What tools do you use to stay productive?

Question: What tools do you use to stay productive? Read answers from remote workers to learn.

Interview with Cameron, a designer who works remotely at a WordPress agency

This is actually a topic I love to nerd-out about! I've probably tried every to-do list app and strategy you can think of. My current approach (and the one that works best for me) includes a mix of software and good old fashioned pen and paper.

Being a remote worker, it can sometimes feel lonely and cause us to spend too much time on social media.

I find the need to block these social media sites during most of the work day which is why I use an app called FocusMe which lets me set a time period to block distracting websites.

I also use a Pomodoro timer called Be Focused Pro which lets you break your workday into 25-minute blocks with a 5-minute break after each block. I use these 5-minute blocks for things like getting coffee, stretching or walking my dog.

This prevents me from sitting in front of the computer for 8 hours straight which can cause some long-term physical and mental problems.

In terms of to-do lists, I've found the best method for me is pen and paper because I'm such an “out of sight, out of mind” type of person.

Learn how Cameron started full-time remote work after trying freelancing and starting a digital agency.

Read full interview from Interview with Cameron, a designer who works remotely at a WordPress agency.


Interview with Hanling, a data scientist that works remotely on machine learning

Since I primarily work on Upwork, the tool I use most often is the Upwork time tracker.

But we often use Skype to chat and make video calls with clients. Also I've used Trello to organize workflow for one of my contracts.

Hanling started working remotely as a student and now does freelance machine learning and data analysis for clients all around the world.

Read full interview from Interview with Hanling, a data scientist that works remotely on machine learning.


Interview with Sarah about working remotely from an RV

Our organization uses Google apps for nearly everything which is really great for hybrid teams working together on projects.

For my personal task management, I use Smartsheet because it allows for sharing with my team as well as logic for notifications and alerts.

I use a Chrome extension called Humble Tab that shows me all of my bookmarks organized each time I open a new tab. It's super helpful when I need to get to other websites quickly.

Two other tools that don't really add to my productivity but add to my mental state coming into remote work is Bing Desktop and Momentum for Chrome.

Every morning, Bing Desktop is the first app to start and it changes my wallpaper daily to a random beautiful location. Before I even dive into work, it reminds me of why I love working remotely because I can travel to that very location! Momentum for Chrome is great too: it serves up new photos and motivational quotes when I open a new tab. It also has integrations with task management apps and more.

Sarah is a digital marketing manager who travels the United States with her partner and two dogs while working remotely in her RV.

Read full interview from Interview with Sarah about working remotely from an RV.


Interview with Kevin, a developer and remote consultant

Slack is big for remote work, though it can also be the bane of my existence. I tend to stay signed in via my browser to whatever Slack channel is relevant that day.

I use NotePlan for tracking personal tasks. Fantastical is great for scheduling and calendar. I rely on Google Hangouts for doing video calls.

All my work is code, and I generally use whatever my clients prefer. That can include project management software like Trello, Github Issues, or a regular Google Spreadsheet, and either Github, Bitbucket or Gitlab.

Kevin is a developer and consultant working on many different projects - learn which tools he uses to optimize his time management.

Read full interview from Interview with Kevin, a developer and remote consultant.


Interview with Betsy, a head of content and remote work routine expert

I like to keep things pretty simple so I only use a few tools.

In terms of organizing tasks and ideas, I think that my paper planner is still my #1 way of staying productive but I also really like Evernote and Trello. Since I work with so many different teams, I find that Evernote is great for keeping each of my separate projects organized.

For my blog, I love using Trello to organize my editorial calendar and brainstorm new ideas.

For communication, I use Zoom for meetings and conference calls and Slack for updates and quick messaging.

Betsy Ramser is a content manager, blogger, and teacher who helps other remote workers thrive while creating a daily routine that works.

Read full interview from Interview with Betsy, a head of content and remote work routine expert.


Interview with Jenna, a freelance writer who works remotely to help manage her health

I like to keep things as simple as possible, and I try to use my bullet journal and cell phone for anything and everything. My phone calendar is good for reminders, but for the most part I just use regular lists! I’m a huge list maker. I also use my phone timer really often – I’d forget to take breaks and eat if I didn’t.

Specific to writing, I use the Hemingway Editor, but not religiously. I edit my work pretty thoroughly, but it’s helpful sometimes for catching things I've missed. Oh, and Evernote! It’s much better than trying to use bookmarks to help me keep track of research, ideas, quotes, and so on.

