Trello for Gmail (Chrome only)
Trello for Gmail is only a Chrome extension, but it takes Trello to a place where most users would not know it can go, helping users to bring a sense of order back to email. It does this by giving you the option, at the bottom of any email in your Gmail account, to add it as a Trello card.
This means that if a task is mentioned in an email, or if a manager or a team member writes to you with an important update on a project, you can ensure that the message, and its contents, are in a place where they are useful, rather than lodged in the depths of your inbox.
This is, as we mentioned, only available in Chrome, but if that’s your browser choice, give this Gmail extension a try. Later in this article we’ve got some more good reasons for using this extension.
PomoDone - Pomodoro timer
For many people, productivity is something they need to track, and to be disciplined to maintain. While the leader of a remote software development team can go a long way towards providing the environment in which engineers feel comfortable and able to produce their best work, it is down to the individual to take ownership of their tasks and to make sure they stay on top of a changing workload.
For those people who like to break their day up into manageable chunks, but dislike more mainstream time-trackers, there is a solution compatible with Trello, PomoDone. You may have heard of Pomodoro timers, but if not, they are applications that break your working day up into short chunks, with breaks before you start the next one.
It works on the principle that the human brain works best in short sprints, and that it is important to look away from the screen, and to refocus at set times. It’s not going to work for everyone, but it is a great option to try if you need help focusing.
Keep an overview of your day
Rather than being a Trello-endorsed “Powerup” (the company’s own word for its in-house extensions to the application), this is more of a Trello hack to put it to more productive use. If you work for a remote software engineering team that uses Trello collectively, you probably have a number of group boards, to which different team members are invited depending on the relevance to their work and role.
However, you may also have personal Trello boards. As well as being a team task-planning program, it can function as a great to-do-list application for individuals. How does it work? Simply create your own private board, and each morning post the tasks that need to be done, in rows from left to right based on how much time you estimate it will take to do them.
Think about your own time management
For example, if making a call to the manager in Palo Alto takes you ten minutes, by your estimate, then put that on the left of your board. If you have a series of bug fixes to work on, that may take a few hours of focused work, and so you can put that further to the right of your board.
You may find this ordered approach to time management useful if you are of the mindset that benefits from getting “quick wins” out of the way first, to gain a sense of accomplishment and thus improve your personal productivity.
Save articles and read them later
Trello is great for ordered, sequential columns of cards which can help to bring a visual quality to workflows. However, it isn’t only useful for that. We are all bombarded with information now we’re online most of the day. There is always a new way to build up your knowledge or improve your understanding of a topic related to your work, and who doesn’t want to get smarter?
The problem is finding time to read it all. Some of us keep the links in our bookmarks bar, but that soon gets disorganized. There are notes apps like Google Keep, but it can be hard to find the right link in there because everything has a tendency to look the same after a while.
Bye-bye to bookmarks
The solution? Create your own Trello board of articles you want to read. Post the links in cards, place them in order of importance, and then delve into them when you have time. These can be pleasant distractions from your regular work, or they can be reading and audiovisual content for a training course you’re taking.
If you’re part of a remote software engineering team, the chances are you’ll be required to be proactive about your training needs, and so staying on top of the latest trends and ideas in the world of programming can be a very useful thing both for you and your organization.
If you want to make your reading even more organized, you can impose some order on that board. Put your links into sections marked “to read this week,” “to pass to colleagues,” and so on.
It makes the process of studying for a programming qualification, or simply for professional development, so much less daunting if you get a visual overview of where you already are with your reading. It also makes it so much easier to pass on the knowledge you’ve gained to your colleagues, improving the team’s overall understanding of evolving issues.
Track team procurement requests
It is likely that your remote software development team will always be in need of a new piece of hardware or software - that’s the nature of working in the IT industry. Just as the industry does not stand still, your team cannot, and they need the right tools to do their jobs effectively.
However, as a team based in a location remote from the company’s head office, it is not possible to take the often ad-hoc approach to procurement requesting that we can see in many single-campus startups. “Can you put me down for a new wireless mouse on your next order?” doesn’t really cut it in a growth-stage company based across more than one location.
Instead, assign a Trello board to the team member who is tasked with gathering and managing procurement requests, on which it can be seen what is being requested, whether it has been approved by head office and ordered yet, and when it will be delivered.
You can achieve this using a simple left-to-right three- or four-column Trello board, perhaps using Gmail for Trello to store the team members’ emails as cards, cutting dramatically the amount of time your team spends working on procurement.
Log qualitative feedback
An always underrated but still essential part of project management is the evaluation stage. After a project is over and done with, it is important to keep a record of all customer or stakeholder feedback, whether it is an internal or external project.
This is for several reasons: to address concerns in the management of the project you have just completed, in order to prevent repeat errors, to keep an open dialogue with stakeholders, and to keep hold of feedback for meetings and discussions with management. A Slack chat can be useful for initial data-gathering, but then Trello can be a place where that data can be placed in proper context.
The best way to store qualitative feedback is in a Trello board, which you can populate with quotes from stakeholders, perhaps separated into “positive,” “positive with qualification,” and “negative”, for example, This can help the team leader or project manager to go into an evaluation call with senior management fully aware of what to tell them to put your team in the best possible light and to ensure that the credit for a great piece of work goes to all the right people.
We love Trello’s versatility here at Base B, but if you want to know how we can help you build and run a fully adaptable remote software engineering team, get in touch.