Whether at work or school, you are likely to encounter group projects at some point in your career.

Although group work often has a bad reputation and many people dread it, it can be an effective way to manage ideas while working on interpersonal and communication skills. Here’s how to make the most out of group work.

DO organise regular meetings. Effective communication is one of the most important aspects of successful group projects. Meetings can be a good time to brainstorm, solve problems, and discuss the larger implications of the project. Before properly starting, it is a good idea to meet up and plan ahead. It can be useful to schedule meetings for the coming weeks, even if you have to move them later. To track your progress and keep on top of the work, set yourself deadlines or goals for each meeting. Take advantage of online meeting platforms and schedule a mix of online and in-person meetings, to make meetings more varied and accessible.

DON’T feel like you have to do everything together. While it makes sense to make a general plan as a group, there is no point in completing every single task as a group. I once worked on a group assignment where one person insisted that we write every single word together. Not only is this extremely time consuming, but it also does not improve the project. In the time you spend writing as a group, everyone could work on a separate task which would be much more efficient. You can always go over everything together in the end and make changes then if necessary.

DO split up the tasks. Instead of doing everything together, split the tasks up equally and try to accommodate people’s preferences. It is best to get this out of the way during the first meeting; make a list of all the tasks and then simply split them up. While not everyone will get their preferred task, you should be mindful of people’s skills and not assign a task to someone not qualified for it.

DON’T be late. You should, of course, always make sure to be on time but even more so if a group depends on you. Out of consideration for your group, make sure to arrive on time for meetings and have your work ready to discuss. Even if you prefer to keep to a different schedule when your work by yourself, you have to adapt yourself to the group in this case.

DO practice your presentation. If your project includes a presentation, make sure to practice it at least once. Practising your presentation will only improve it, and you will be less nervous on the day. During your practice, you will get a sense of the timings and can still change the presentation if it is too long or not engaging enough. It would be ideal if you found someone not involved in the project to give you impartial feedback after the practice run.

DON’T be disrespectful. At some point, you will disagree with another group member, or someone will disagree with you. Instead of getting upset, try to discuss the issue politely and find a common solution. Because it is a group project, you might have to compromise or change the way you would approach the task if you were on your own. However, this does not mean that you should accept everything, DO speak up if you notice a considerable problem. This might create some tension, but in the end, everyone will be happy that it got resolved.

DO create a shared document. Shared documents can be a good way to compile all of your ideas and keep track of the work in one place. Just be careful not to edit someone else’s work without asking them first, even if you think your alterations would improve it. A shared calendar can also help to keep track of deadlines and meetings.

DON’T let one person do everything. The risk of group projects is always that some people put more effort into them than others. Don’t be that person! It is disrespectful to the rest of the group, as they will have to work more to make up for your lost work. If you notice someone is not pulling their weight, talk to them about it; perhaps they are unaware of it or struggling with their task.