Jenna started working remotely after realizing her office job was causing health problems—now she works as a freelance writer and writes about self-improvement

Read full interview from Interview with Jenna, a freelance writer who works remotely to help manage her health.


Interview with Meryl, a digital marketer and master of home office organization

Once you go to two monitors, you won't go back to one! I use email, document and spreadsheet apps, and a task management app that syncs tasks between the desktop and cell phone. I also use a phone and tripod for creating videos and YouTube to add captions.

Meryl K. Evans is skilled at creating a home office that leads to remote work flexibility. See her advice for creating a successful workspace, and hear about her journey into freelancing.

Read full interview from Interview with Meryl, a digital marketer and master of home office organization.


Interview with Harry, an IT Architect who works from home

My 13" Macbook Pro is my workhorse. I like the size as it's small enough to remain portable and still have enough juice to run my multitasking universe.

My iPhone keeps me connected while I'm on the go—I'm constantly tethering my laptop to it while mobile. My 100 Mbs connection keeps me wired at home.

Email and Cisco Jabber for keeping in touch with coworkers and Citrix for connecting to the office in NYC.

Harry has worked remotely for almost 10 years as a senior mobile, web and desktop developer—learn how he balances work with family.

Read full interview from Interview with Harry, an IT Architect who works from home.


Interview with Nelvina, a fashion designer who designs bags and clothing

Being a designer, I mainly use Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop for most of my work. I also use Microsoft Word and Powerpoint for design briefs.

When I started doing freelance jobs, I would create hand sketches, scan them and then send them to clients. But now I create everything in vector. I can easily save my work in PDF and share them with my clients. Whenever I need to make modifications, it is also easier to have an editable vector document rather than a hand drawn design.

I communicate with clients using Upwork, Skype, Whatsapp or by email. Even if I have big files to share, I can use Dropbox or WeTransfer.

Nelvina is a freelance fashion and graphic designer that works remotely while working with clients all around the world

Read full interview from Interview with Nelvina, a fashion designer who designs bags and clothing.


Interview with Ben, a web developer who freelances from home

Headphones. #1 with a bold and underline. I have significant other, and live in a semi-loud neighborhood, but even when it's almost silent, putting them on helps me focus. They're partially noise cancelling, so that extra quiet can help.

Netflix, Spotify, YouTube, other media.

I've found over the years that having media on in the background is usually helpful to getting me in the flow.

I've had a second screen on my computer for a very long time, and there's almost always something playing on it (usually shows or movies I've already watched, so I don't really pay more than 10% of my attention to them). The only time I don't is when I'm on a Skype call with someone, when I'm planning a project, or when I'm stuck on a difficult problem.

Screens. For the longest time I've had pair of standard 1080p 24" monitors (Dell Professional series, because they're one of the few monitors that have a vertical stand that slides up and down). Late last year I was able to upgrade to a 4k 27" panel, and it was the best piece of hardware I've gotten in a long time. I'm able to see way more code on the screen, see 2 full 1080 width browsers side by side, and just, more. The extra real-estate on one panel is well worth the cost of the monitor.

Desk lamp. Seriously, this one sounds dumb, but when the room gets dark enough that I can't see things properly, that little desk lamp balances it out so well. I have one that clips to the edge of my desk, and it's behind my monitor, so my keyboard is lit indirectly, and I don't get eyestrain.

Multiple CPU cores, and a good chunk of RAM. Having a beefy desktop means I can spin up small virtual machines to run test servers on, to run clean desktops for test environments, to partition off different clients environments.

It's a huge time save to just be able to close a VM, have it save state, then just boot up the next week with all the stuff you were working on exactly where you left off.

Notepad, note pad, boogie board, scrap paper. I use all of these things to take notes when I'm in the middle of something, or when someone asks me for a new feature or a tweak while we're reviewing a project, or just as a paste dump for thoughts in progress. I sometimes dump it to digital notes, sometimes to paper (which eventually goes to digital notes or tickets). There's something really good about being able to write out an idea on paper or board that makes it easy to see the whole picture. Which I grab varies from day to day, even minute to minute, but whatever feels best is what I use.

Learn the tips and tricks Ben uses to stay productive while working remotely on a hybrid team

Read full interview from Interview with Ben, a web developer who freelances from home.

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