Working out loud

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

I’m a freelancer working from home. A large part of my day, I don’t have anyone near, but I don’t work alone. On a daily basis, I’m in contact with my clients, my providers, and my partners with whom I collaborate on various projects.

However, at times I miss the office’s coffee machine, where I could comment the latest news and laugh with my co-workers. These co-workers were also a major source of feedback related to my work.

But there are also things that I don’t miss, like weekly meetings to discuss the status of projects.

Now I only have my partner to have coffee with and comment the news. The rest of my communication has gone digital.

Collaboration 2.0

Nowadays, there are many tools to collaborate without needing to be in the same location, from email and Twitter—I still remember the interface at the beginning that went: “What are you doing?”—to complete platforms like Zyncro.

When partners and co-workers aren’t in the same location, internal communication becomes even more important to generate results.

Whenever I collaborate in projects remotely, I apply two habits that Bryce Williams identified in his post When will we Work Out Loud? Soon!

Working out loud = Observable work + Narrating your work

Observable Work

This concept simply implies that the intermediate result of my work can be accessed by my co-workers. Instead of saving the document I’m writing in the folder My Documents on my computer, I use online platforms where my partners can see and comment on the progress and even edit the document.

Based on this feedback, I can correct the focus of my work as soon as possible, and get better results in a shorter time.

Modern collaboration platforms display in real time what each member of the team is working on. Each time I edit a document, my colleagues can see a notification in the system, even a summary with the changes made. What’s more, all the material is centralized and indexed in order to find the required information quickly.

Narrate Your Work

Similarly, I keep a public diary (blog or micro-blog) where I explain openly what I’m doing, what problems I encounter, what solutions I have found, and how I feel. I also share relevant articles I have found and obviously there is space for a joke once in a while.

Finally, when working on a big project, I try to communicate each day at least these points:

  1. What I have done today
  2. What I have been unable to do
  3. What are the risks I have identified that will affect the project planning
  4. What my plans are for tomorrow

During the day I keep a document open where I gradually answer these points. At the end of the day, I just have to publish it.

If everyone in the team narrated their work openly, we wouldn’t need any meetings to assess project status and we would gain a lot of time.

People who are already familiar with collaboration tools perfectly understand the benefits of working out loud. Others simply need to try it for a while to learn that they can collaborate efficiently remotely.

Jeroen Sangers (@JeroenSangers) is personal productivity consultant and author of the blog El Canasto. He specializes in modern techniques to manage time, actions and attention, and provides training, consulting, and keynotes on a more intelligent way to work and live.

If you want to enjoy the benefits that collaborating has for your productivity too, why not try Zyncro free?