- Paul Mestemaker II
Tools I recommend
If you're part of small team (< 50 people), I highly recommend the following products. I've used all of these and can personally vouch for them. There may be better options out there, but these are the ones that have made a difference for my fully remote teams of about 10-30 people. They may also be useful at a larger scale, but I am focusing this post on recent small team experience.
For task tracking, prioritization, and roadmaps, I highly recommend Linear.
- Sensible inbox-zero system so that notifications don't get lost. This has reduced my team's usage of Slack by about 50%.
- It's incredibly fast. They have an offline-first architecture that makes interactions with the web app feel instant and then seamlessly syncs in the background.
- Shortcut keys for just about everything. If a non-trivial amount of your day is spent in one of these apps (e.g. you're a product manager or an engineering manager), memorize just a few shortcuts, and you'll be able to navigate through the main views and manage issues instantly.
- Roadmaps are actually simple to use.
- The Linear team is incredibly responsive on their Slack.
For documents and knowledge management, I recommend Notion.
- Databases in Notion give you an easy way to organize (schematize, really) your data. I imagine AirTable and Coda are probably more powerful, but I have not used either of those products in earnest.
- Synced blocks allow you to have the same text appear in multiple places. We used this for elevator pitches that would show up across several documents.
- A small feature that I love, is the "Last edited" and "last visited" metrics in the upper right hand corner. It gives you a quick sense if someone else is actively viewing the page. And you can also see before a meeting if your recent updates to a document have been already read by people on your team or if you should use time in the meeting to go over the doc.
- The cross-document linking is very natural and feels a lot better than Confluence or Google Docs.
Range is a bit harder to define because there isn't a traditional category for this product. For our team, we used Range to really lean into being a remote-first team and promoting an asynchronous culture. Each day everybody on the team would post a check-in consisting of:
- Their "main focus" for the day. This was the most important thing that they wanted to get done.
- Their "mood". This is a color (green, yellow, red) + emoji + optional description.
- An optional answer to an auto-generated question (What is something that really motivated you recently? What was your favorite vacation? What would you like to learn this year?).
Everybody else on the team would be able to see these check-ins and could react to them with an emoji or a comment.
- Range replaced another 30% of our use of Slack. Previously, we would one daily thread per team member on Slack to encourage each person to figure out what they wanted to get done that day. But it was easy to forget to post in the thread. There was no system that could aggregate the data or make it easy to see trends.
- The "mood" feature is a great way to get a sense of how people were feeling. When you're physically in an office, you get a lot of non-verbal cues. Is someone smiling? Do they look tired/stressed/unhappy? Is someone sick? But when you're remote, you don't get those cues.
- The get-to-know-your-team questions were surprisingly helpful. I take a lot of pictures and basically never share them. I have them auto-upload to Google Photos, then I get reminded about them a year later. But with Range would give me an excuse to look at those photos. It would ask me questions about vacations that I took or celebrities that I had met, and share a little story about something from my past. Even after years of working with my team, there were countless hidden talents and fun stories that everybody had that hadn't been shared yet.
- We started using tags in our daily check-ins like
#retrospectiveto make it easier to document a problem you're having now that you'd like to come back to at the end of the month and cover during the monthly retrospective.
More to come