Jive Team.

Life Hacks to Simplify Your Workday: Solopreneur Edition

As a solopreneur, you’re probably the worst boss you’ve ever had. Between running sales, managing clients, maintaining accounting systems, and doing all the work, you probably work close to 12 hour days.

You lose out on sleep — you drive your loved ones bonkers. No matter how rough it gets, however, you feel like you’re trapped. After all, you do have to do everything.

Don’t fall into this trap. Even if you’re a one-person-shop, you can still simplify your crazy, crazy days. Save time and restore your sanity by implementing the following productivity hacks.

1. Get a Virtual Assistant

Services like Zirtual are available to help you streamline administrative tasks — which really add up. If your job involves scheduling, basic research, or grunt work, get someone else to do it. It may feel weird at first, and you may not feel great about spending hundreds of dollars per month, but here’s the thing. A virtual assistant will save you time — freeing up your schedule to do more work (or get more sleep).

2. Limit Your Meetings

Especially if you work with clients, you’re probably tempted to hop on calls. Resist the urge.

Meetings disrupt your ability to focus — and get real work done. Try to cut down your meetings, or keep them condensed to 20 minutes max. You can start by creating meeting agendas to help structure your time.

3. Create ‘Focus’ Blocks

Block off your calendar to sit and focus. No meetings. No distractions. No Facebook. Give yourself dedicated chunks of time to truly sit down and power through your piles of work, emails, and whatever else is bogging down your day.

4. Communicate with Your Clients

Your clients care about you — more than you realize. If you think you’re going to miss a deadline, don’t over-stress yourself. Get your client on the phone. Talk to her. See if you can reach a good solution together. Take control of your time, and don’t let pressure eat you alive.

5. Learn to Say No

Entrepreneurs have a tendency to over-commit. Resist this urge by under-committing — and set strict guidelines for yourself. Make a spreadsheet for yourself if you have to.

Learning to say no will feel extremely weird at first. It takes practice, but with time, it will get easier.

Final Thoughts: Put Your Plan on Paper

Take the time to write out your thoughts. Make a spreadsheet— seriously. You may not have a boss to manage your performance, but you need to self-regulate. Having a track record of your improvement. Give yourself a performance review. Do whatever it takes to hold yourself accountable.

Simplifying your workday means taking control of your life — and easing up a bit. This is a priority. Everything else can wait.

3 Tips for Staying On Top of Overflowing Email Inboxes

Many people use their email as a sort of to-do list, knocking off tasks reactively as they go through their messages one-by-one. And to some extent it makes sense; their inbox is constantly overflowing with email and they’re fighting to regain control.

However, this approach can be a huge productivity drain that not only distracts them from the bigger picture, but also means they’re allowing other people to dictate their work days, rather than ceasing the reigns and structuring their days strategically.

Here are three tips to help you take control of your inbox — before it takes control of you.

1. Remember that Not All Email is Created Equally

The first thing to realize is that not every email is created equally. As a business owner, an email from a client is likely much more urgent than one from another company pitching their services. It’s important to have a system in place — whether manual or automated — to prioritize emails so that urgent ones don’t get buried.

One solution is an app called Sanebox, which creates a new folder called SaneLater in your email. Over time, the app begins learning which emails you tend to prioritize over others. The app then places emails it deems as low priority into your SaneLater folder, and sends a summary at the end of the day of all emails placed there. This way, only high priority messages ever show up in your inbox, giving you the peace of mind you need to get on with real work. Low priority messages can then be processed systematically at a later time.

2. Use Apps to “Do It” or “Defer It”

David Allen, author of the popular productivity book Getting Things Done, coined the “do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it” principle. The “do it” part suggests that if a task will take under two minutes to complete, that it is best to take action on it immediately. The same principles can be applied to email.

To help your respond to emails in under two minutes, try Google’s Canned Responses feature for Gmail, which allows you to create template responses for common inquiries. And if an email contains a task that will take longer than two minutes, try an app like Clear Context, a plugin for Outlook, which allows you to instantly convert any email into an actionable task on your calendar.

3. Consolidate Your Subscriptions

When you sign up for a new software tool, conference or white paper, you’re often opting in to subscribe to emails, such as newsletters and promotions. Even if they are interesting and helpful, in most cases you should not be reading these emails right away. They can also clutter up your inbox and cause you to miss other important messages. To prevent subscriptions from getting out of hand, use an app like Unroll.me to organize them, which will consolidate all your subscriptions into a daily or weekly “rollup”. Unroll.me can also be used to mass-unsubscribe from emails you’re no longer interested in.

