Work Culture

5 ways to take the pain out of collaboration


Published on November 05, 2014

We’ve all been there. You’re working on a project with a handful of different coworkers, and the more people you bring in, the more complex it gets. Everyone has different availability and priorities, so you end up with more bottlenecks than progress.

But don’t despair just yet — it is possible to remove some of the roadblocks and frustrations that come with collaboration. So before you throw up your hands and cancel all your meetings, try these 5 ways to make your team actually want to work together.

1. Synchronize your to-do lists

A quick way to make sure everyone stays aligned is to use a shared to-do list. Apps like Todoist sync to-do lists across teams and groups of coworkers, so everyone can keep track of action items and project status. Shared lists can even help the team celebrate accomplishments — after all, who doesn’t know the peculiar joy of crossing off a completed task?

2. Stay up to date with progress apps

If you want to make sure teams are working together effectively, you have to understand the struggles and triumphs they face every day. Progress update tools can be hugely helpful here, especially for distributed teams or companies looking to cut down on meetings. Services like Idonethis provide a simple way for team members to report their daily progress; it emails a reminder to your team each evening to report their daily accomplishments, and sends out a combined summary the next morning so everyone knows where things stand. For an even more condensed report, you can try  15five — it sends out a 15-minute survey about accomplishments from the week, and then compiles the results into a report that takes five minutes for a manager to read.

3. Make the most of meetings

Meetings — everyone loves to hate them. But they don’t have to be miserable. To make meetings as effective as possible, keep the most important items at the top of the itinerary.Topics that get the most attention in a meeting are typically the ones discussed first, even if they’re trivial. Also, because extroverts often dominate in-person meetings — regardless of whether their ideas are the best — consider using email threads or  brainswarming techniques to keep your quiet creatives contributing to the team. And here’s a bonus: the more efficient your meetings, the fewer of them you’ll need.

4. Streamline your file sharing

It’s hard to keep everyone on the same page when there are five different file versions floating around and team members can’t find that email attachment buried in their inbox. Cut out that step entirely by keeping your company’s shared files all in the same place. When it comes to file sharing, we’re pretty partial to  Dropbox for Business (as you can imagine). It lets team members instantly sync and share files on any device — so everyone always has the right version of the file at their fingertips, even if they’re on the go. It also integrates with a wide range of productivity apps ( like Wunderlist) to boost efficiency even further.

5. Pull projects together with collaboration software

Keeping your team in touch and up to date has never been easier, thanks to the growing market of collaboration software. Services like  Asana provide complete online workplaces where teams can share task lists, project updates, related files, and messages — all organized for easy access.  Smartsheet works in a familiar spreadsheet format, combining operations management, marketing records, event planning, and more in an accessible, team-friendly way.  Podio takes synchronized projects and communication within teams and combines them with CRM software and intranet management, all in an easily customizable format — so users can create workspaces suited to their specific needs.

Whether your team is large or small, these tools can help make sure teamwork is an asset, not a roadblock. Because when you spend less time on logistics, you can spend more time doing the work you love.

Looking to simplify collaboration? Try Dropbox for Business free .