I get a lot of emails about how a small remote team of four, full-time people (spanning three time zones) work so well together. Our customers and investors alike are astonished by how much work we get done, so I thought I’d share what our week looks like.
Our approach is nothing out of the ordinary, but it may be interesting for other small companies--whether they work remotely or not--to see how we work.
Early part of the week (Sun-Mon)
Our work as a team starts on a Sunday. Well, my work, anyway.
For the most part, my team has weekends off, but I like to get ahead of the week by sending a “Coach: this week’s agenda” email to everyone Sunday night. Here’s how I break it up:
- Things to launch this week
- Things to start this week
- Things to discuss in our Monday meeting
I tweeted this out back at the end of April, and people wanted to know more about what’s in the email, so here it is.
Things to launch this week
This is pretty self explanatory, but it’s a list of product or marketing items that we want to ship. This category usually has at least 1 item in it, but more typically, 2-3.
Here’s an example from a few weeks ago:
- Zapier: We're at 11 connections right now. I think we need 20 to fully launch, but 20 gets you out of Beta.
- New dashboard: Kyle has the UI to finish + some backend stuff.
Things to start this week
Every week we start on new work. To avoid feeling overwhelmed by a long list of new stuff, I’ll typically outline no more than 3-4 things to tackle.
The items in this list are exclusively ideas we’ve already discussed the week before, so there aren’t any surprises.
Just like “things to launch this week,” this category is made up of both a combination of product and marketing. Finding the “perfect balance” is tough with a small team, but we try and keep at least 25-50% of all the work we do to be marketing related.
Things to discuss in our Monday meeting
This list is typically full of more “forward thinking” items, like things we may start the following week or month. The reason we have this list is to get everyone thinking about the future, and not too locked in on just the things we’re currently working on.
We don’t go very in-depth in these discussions. We’ll leave that for Trello and future conversations. The purpose of talking about these now is to get the collective brain power spinning and to not drop anything all of a sudden on the team out of thin air.
Everything should come from somewhere.
Our Monday meetings
At noon EST, all four of us get on a video call over Zoom to discuss everything I sent in my Sunday email. I’ll share my screen and we’ll go line-by-line to give everyone a chance to talk, so that we’re all on the same page.
We’ll also go over our Trello boards, which are split into four categories:
- Current Sprint
We’ll take everything that’s in the “Current Sprint” and is completed and send it to “Victories”. We’ll then move anything that we plan to work on (mostly things from the Sunday agenda email) from “Backlog” into “Current Sprint.”
The “Graveyard” board rarely gets touched, but contains either things that didn’t get completed during a sprint, which we believe are no longer necessary, or things in our Backlog that we no longer plan on completing.
Our Monday meetings usually take 45-90 minutes, and average about 60 minutes. These meetings are very important to us not only to make sure everyone is on the same page, but also to give our remote team some “face time.”
The rest of Monday tends to be distraction-free with everyone doing their own thing. Very few interruptions happen on Monday afternoon.
Middle of the week (Tues-Thurs)
The middle of the week is when we typically launch something. For example, we launched our new Dashboard and Activity Feed on a Tuesday night. This gives us enough time to debug anything that we’re shipping before the weekend; if at all possible, we try and avoid shipping on Fridays.
We have no set meetings outside of Monday, but at least one spontaneous video chat will happen between me and everyone on the team at some point during the week. The meeting could cover anything: discussing a new design, figuring out how we’re going to implement a new feature, picking someone’s brain around something strategy related, and more.
Since we’re all so heads down during the week, we try and avoid as many meetings as possible, but that doesn’t mean that Slack (our chat app of choice) is stale. Throughout the week, Trello notifications are pinging Slack with everything that’s happening, and, gifs...lots of gifs.
End of the week (Fri)
Friday is our “finish up any small or non-critical tasks that accumulated throughout the week” day. Whether it’s a small customer feature request or an edge case that we didn’t get around to fixing earlier in the week--this is the day to tackle it.
We use Rollbar for tracking errors, so Friday is a good day for us to go through Rollbar to see if there’s anything worth fixing.
Then we do it all again the following week, starting on Sunday evening.
Why we’re so productive
A few things stand out to me when I look at how we run our weeks:
- Not 100% overlap: We’re four people, spanning three time zones, so while there’s quite a bit of overlap, people also have time to themselves because they’re either starting earlier than others or ending after others.
- Proper planning: Hopefully my team agrees, but I think my “Coach: this week’s agenda” email helps frame the week for everyone before it starts. It should limit surprises, so everyone knows exactly what they need to do for the week before it starts. Setting expectations is so important.
- No email: the only email we send during the whole week is my “Coach: this week’s agenda” email. No one on the team even has a “@withcoach” email address (with the exception of me for customer support reasons).
- Limited meetings: We only meet once a week as a team. I can’t remember a time when we did a second “all team meeting” in over a year. Sometimes, we do a 3-person meeting, but that’s usually to give quick feedback on a design or something similar.
- Self starters: We’re a team of self-starters. No one needs to be tapped on the shoulder to get work done or to be told what to do next.
As we add more people to the team, we’ll see if our system starts to break down, but for now, it’s working super well for us.