So don’t let your email dictate your workday. Cease control by keeping your inbox free of clutter so that you can focus on more important work.

5 Helpful Tips for Managing a Project or Team Remotely

Welcome to the new age of co-working where teams are no longer geographically bound within office walls. We can now enjoy anywhere, anytime access to our team, projects and files thanks to the cloud. But the challenges of ensuring that  your team is meeting deadlines and your project stays within budget still exist no matter where you or your team are. Throw in language barriers, cultural differences, different time zones and increased difficulty in monitoring performance, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. With a little effort and understanding, your remote team can work as efficiently as your in-office team. Here’s how.

1) Spend extra time getting to know your team. Before you do anything else on a remote project, understand who your team is, what their roles are, what they have done for the company previously, and where they are located. This will help you best allocate your resources and manage your team’s time. Sharing a file with people outside of who necessarily needs to see it and work on it will only serve to confuse your team and hinder progress. Worse yet, holding a conference call for the entire team where only a few members are needed will waste everyone’s time and may send out the wrong message that you yourself don’t know how to run the project.

2) Set goals within the team early on. This is especially important when managing remote projects as working towards common goals will help unite a disparate group. Don’t leave any details to the imagination, either — include desired colors, fonts, outcomes, and samples. This will help serve as a specifications documents for your team to reference. It’s also helpful to include desired outcomes, use cases, and a Q&A section. The closer you can get your specifications documents to the outcome, the better.

3) Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. Collaboration in the cloud has helped move us forward and out of an archaic business communication system. But sometimes, nothing beats a good-old-fashioned blaring ring of a phonel. If a certain teammate has become unresponsive on shared documents, email, or the company chat, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call. There may be some unforeseen issues that a simple phone call can help clarify!

4) Get the right tools for the job. Once you’ve got the people, plan and goals in place, you will need the right tools to help support collaboration and knowledge transfer throughout the project.  We suggest a combination of the following:

  • Social intranet platform for sharing and collaborating on documents (like Jive Software)
  • A task management tool to share and assign tasks (such as Producteev)
  • Conferencing and online meeting services for remote meetings
  • Instant messaging tools (we’re partial to Adium)
  • File sharing tools (Box, Dropbox)

With these tools in place, no matter where you and your team are working from, you will be able to still keep things on track.

5) Keep the team updated in real time. Nothing hurts more than knowing that you are working on something that has already been done. Communication is key in keeping all teammates on the same page during each phase of the project in order to maximize output from the team and minimize disruptions to productivity. Status updates from team members help communicate what tasks have been completed and what else needs to be done.

Your remote projects can run smoothly and efficiently if you do your due diligence ahead of time and keep communication open and flowing throughout the entire duration of the project!

How to plan your work week after a long holiday

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Welcome back! Did you have a great time with friends, family and loved ones this Thanksgiving? Excellent! Now you can start digging yourself out of at least half a week of work. Take the initiative to organize yourself and your work to avoid the post-vacation burnout.

  1. Catch up on corporate communications. Sit down, focus and start from the bottom up. One of the biggest things to tackle when you come back from vacation is managing your overflowing inbox (still using email?), notifications from your social collaboration platform, or updates on your task management app activity stream. Once you have understood what has happened (or hasn’t happened) with your projects you can better organize your time for the work ahead.
  2. Create two task lists, personal and work-related, of all the projects and items that require your immediate action this week. Pay special attention items that have deadlines, require action from others or a group meeting. Add due dates to tasks and get reminders in your email or push notifications on your mobile devices to stay on top.
  3. Set priorities on each task so you know which ones need to be completed now vs. “now now.” This saying comes from a buddy of mine who used to live in Kenya. Kenyan time dictates that if someone says the bus is coming NOW, you have about 15 minutes before it arrives. If the bus is coming NOW NOW, you have about 3-5 minutes. If the bus is coming NOW NOW NOW, it’s already left. Hah! A pretty good joke for a Monday, right? No? Ok, moving on.
  4. Break up tasks into more manageable sub-tasks. A task like “Complete and submit RFP for Company XYZ” seems daunting. Break that down into steps like “1) Set up meeting with legal to review RFP guidelines, 2) Set up call with engineering team to recap technical product specifications, 3) Determine pricing with product and deployment team, 4) Compile list of 3 customer case studies, 5) Complete template and submit RFP to Company XYZ by Dec 31st, 2014” and sweet success seems that much closer!
  5. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Take a look at the sub-tasks ahead of you and see who you can assign them to in order to help you complete your projects faster. Utilize colleagues or outsource work to freelancers with services like odesk to get organized and lessen the load. If you can’t delegate things at the office, delegate what you can in your household. Technology is always your friend with this as several apps can help you with securing resources and overall project management. Services like TaskRabbit act like virtual personal assistants to help lighten the stress from everyday chores like cleaning the house, doing the laundry or balancing your bank statements. Or try Google Shopping Express and have everything on your shopping list delivered to your front door by the time you get home!

