XMind’s Top 5 Tips and Tricks for Remote Collaboration

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Remote work was an accelerated trend in 2015, and in this year it is back with a sudden increase in response to COVID-19.

XMind is a small but agile team, with colleagues both working at home and abroad. Online meetings happen in different places, and even in different time zone. How can we move ahead together at the same pace and make the best out of colleagues? We talked to several colleagues and combined with 37Signals experience for a more effective remote collaboration.


How does Remote benefit us?

Before starting it, let's give have a close look at both sides of Remote, and why it becomes an option with more supporters.

For employee, remote brings:

Less commute time but independent and flexible working schedule;

Rent-saving and you can work in the city you like;

For employer, remote brings:

More diversity for talents with lower barriers of geographic expansion;

Less costly, and time-consuming;

An improving on operability of the team;

To make the best out of remote requires employees to be professional, with capability of project management, periodic progress, instead of baby-sitting.

Woking remotely in XMind is about high Independency and Self-driven along with both strong communication and collaboration skills. These 2 elements are the basics of how the remote work goes in XMind. (Besides, we are also open for remote positions, click here to check.)

A Real-time Overlap for Work

Keyword: Asynchronous Communication; Real-time Overlap;

Asynchronous communication suggests that you cannot expect an immediate response after sending a message, and it happens in offshoring all the time, and the time lag may bring misunderstanding or extra and repetitive communication.

One of the failures for remote is that a majority of teams end up doing lots of makeup work to cover the inefficiency that results from deviations due to lack of real-time collaboration. The lack of constant communication results additional work hours.

Real-time overlap offers solution for asynchronous communication. It offers a specific period of real-time collaboration, and allows team members to pre-arrange time schedule for personal and group discussion.

Words & Tips from XMind

Define and identify problems inside out before selecting tools and strategies. Synchronisation is crucial. For example, when dealing with a problem, you’ve got to know where does it come from, instead of pulling colleagues into the meeting room right away. If it’s an external problem, go and fix the external first, then update and confirm the internal information.

Find out and confirm the real-time overlap for the team;

Notify the whole team if a member is taking a leave for the day;

Distraction-free Working Space

Keyword: Dedicated Work Space; Dress Properly;

Imagine working at a dining room table, that means every time you eat, you might need to put away your computer, notebooks, and place the food, cutlery, after finishing, clean up the table then move back working necessities, and repeat for the next dining time.

That’s why a dedicated work space is important. Fast wifi, a table that is for work only, and comfortable chair imply a better work mood. These are some pictures from our colleagues.

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Work remotely suggest that you may stay in the room for almost a day, and wearing pajamas seems to be really tempting. However, wear something that isn't for bed suggests your brain it's time for work. You can put on t-shirts, pants, hoodies, even a fancy dress, if you think it boosts your productivity. Besides, it would be super awkward if a video meeting pops up, and you show up with your pajamas.

Working in bed also slips you into a sleepy mood easily, if you are not sick or stay up too late, resist the temptation of any place that allows you to lie down or relax when you are at work, especially most people seldom become more productive in bed.

Words & Tips of XMind

Switching role helps you to get into work mood easily. I can't stand working in my pajamas. Please stay away from anywhere you can lie down. Though comfortable, and you really get sleepy easily. ​ Build a dedicated work space, with good infrastructures and leave distractions aside, such as video games, kittens and doggies, etc.;

Make your table tidy, and put work-only necessities;

Make Sure the Team is on the Same Page

One of the important points about remote collaboration is the division of One of the important points about remote collaboration is the division of workload and milestone setting. Teamwork is about fighting together. When it comes to coordination and workload division, we will have to talk about planning, dissemble and management of different tasks.

According to the book Remote, manager needs to know the resources for completing the project, knowing what and where the delays are and may occur, be creative on key issues and is able to break down current task, and assign them to the right person. Manager needs to ensure problems of the workflow as few as possible.

It's also important to break down the task clearly in a project, allowing members to know the situation and progress, understand what and where they are, hence, increase participation and self recognizition greatly.

At XMind, the Product Director plans and lists coming features, improved issues and bugs for different products of each quarter and inform involved departments. Each department makes plans, discuss coming versions, and provide feedback accordingly, in other way, everybody has better understanding on both inside and outside of the team.

At the execution of the task, a complete and closed loop joint with task planning, execution and feedback is significant. Product managers use online documentation tools to write documents clearly, create issues on GitLab, set milestones and deadline, and assign tasks to related team members.

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When a task is completed, it will be delivered to next person/team involved on GitLab. As for the coding part, the code will be submitted and reviewed before the merge. The loop is clear and efficient, and participants are clear about current and coming tasks.

Word & Tips of XMind:

List all the issues, and crack them accordingly. It doesn't matter when they can be crossed out. Just focus on doing one at a time, and crossing out the last one always wow me every single time.

*One step at a time. I'm not a multi-task person, and prefer get things done one by one. For me, I'd love to separate communicating and writing. I am concentrated when I am writing.*​
Make sure everyone of the team has the required information;

Break down the tasks, and assign to team members based on strengths and weaknesses;

Define critical milestones for the team;

Make sure the team same page, and ensure communication lines are always open;

Effective Communication is the Key

Keyword: Preparation; Documentation; Priority;

We've talk about how a real-time overlap helps with asynchronous communication, and make sure the team knows about where they are at. But when it turns to the "real" communication, there might be some parts that need your attention.

Prepare before Speaking

Communication is about imparting or exchanging information, and an effective communication is that a speaker organizes the ideas clearly and delivers or expresses the information with complete details.

Speaking of organizing ideas, that's XMind: ZEN's stock-in-trade. Before the meeting, you can visualize and organize your ideas on XMind. This helps you to stay organized in delivery, and make the content clear enough to be understood.

This is an example of how marketing prepares for an interview with the designer.

Define Priority

Make a plan for today and define priority, then take further actions. Use phones or real-time communicating tools when dealing with urgent issues.

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Words & Tips of XMind

The Pomodoro Technique is my type these days. Work for half an hour, take a little break. It allows me to get more concentrated, and relieve my eyes.

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Write down, or make a mind map for the coming discussion in the group meeting. Ensure everybody receive and understand the required information;

Mind your tune, and wording at communication, especially typing may lead misunderstanding;

A carefully-written documentation helps your team members know the project inside out;

We Love the Helping Tools (not just XMind)

Effective communication comes with helping tools, ad we would love to share some tools we use in our work.

XMind: ZEN: weekly report, tasks break-down and management, presentation.

Zoom: Online meeting, screen sharing;

GitLab: Code serving, document collaboration, bug tracking and solving;

Remote Better. You are not Alone.

XMind: ZEN (Desktop & Mobile) offers 30% off discount for everyone. Remote is an opportunity and a challenge for everyone. We wish XMind can help you to discover, maintain, and improve your productivity no matter where you are.

Click here to fight with us.

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