When done well, a virtual brainstorm can be incredibly effective — even preferable to a traditional, in-person one. Start by choosing a collaboration tool that’s right for your team (for example, Google Docs for group-based writing projects or MURAL to simulate a whiteboard experience). Then ask team members to independently generate ideas. This might happen synchronously during a live video conference, or asynchronously if your team is dispersed across time zones. Either way, ask people to focus on quality over quantity, and encourage them to submit contradicting ideas if they feel inspired to do so — without worrying about the consequences. Next, organize your team’s ideas so that they’re legible and visually digestible, and gather anonymous feedback and responses on whatever has been generated. It can help to share criteria that you’d like them to compare the ideas against. Finally, assemble your team to discuss a shortlist of the “best” ideas live on a call (if that’s feasible) to determine next steps and assignments.

Think about your last project. Did you underestimate how long it would take? Many of us fall into this trap. Our perceptions of our available time, our abilities, and any roadblocks we may hit are greatly skewed. This is a phenomenon called the planning fallacy, and it happens to professionals at all levels and in every occupation. Here’s how to set more realistic targets for yourself.

  • Be objective, not subjective. Ask yourself: How much time and effort have similar tasks required in the past? Or ask a colleague to help with your estimate to remove your own biases.
  • Commit early and publicly. Tell someone when you’ll get the task done and how long it will take. This external commitment pressure will prevent you from leaving all of your work to the last minute.
  • Schedule buffer time. There will always be things that come up and you may simply need more time. To ensure a more realistic deadline, take your original estimate and increase it by 25%.
  • Assume the worst. Imagine what will go wrong before it actually does. Identifying any potential (if unlikely) issues will help you come up with a suitable backup plan.

It can be challenging to connect with coworkers who are older or younger than you and seem to be in very different life stages. But having relationships across age gaps can make work more fulfilling and lead to professional opportunities down the line. The first step is to shift your mindset. Consider your coworkers as peers, regardless of their age. This simple reframing will take away some of the discomfort, making it easier to be authentic and initiate more organic discussions. Ask simple questions to find common ground. For example: How did they end up in their current role? What hobbies interest them? The idea here is to remember the topics, interests, and values that are important to them — just like you would with a friend. If you do happen to hit it off, make an effort to water the plant — that is, to further invest in the relationship. Set up regular one-on-ones, perhaps biweekly, monthly, or quarterly, so you can get to know each other on a personal level. After forming a foundation of trust, you can also use these opportunities to exchange ideas, and even inspire one another. Of course, not everyone will become a friend and you don’t want to force a relationship but taking these steps will help you find those people who you have a genuine connection with, even if you’re not at the same exact life stage.

Is it time to leave your job? Ask yourself these questions — and answer them honestly — to determine whether it’s time to make your next career move.

  • Is there still room to grow? See if you might reinvent your role to create new opportunities to learn. Work with your manager to take on new projects and responsibilities that can reinvigorate your work life.
  • Have I achieved what I set out to achieve? Reflect on your goals from when you started the job to see whether you still have something to aspire to there.
  • Am I looking for ways to avoid doing my job?Sometimes you need to power through distractions to get your work done. Other times, it’s necessary to take a temporary break to recharge — or a permanent break to find new work that sparks curiosity and anticipation, not avoidance.
  • Does my role no longer align with my values? If you find yourself doing and saying things in your professional life that you wouldn’t do or say in your personal life, you may be compromising your values. This is a clear sign that it’s time to go.
  • Has my workplace become toxic? Some signs include a lack of work-life balance, a culture of unhealthy competition, and managers who don’t value you as a full person. These conditions can be harmful to your physical and mental health.

As a manager, you have a unique opportunity — and responsibility — to be a role model in building an inclusive workplace. This means recognizing and mitigating potential harmful behaviors in yourself, and in your team members. One example is speaking up if you hear or see something inappropriate, especially a microaggression, such as interrupting, taking up airtime, dismissing or taking credit for someone else’s ideas, diminishing someone’s experience, stereotyping, or using problematic language. While these behaviors are often unintentional, it’s important to call them out. When they come up, be sure to pause and name what’s just happened. For example, if someone uses an outdated or problematic word to describe a group of people, you might say: “I just want to take a moment here. It’s really important to focus on the language we use to describe people, and XYZ is a problematic term.” Your goal should be to educate people rather than shame them (which is less likely to result in change). You can follow up with the individual after the incident to discuss in private and point them to helpful learning resources, offering to continue the conversation if they’d find it helpful.