It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you return to work from a long vacation, but with these simple tips you’ll bounce back in no time!

Tips for leading great meetings

Ever get stuck in meetings that drag on and on and get virtually nothing accomplished? We’ve all been on the phone during conference calls where we go through the weather forecast, weekend plans or baby announcements from each and every single participant before anyone even begins talking about what needs to be talked about! There is a time and place for catching up and unfortunately project meetings are neither of those. Don’t be annoying; be that person everyone refers to as the boss that gets $#!% done!

Make an agenda. Stick to it.

Even if you aren’t 100% sure what you need to talk about during the meeting, bullet point a few top line tasks and leave room for discussion later on. Address the agenda once everyone (or enough) people are in the meeting to get the ball rolling.

Set meeting end times to 5 minutes before the top of the hour/half hour.

This is a trick I learned from Project Managers at Google. Set meetings to end at the :25 or :55 hour mark as meetings always (I debated between saying tend to or typically, but this happens too often to not be considered a truth) run late. We get caught up in debate or just plum lose track of time—those 5 extra minutes are crucial to making sure you wrap up everything that needs to be discussed in the meeting and that you don’t 1) make your participants late for other meetings or 2) make people who are waiting for your conference room late for their meeting. If we all become a little more conscious of others time as well as our own we’ll prevent that snowball effect of late meetings that really throw off everyone’s day.

Remind everyone how much time we have in the meeting and address heftiest item LAST.

This requires a little bit of planning. Like, 2 minutes of looking at your agenda to determine what will most likely drive the bulk of the conversation. And while it seems counter-intuitive, you will actually accomplish more by getting the little things out of the way and saving the latter half of your meeting for the big discussions. The time constraint might even encourage faster resolution. We hope.

Thank your participants for their time.

It’s a small and simple gesture that shows your appreciation for people meeting today (which is a rarity what with the advent of this thing called the “Cloud” and “Social Collaboration”). Understand that everyone has taken time out of their busy schedule to meet you at this specific date and time. Don’t hold them up and don’t waste their time lest they dismiss your meetings in the future…

Take things offline when available.

Simple rule—if it doesn’t pertain to at least 90% of the participants of the meeting, table it and take it offline. Make a note of when you will be following up with participants, create another separate meeting if needed or collaborate online.

Remember that one meeting that left you stunned at how efficient and productive it was? Let’s make that EVERY meeting.

Love,
Your Partners in Productivity

A new look for your task list

Yesterday we released a new design for the task list as well as a few minor improvements to the Producteev UI.


Up to 4 assignees can now be displayed in a row. A circle with the number of extra assignees will be displayed in the event that a task has more than 4 assigned users.


The task project is now displayed in the task list next to the assigned users. Clicking on the project title lets users move the task to another project right from within the task list.

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Check boxes in the task list are now represented by circled rather than squares to avoid confusion with bulk selection check marks.

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The labels are now accompanied by a colored icon.


And finally, new help tooltips have been added in various locations. You can hover over certain actions to see what you can do.

These changes as well as a few minor UI updates are now available in the Producteev Jive integration as well.


What do you think?

Import your Do.com tasks to Producteev today

The Producteev Team here has been hard at work building tools to help import your tasks from other task management applications to Producteev. Why make the switch? Producteev is the only completely free task management application on the market. Producteev is available for the web, desktop, iOS and Android devices. You can have as many users and create as many projects as you need to get work done; all for free.

Today we released the Do.com import tool.

for more info on how to import your data!