The number of people working online has almost doubled in the last 10 years and the recent pandemic situation “helped” companies turn toward remote working.
Luckily, I have been working from home a long time before the recent pandemic situation. And let me tell you – it’s not as easy as it might seem at first.
It doesn’t take long to realize this, but how do you actually stay productive when you need to be productive the most?
In this article, I’ll share with you some of the pros & cons of working from home, tips on how to increase your productivity, but I’ll also share with you some of the software & tools I’ve used to be even more productive than I was in the office.
Productivity is a skill, and just like any other skill, it requires practice. Therefore, keep on reading to learn how to properly practice your productivity. You’ll be amazed by the results!
Pros & Cons of working from home
What is the first thing you think of when you hear remote work? Most people think bed, pajamas, a laptop, and a snack or coffee.
Working from home can be a lot more comfortable, however, you still have to stay productive. And this comfort might not do anything good to boost your productivity!
Not only working from home gives you more freedom and comfort, but it also can save you time on the commute, save you money, and even help you become more productive.
On the other hand, when you’re working from home – there’s no one to physically keep you accountable and help you get your work done.
Therefore, working from home can easily have you end up with no physical separation between work and leisure time. This also means that you will have to work twice as hard to get a change of scenery.
Is it possible to stay productive, get your work done on time, and still enjoy your free time? It’s very possible. However, working from home is not as simple & easy as everyone thinks it is at first.
Whether you’ve already found that out on your own or you’re just preparing yourself to work from home successfully – here are some of the apps I’ve been using the past couple of years as they’ve helped me stay on the right track.
Top productivity tools to help you work from home
A key to staying productive is staying organized, and these apps below will help you do much more than that!
Trello (Web-Based App)
Trello is one of my favorite productivity tools. It’s important to know exactly what you are working on and if you are a part of the team – knowing exactly what’s getting worked on and what’s left to do will keep you one step ahead.
This productivity web-based app is free (with in-app purchases & upgrades) and it has a very simple interface. It consists of boards you can create and columns where most of the interface is customizable.
It’s ideal for individuals (freelancers), startups, small, medium, and even large companies.
Trello is constantly getting updates and is improving its features, and they even have an app available for both iOS and Android devices.
You could even have small discussions on the projects in Trello as well in the way of comments – but if you’re a part of a medium/large team, I’d recommend another tool for this called Slack.
Slack (Web-Based App)
In my opinion, Slack is one of the best communication tools for business. It’s a tool that’s made to bring teams together and allow efficient and productive remote communication.
Slack is free to join and use, however, there are also upgrade plans for large teams or teams who want to get all Slack features.
The free version is good enough for small and even medium teams where you get to send unlimited messages, but keep in mind that you will be able to search for only the last 10,000 messages.
Just like Trello, Slack is also a web-based app that comes with an app available for both Android and iOS devices.
You can have individual conversations with team members, or you can create channels that the members can join. This is useful for teams who work on more than one project at a time as it allows an easier organization.
But probably one of the best features of Slack is its integration. You can integrate third-party apps such as Trello, Zoom, Google Drive, or even Google Hangouts+.
This way, you won’t only get the best communication tool, but you’ll also have a very efficient way to send & receive small & medium files.
TaskPaper (Mac OS)
I often mention the importance of knowing exactly what you have to do. While apps such as Trello are great at keeping tasks – I believe that everyone should have their own separate to-do list.
Because a to-do list will help you list even the smallest tasks you have to do so you don’t forget about them. TaskPaper is the best to-do app because of its minimalistic interface and functions that are made for the same exact purpose.
Of course, you can keep a simple to-do list in a text editor, however, I find that TaskPaper is the app that makes keeping a to-do list closest to the to-do list you would do on paper.
The downside of this sleek to-do list app is that it’s only available for Mac computers and it’s not available for smartphones & tablets.
But if you use your laptop for work, adding things to your to-do list, crossing them off, or creating multiple lists inside the TaskPaper will be quick and efficient.
Focus (Mac OS)
Other than not feeling as “accountable” while working from home – there’s one more thing that interferes with your productivity more than you might notice.
It’s a distraction. And unfortunately, the internet is full of them. Therefore, working remotely from home is both a blessing and a curse.
Even the most self-disciplined people can struggle to stay productive throughout their work hours.
Luckily, Focus is an app that will eliminate the distraction by actually blocking sites you won’t need and yet might get in your way – such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and any others you add to the list.
Unfortunately, it’s only available for Mac users, but if you own a Mac, you’ll love how easy it is to set it up. It doesn’t require installation yet everything you need to do is download Focus and run it.
And once you’re ready to start your workday – all you have to do is activate the Focus app with a press of a button to start reclaiming your productivity.
It’s important to take breaks when you’re working from home and I like how Focus app integrates this. It almost motivates you to stay productive for a certain amount of time (you get to set the time) and then you can have a break.
And believe me, working straight for 30 minutes and then taking a 10-minute break is a lot better than trying to work for 40 minutes while battling with distractions.
There’s even a “hardcore” mode where you can’t stop Focus and you are on the quest to try out your productivity.
If you’re lacking motivation, Focus also features quotes that I really like because the quotes are related to making the progress and taking the action.
Kiwi (Mac OS)
GSuite is one of the most toolsets used online and almost everyone has a Gmail address. But did you ever feel like there’s something lacking from the Gmail?
