- Yay! You get to work from home now. In the worst of situations — such as the current pandemic — there are always positives.
- Well, working from home seemed cool at first, but you’ve now discovered how easy it is for work time to bleed into “me” time. Your TV is only steps away, and that Netflix special has been beckoning to you for ages…
- Heck, even those chores you’ve been putting off are beginning to sound mighty appealing now that you’ve cracked open today’s first spreadsheet.
But those have to wait. Work time is now, chores and Netflix time is later. Productivity tools and apps can help set those boundaries by keeping you on task and efficient while you work from home. Here are some of the best productivity tools.
1. Keep a to-do list with Todoist
So many things to do. You could write out a daily to-do list with paper and pen, but then you have to make a new list every day! Not to mention that it’s not exactly easy to carry notepads and pens with you.
Enter Todoist, a popular to-do list app. Todoist lets you create tasks and subtasks to complete, and you can organize your tasks into projects. Plus, you can flag tasks at different priority levels. Get Premium for additional features — it’s only $3/month.
Overall, a great app to track your daily tasks and smaller work projects.
2. Jot down notes with Evernote
The best ideas come to us when we least expect them to. Usually, you’d jot those down before they float away — but again, notepads and pens are a bit unwieldy to carry around.
But thanks to Evernote, you can jot down as many notes as you want right on your smartphone — as long as you have an internet connection. Organize your notes by notebooks, and sort those notebooks into stacks, and now you’ve got a whole system for saving those “Eureka!” moments.
3. Track progress on projects with Trello
Todoist is great, but to-do list apps work best for smaller projects. Large projects have lots of tasks and plenty of people working on them. Somehow, you need to track it all.
Don’t worry — there’s an app for that. It’s called Trello. Using a fancy concept called a Kanban board, Trello lets you see who’s working on what and where something is in the workflow. You can drag list items in the form of “cards” all over the place to different boards, making for lightning-fast project management. Add comments and labels, attach files, and more — project management made easy.
4. Back up and share files on Dropbox
What if all your work files vanished? Overnight, they were just deleted? Can you imagine hours, days, or even months of work gone in the blink of an eye? Not fun to think about.
Yeah, external hard drives let you back up files. But those aren’t cheap — and they don’t have other features like cloud-based collaboration and file sharing.
But you know what does? Dropbox. On top of the backup and file sharing, Dropbox is straightforward to use (especially compared to competitors). It doesn’t mess up the original formatting of any document, and you can access files locally from your computer in the Dropbox folder.
Isn’t the cloud fantastic?
5. Schedule meetings and phone calls with Calendly
Everyone loves drawn-out email conversations about scheduling meetings and phone calls. Sarcasm, of course — these waste a ton of precious time you could use to get real work done. And when you’re working from home, unable to talk to coworkers and your boss in person, these conversations waste even more time.
Calendly cuts all the BS out by letting you schedule a meeting with only one email. Create your meeting link, blast it to everyone you want to attend, they RSVP, and you’re done.
6. Meet with your coworkers in cyberspace on Zoom
As much as you hate meetings, you gotta have them. At least you don’t have to leave your comfy home workspace to sit through a meeting. But virtual meetings have their own challenges — namely, figuring out how to use the darned software.
Zoom is fortunately easy to figure out, and it has a ton of features like chat, screen sharing, and even video recording — if you zone out during your meeting, that last one will be incredibly handy.
7. Don’t forget your passwords with LastPass
Here’s a conundrum: tracking 100 passwords is a pain in the ass, even if you write them down, but making one password for every site is a dire security threat. You probably do the latter, and you know you’re putting yourself at risk.
Pro tip: if you can remember your passwords, they’re not strong passwords. If you only use a few passwords for everything, then you magnify the risk.
But if you can’t remember your passwords, then you’ll have to do the painful “forgot password” process every time you log in — at which point you’ll make an easy-to-remember and consequently weak password.
Get a password management app. LastPass is a free one. Not only does it store your passwords, but it helps you generate new ones that are super strong. It’s easy to get started, and you’ll finally squash the lingering fear of your accounts getting hacked.
8. Track your time with Toggl
There’s never enough time in the day to get everything done. Or so you think. You probably think you’re working most of the time, but you’re actually getting distracted throughout.
Time tracking apps can help — if only you remembered to use them. Fortunately, there is one that you won’t forget to turn on called Toggl. If you forget to switch on-time tracking, this app will tell you. It’s also got reporting features that show you how well you’re using your time.
Granted, you might actually be overworked. But at least you’ll know for sure with Toggl. Makes for excellent ammunition in raise/promotion negotiations, or for deciding that you want a new job.
9. Set the work mood with Noisli
Miss the ambiance of your office? There’s something to be said about the background noise of mouses clicking, keyboards clacking, printers printing, and coworkers chatting. Of course, some of that may be annoying when you’re there — the coworker three cubicles over who’s on the phone from 9-5, perhaps — but your dead-silent apartment can feel quite lonely.
Thanks to Noisli, however, you can customize your own playlist of ambiance to maximize your productivity. Instead of putting the TV on in the background, swearing you’ll be productive, then getting distracted and watching whatever show is on, Noisli has a great combination of sounds to set the work mood.