When I found out that Coda was looking for a mobile engineer, I looked to my left and sitting on the couch was my husband Steve. As his biggest fan (and someone who needed a carpool buddy), I immediately referred him to join Coda.
Even now that we work together, we don’t always see each other a lot. I’m an actor, which means I’m usually in rehearsal or performing during the evenings, and my schedule is literally different every week. We’re lucky if we can grab lunch together—forget about dinner.
So, how can we make sure nothing falls through the cracks, and stay in touch? Apply some of the principles of business, of course! We run our lives like a small startup—with clear communication, collaboration, and daily check-ins.
Clear, effective, communication is critical between co-workers. It’s important between spouses and partners. Steve and I happen to be both, so our communication practices needed be doubly effective to keep maintain boundaries and set expectations. Anyone who’s been with someone for awhile knows how easy it is to assume that what’s in your brain is automatically in their brain. With the added complexity of working together, it’s easier to assume that the other person was in that meeting or knows what you need.
Steve and I used to text or use Google Chat, but in a past job his team started using Slack. That was the beginning for us, and we’ve now had a Slack instance for years. It helps us keep things organized and also gives us a record we can refer to. It only has a few (but specific) channels:
We use this for basic chats and hellos throughout the day. It’s also a fun place to post pick-me-ups or pictures of our pets when I’m spending long nights at rehearsal.
I’m always thinking about what I’m going to eat next so we’ve relegated it to one part of Slack. We post options and use emoji to vote on what to eat.
There’s sometimes important things that need priority (like when we were buying a home or getting our giant golden retriever Ned). By preserving the channel, it allows us to stay focused and have an easy place to reference important conversations. We also ensure that nothing gets lost amid the basic chats of the day.
We may be married, but we have very different working styles, which is why we needed to make some clear communication rules.
: During the day, you can’t expect an immediate response. Set yourself to away when possible.
: 24 hour SLA on questions.
: No multiple pings and no @mentioning unless it’s an emergency. Call if there’s something urgent.
We’ve set up a Spark team to manage email, which helps us hand off and collaborate if something needs a response. Some of our favorites features:
Instead of forwarding things to each other, or copy pasting, we can open a comment thread on any email. We use this to ask simple questions like “do we want to go to this?” or “this package is arriving on Saturday.”
Sometimes it’s easier to share a full draft of the email rather than going back and forth in comments. We love this because we can hand off work on an email, particularly for official things, and then either of us can send it and decide who it’s from.
Remember when I said I have a wacky schedule? Our shared calendar is critical. We have four different event types that we share:
- For my non-work events like meeting people for dinner (remember when we used to do that?)
- For Steve’s non-work events
- For my rehearsals, performances, or audiobook recording time
Maria and Steve
- For events we attend together
Each of these event types has a color code so we can both quickly know how to respond to invitations and have a clear picture of what the week will look like.
And of course we use Coda. :) We prefer to make individual Coda docs for each of our projects. We use Coda for:
Planning trips including itineraries, voting on what we want to do, and packing lists.
Dungeons and Dragons schedules and virtual game nights
Party planning including shopping lists and preparation tasks
When we used to drive into work, we would use a few minutes for a quick “scrum” of:
What are you doing today?
Do you need me to do anything?
Now that we’re working from home, we snag a few minutes while eating breakfast and coffee for the same conversation. We generally don’t keep a record of our scrums, but if you’re looking to add it to Coda, check out the Team Sentiment Tracker template by typing /team in your next Coda doc or checking out the
Our actual secret to success
You have to know when to stop talking about work and transition back to life. We use a simple verbal “let’s go home” or “work is over” as a signal to shift. And, if all else fails, Ned (our golden retriever) keeps us focused on the most important part of life—giving him belly rubs.