Reverse-Engineering Productivity for Remote Teams. Do More With Less

February 11, 2020 17 Min Read

What makes remote and distributed teams (mind the emphasis) genuinely productive? Is it the ability to churn out as much as possible in the shortest amount of time? Or is the long hours and all-nighters they put in to wrap projects before deadlines hit?

Well, if those things stack up to anything, it’s a heck of a productivity slump.

We get it. Time seems to run faster when we’re busy. But as good ‘ol Hemingway once said:

“Never confuse movement with action.”

Sacrificing quality to maximize the output just doesn’t feel like an optimal solution.  

Taskade’s minimalist approach to getting things done very much reflects this philosophy. We believe that productivity can be fun but only if digested in healthy, bite-sized chunks. 

If you feel productivity slump is hot on the heels of your remote team, maybe it’s time to do more with less?

🤔 Wait, isn’t that prohibited?

The good news is, it’s not. In fact, it may just be the pill the modern distributed workforce needs. 

Taskade’s experience shows that many workers prefer to focus on one task at a time and complete the work at their own pace. In defiance to the culture of multitasking, it allows them to keep up the attention span for longer, prevent costly mistakes and focus on delivering exceptional quality of work. 

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Workers that preach (and practice) this holistic approach also gain a new perspective on work. Thanks to the limited number of distractions, they can see details that often go unnoticed.

For instance, by evaluating historical data from previous projects, remote teams can better estimate the resources needed to deliver on a specific task.

In the spirit of “measure twice, cut once”, it’s much easier to manage time and avoid scope creep when work follows diligent preparation. 

Productivity Fun Fact: According to British historian Cyril Parkinson “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” The adage has come to be known as Parkinson’s law and serves as a gentle reminder that we should not ‘let’ work dictate our schedule. 

Taskade’s 🎯 Roadmap visualizes past, current and upcoming projects on one timeline and shows how long they take to move from initial idea to completion. 

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Taking a step back makes it much easier to see the big picture and allocate manpower when planning similar projects in the future.

Learn How to Set Rockstar Goals and Priorities

Every successful project starts with clear goals and correct priorities (here’s a Taskade template for that). Whether you’re creating a marketing strategy or working on website design, it’s key to first decide on an optimal work order. 

If a project has too many collateral goals or its priorities are upside-down, it’ll likely encounter a number of problems before completion. 

To avoid falling down that rabbit hole, make sure that you and your team:

  • ☑️ Analyze historical data to better allocate time and resources
  • ☑️ Create a list of clear goals and priorities
  • ☑️ Pinpoint potential problems and obstacles that may delay delivery 
  • ☑️ Break down complex goals into chunks of small tasks 
  • ☑️ Set attainable milestones and visualize progress on a timeline 
  • ☑️ Monitor performance (daily/weekly/monthly) and correct course when falling behind

A sizable portion of project-related obstacles happens when remote teams start with too many collateral goals and upside-down priorities. In distributed teams, these obstacles tend to escalate and compound quicker than in centralized organizations.

Taskade’s Priorities Template

Get Your House Workspace in Order

When it comes to workplace hygiene, the popular belief is that the way we shape our immediate environment reflects the state of our mind. But the reverse is also true. Our workplace environment can affect productivity and quality of work too.

Keeping your workspace in order:

  • 🧹 Removes distractions and helps you focus on the important stuff. When your desk is cluttered with crumpled paper, assorted documents and post-it notes, it’s difficult to keep up the attention span you need for completing the work that really matters 
  • 😖 Reduces stress and keeps you motivated.  If you’ve ever tried to find an important document 5 minutes before a deadline, you know what we’re talking about!
  • 🧙 Gives you control over space and time. While not quite a true superpower, keeping your stuff in order lets you reclaim a chunk of the time that normally goes to never-ending cleanup
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Productivity Tip: In IT, GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) is a concept that observes the correlation between the quality of input and quality of output. In simple terms, using messy data inevitably results in equally messy results. How’s that for a no-nonsense cleanliness argument?

Stop Juggling Inefficient Processes

Have you ever been to a circus show? Between acts like juggling and unicycling, there are contortionists, sword-swallowers and daredevils who walk on broken glass. It’s a true celebration of agility and showmanship. 

Now think of the way your team handles projects. Sounds familiar?