Web-based and integrated mail apps might not be perfect, but they work. However, it’s very easy to take them to perfection and that’s when Kiwi steps in.
Kiwi is a simple app that’s made to be integrated with Gmail and G Suite to make the perfect desktop mail app. Yes, that’s right – I get to check my Gmail directly from my computer without having the browser in between to slow me down.
This app also improves the productivity within an email by letting you create your own categories and even assign colors to them so you can navigate your way around the email faster.
Kiwi is constantly improving and even though it’s a fairly new app – it’s already supporting the integration of third-party apps. It has a limited number of apps you can integrate, but I believe that this will increase in no time and that Kiwi will be the must-have app to use G Suite and other apps right from your computer.
Zoom (Web-Based App)
What if you can’t make all communication digital? What about team meetings and conference calls?
No worries, there’s a solution for this as well and the chances are you’ve already heard about Zoom.
Zoom is the video conferencing tool that hosts cloud-based meetings and it’s free for use with in-app upgrades.
It can be used on the web or you can download an extension to use Zoom directly from your computer. I really like the basic (free) account since you get to host meetings that can hold up to 100 participants, have an unlimited 1 on 1 meeting, and have an unlimited number of meetings.
However, the main limit is the 40-minute time limit on the group meetings.
Overall, it’s a very convenient tool that allows audio, video, and even screen sharing features which really re-creates the meeting or conference call experience remotely while keeping the standard high.
White Noise Generator (Web-Based App)
If you’ve already started working from home and you’ve noticed that your productivity isn’t as good as it used to be when you were in the office – did you try and figure out why?
One reason might be noise. That’s right – noise. Not everyone finds the office noise to be a bad thing. In fact, the office type of noise is considered as “white noise” which can actually increase your focus.
Who would’ve thought that you might be missing the sound of the office, right? But it can be true!
“I Miss the Office” is a great web-based app that generates office ambient noise which isn’t just going to help you feel like you’re in the office – but it’s the benefit behind it. White noise is known to help people relax, boost concentration & focus, and increase productivity.
This app is great because you get to choose the type of office noise you like. I personally love the keyboard typing sound. But the best thing is that you even get to choose the number of colleagues in your “virtual” office. How cool is that?
Some people don’t like listening to anything while they’re working. On the other hand, I do love listening to music when I work, but not any music will keep me productive.
Chill tunes without singing are a great choice if you aren’t a big fan of the white noise (or the office noise) in general.
If you need to put your mind to “rest” and you need a way to work on your focus – you should definitely give white noise a try.
BusyCal (Mac OS)
Most integrated calendars are fine for most users – but if working from home is stressing you and you are looking for ways to keep everything under control, I believe that a third-party calendar app might help.
BusyCal is a great choice if you own a Mac. It might look like an integrated Mac calendar, but it features a lot more functions that increase the ease of use and put productivity as a priority.
If you’ve been keeping everything in your integrated calendar app, it’s good to know that BusyCal integrates well with basic calendar apps so you won’t have to manually put everything in the BusyCal.
Don’t let the design have you thinking that BusyCal isn’t worth the investment. It is the functionality that differs and you’ll experience most of the innovative features within a day of use.
Staying on top of your tasks, especially if you work with multiple clients – with BusyCal, you’ll never miss a deadline or forget a meeting.
How to stay productive when working from home
These tools are awesome, and I couldn’t imagine my productive workday at home without these apps.
However, the apps can’t do everything for you. They certainly help with about 70% of things that could get in the way and slow you down.
However, the other 30% is on you. And if you don’t put enough effort – you might not produce the wanted results.
Therefore, here are some of the not-so-obvious tips that could help you have a productive way from the moment you open your eyes in the morning:
- Separate work from home
- Stick to a schedule and set your hours
- Dressing up helps
- Eliminate distractions
- Take breaks
- Know when to stop
As I’ve mentioned previously, it can be hard to keep a healthy balance of work and personal life when you get to work from the comfort of your home.
However, knowing on which days you will work might not be enough. Setting your hours is highly recommended. You get to incorporate your work into your life. But still, you should understand that it’s up to you to find that balance.
I love working from my sofa, but I still work at my desk which I call my own little “office”. Why? It’s important to set your mindset right, and believe it or not, even dressing up in the morning rather than staying in your pajamas can help you make a good start.
The Focus app can help you eliminate distractions on your computer, but you should still eliminate other distractions that are surrounding you. This includes your phone, family, or roommates.
No one can stay productive for 8 hours straight, however, by taking breaks and knowing exactly what you have to work on will help you achieve maximum productivity in a certain time frame.
But it’s also important to know when to stop. I’m guilty of opening my laptop after I’ve done work to only “write that one last quick email” which always gets out of control and I end up working for an extra hour.
When you are happy with the work you did – you should know when to call its quits and separate yourself from work.
Working from home has its perks, but it’s also not as easy as you might’ve thought it is. However, there’s always room to improve and there’s always a better way to do something.
Whether you choose some of these apps or you decide to help yourself out by using all of them – you’ll be able to do things in the most productive way.
But don’t forget that there’s much more to working from home than simply relying on the apps.
Staying self-disciplined can be tough and we all have deadlines to meet. Therefore, always know what you have to do.
Not everyone will love all of these apps. However, find & use at least a couple of them and you will see the difference!
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