We’d all love to work in a vibrant and caring environment in which we are valued as whole people. But how can you, as an individual, contribute to this kind of workplace? Here are some ideas:

  • Get to know people on a personal level. Be the person who goes out of their way to befriend new team members, many of whom may feel out of place joining your organization remotely or adjusting to a hybrid environment. Invite them to lunch or to chat over a virtual coffee. Suggest others they might connect with as well.
  • Celebrate others. You don’t need to be a manager to hand out compliments. Recognize team members for their work, setting an example for others to do the same. Remind your team of each other’s birthdays and work anniversaries, or encourage people to come together to show support when a colleague experiences a big life event or promotion. These relatively simple gestures can create a genuine culture of care.
  • Step up when you can. You don’t need to leap at every opportunity to lend a hand — that’s exhausting. So find a balance between saying “yes” and “no.” When you say “yes,” do so with care and not resentment. Remember, at some point, you’ll need others to pitch in for you.

There’s a simple framework that can help you sharpen your writing by presenting your argument in a clear, concise, and engaging way. It’s called the “one idea” rule. In short, every component of a successful piece of writing (a pitch, report, presentation, or even an email) should express only one central idea. To identify what that is, ask yourself the following questions: What do I know about this topic? What inspires me about this topic? What can I say that will be interesting or surprising to others? Use these questions to narrow down your angle. Next, find evidence (facts, anecdotes, data) that may be useful or surprising to others, and that supports the point you want to make. Also, take note of any evidence that counters your argument. If you’re able to call out and address counterpoints before the reader discovers them, you’ll strengthen your main idea. Only include information that’s relevant. Anything else will just be distracting. If all of your examples are obviously related to the main topic, then it will be relatively easy to take the next step: ordering them into a story outline with a beginning, middle, and end.

Let’s face it: We all lack motivation at times. To keep yourself on task — and focused on your goals — it can help to build in ways to hold yourself accountable. That way, you’re not depending on willpower alone. Here are some tactics that can help. First, enlist an accountability buddy. Tell them what your goal is, being specific about what you hope to accomplish, then ask them to check in with you periodically. Knowing that they’re keeping track of your progress will motivate you to up your game. You can also try finding a like-minded group of people who share a similar goal and commit to supporting each other. Research shows that working with others toward your goals significantly increases your interest, resilience, and likelihood of success. If you’re still struggling to make progress, consider changing your environment. This might mean working in a new location or altering your work set-up (leaving your phone in another room, for example). Don’t just lament your lack of progress. Change the circumstances instead.

A challenge for today’s managers is how to balance employees’ desire for flexibility while ensuring the team remains productive. The good news is that you don’t have to accept a tradeoff between the two if you think differently about when people work together, who works together, and how to share information. First, consider when employees need to work synchronously. For project-based workflows, chart out tasks and timelines, and block out specific days for overlapping work during key phases (for example, at the kickoff, mid-point, and closeout). Schedule important meetings during these times, and make it clear that you expect your team to be available. Next, rethink who exactly needs to work together. In other words, could you restructure your team into smaller groups that are empowered to coordinate with each other? Finally, design your team’s information-sharing systems to make important data more readily available. Long waits for status updates or for questions to be answered can kill productivity. So figure out how to improve information accessibility and reduce needless back-and-forth. These steps can help your team have the flexibility they want without sacrificing productivity.

Every success story involves some amount of luck. And contrary to popular belief, serendipity isn’t entirely out of our control. Here are two ways to build luck into your career. First, actively practice “serendipitous networking” — connecting with others for the sake of getting to know them, their perspectives, and their stories. Should you find yourself drawn to their story or experience, dig deeper. Ask them questions about how they discovered their passion, what they’ve learned, and what they like or dislike about their role or industry. Their insights might spur a new sense of motivation or a vision that could lead you to your next career move. Second, look at big changes in your life through a prism of possibility rather than fear. Yes, changes that feel out of our control can be scary but try to see them as opportunities. What can you learn? How can you capitalize on the disruption? It can pay off down the road to go with the flow and trust that new opportunities will arise with time.