If your process involves several different workflows and tools that require the team to constantly switch between them, it may be high time for a change. 

“But if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”

For starters, tackling projects in a decentralized way leads to duplicating tasks, miserable performance, and a lack of focus on the real work. This is especially visible in remote, distributed teams that often have to face compounding time-zone differences, subpar communication, and a great deal of guesswork.

Most of the time, it’s difficult to see the flaws in a workflow that has become a part of the “that’s how we do things around here” culture. We just take it for granted. Teams and individuals should regularly step back from the rut and see how a process can be improved. 

Taskade aims to streamline productivity by combining a master recipe (workflow) and the finest ingredients (tools) in one, aesthetic package. There’s no complex interface or superficial functionality. Whether you want to create notes, assign tasks, or communicate with the team in real-time, Taskade has you covered. 

And the best part? You can customize the workflow any way you want, either by creating workspaces and projects from scratch or choosing from pre-defined, editable templates. 

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A small sample of Taskade templates

Follow the Bread Crumbs With Mind Mapping

One of the prerequisites of healthy productivity is learning how to detach from the daily buzz and organize thoughts. To do this, you can either go radio silent in a retreat somewhere in Alaska or…create a mind map!

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What’s a Mind Map?

In a nutshell, a mind map is a simple diagram organized around a central theme that branches out into associated concepts. For instance, a mind map for a “healthy lifestyle” could branch out into “daily exercises” or “eating kale ” 🥬 (yuck).

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Taskade mind map template

What Are the Benefits of Mind Mapping?

Apart from its aesthetic treat, mind mapping can positively impact team productivity in several ways. By leveraging a clear and easy-to-read structure, it helps transparently organize projects, with stages, goals and tasks laid out neat and tidy.

  • ⚙️ mind mapping makes it easier to break down complex concepts and problems
  • 💡 it’s especially effective for generating fresh, unusual ideas during brainstorming sessions
  • 🔨 It has a clean and uncomplicated structure that makes it a versatile tool for every venture

Take Some Time Away for (Intentional) Procrastination

The outrageous idea of “procrastinating” doesn’t seem to sit well with productivity, does it? 

The thing is, if it’s done intentionally, procrastination can actually be beneficial. The key is not only to learn how to say “YES” to positive off-work activities and “NO” to those that don’t add value but also to PLAN for the downtime. 

Productivity Fun Fact: Did you know that Leonardo Da Vinci was a chronic procrastinator? Despite being a prolific artist and inventor, he’d often leave many of his works unfinished. His notoriety for missing deadlines forced some of his patrons to put formal agreements in place to ensure master Leonardo delivered work on time (which didn’t help much). 

According to clinical Psychologist Dr. Josn Klapow, unearthing the positive side of procrastination requires a thoughtful, active approach. In other words, you need to strategically plan to delay tasks instead of going with the flow every time the YouTube algorithm tickles your curiosity.

Deliberate procrastination means that you reschedule work in a calculated manner, with firm deadlines and reasonable arguments for spending time away from the hustle. 

From a freelance writer’s perspective, strategic procrastination can mean scheduling a daily walk in the park. Not only does it help collect thoughts and alleviate the dreaded writer’s block, but it also absolves you from the “I should be working now” guilt. 

👋 Parting Words

Sometimes, the best strategy to overcome a productivity recession is to reverse-engineer the process and reflect on what caused the problem in the first place.

If you feel like your remote team has been chasing its tail for too long, slow down and sign up for a free Taskade account to get more done with less.

🤖 Custom AI Agents: Develop AI agents to dissect remote workflows, identify inefficiencies, and automate routine activities.

🪄 AI Generator: Describe your team’s challenges to generate strategies, workflows, project outlines, and frameworks.

✏️ AI Assistant: Tap into the power of GPT-4 Turbo to research, outline, write, and edit documents using handy /AI commands.

🗂️ AI Prompt Templates Library: Use AI prompt templates to make the most of Taskade AI features, available anywhere inside Taskade.

💬 AI Chat: Engage in discussions with AI on productivity pitfalls and strategies, drawing from collective intelligence to enhance productivity.

📄 Media Q&A: Dive into documents and spreadsheets to extract actionable insights and stay ahead in the competitive business landscape.

And much more…

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