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 Gregory, a Senior Software Developer

A comfortable and ergonomic desk and chair setup is key. I have a stand for 3 monitors that keeps them at a good height, and a good comfortable chair that fits me well.

A good headset and camera are always a huge plus as well.

Communication is extremely important when working remotely, so having a good quality microphone - so you can be heard - and speakers or headphones - so you can hear well - is very helpful.

I use a "gaming" headset, because I like it to be wireless (and I can't find any half decent "business" wireless headsets with a boom mic for under $700), but I'm able to turn off all the flashing colors in it with a companion app on the computer, so I'm pretty happy with it.

A whiteboard is a huge help for me when I'm brainstorming or designing a new system, and getting up to walk over to it is always a good idea to stop from sitting in your chair for several hours straight.

I actually have a smaller whiteboard that I replaced a while ago that sits under my desk, and sometimes I'll pull it out to draw or sketch something up while sitting at the PC.

I also use site blocker extensions for my browser to limit my time on sites like Twitter, Hacker News, or other timewasters. Even if it's super easy for me to turn off, the big red warning screen it shows when I go to one of those sites is normally enough for me to realize that it's probably not a good idea.

Finally, a good timer/alarm/calendar system. I live and die by my calendar, so I've set up an old tablet in a stand under my right monitor, and have it displaying my calendar so I always know what is coming up.

I also use a Google Home to set reminders and alarms for different times as I need to. Being able to just tell the oval on my desk to remind me to take out the trash at like 6pm tonight is really nice, and keeps me focused without just ignoring things that I might need to do or remember.

Gregory is a senior software developer working from home - learn how he finds the balance between lack of focus and hyperfocus.

Read full interview from Interview with Gregory, a Senior Software Developer.

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 Igor Kulman, a software engineer building iOS apps remotely

I really like my standing desk, I spend maybe half the day standing instead of sitting and I really got used to this workflow. I have an anti-fatigue mat that I stand on when working while standing, I bought it when I realized my feet hurt from all the standing.

I have my desktop computer mounted to the standing desk, connected to two displays, an old 22" LCD and a new 27" 4K IPS both mounted on adjustable monitor arms. The monitor arms are great, they allow me to position the displays to the correct height to achieve good ergonomy and save me a lot of space on the desk.

I use a vertical mouse for work, it takes some getting used to but it is so much better on your wrist.

I kept a gaming mouse for gaming after work hours.

The company I work for develops a secure messaging solution so we used it for daily communication and as a form of dogfooding. I basically spend my day in Xcode and Gitlab. We run our own Gitlab instance that we use not only for source control but also for project management; issues, feature planning, etc.

Igor converted a part-time contract into a full-time remote software engineering job—learn how he did it and his tips for working remotely.

Read full interview from Interview with Igor Kulman, a software engineer building iOS apps remotely.

Interview with John, a web developer who works from home

As a remote team member, communication is the number one thing that can make or break a project or team. There are a number of tools we use.

1) We use Slack for work-related conversations, but just as importantly, we have a number of dedicated channels for watercooler-style chats. These include rooms where we talk about health, movies, board games, and even a book of the month club.

2) Basecamp is where all our projects live. If it's not written down in Basecamp, it didn't happen.

3) Zoom. Yeah, Slack has added the ability to do video and screenshare calls. But Zoom is what I use for any calls with clients. With the client's permission, I'll record the calls so that we can refer back to the calls to review any details that may not have made it into Basecamp. Or I'll record training sessions with the client and send them the video at the end, so they can use it as an ongoing learning tool for themselves or any new staff that come on board. The clients appreciate this small detail more than I can express.

4) Google Calendar. As I mentioned before, I live and die by my calendar. With Google calendar, my entire team can view my calendar - and I can view theirs - allowing them to schedule calls at a time that they know will work for me. This saves the back and forth of "hey, do you have time on Tuesday for a call?"

Those are the biggies.

 The easier we make communication, the more productive we can be.

John is a web developer running a mini-agency inside a larger WordPress agency - learn how calendar management and establishing boundaries have helped him boost his productivity.

Read full interview from Interview with John, a web developer who works from home.

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 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 Laurel about helping companies transition to remote work

Zoom for video calls (the bulk of my day), Asana for task management, Slack for team/community collaboration, and Google Calendar for Scheduling.

Offline, my "portable office" includes my Fitbit for activity tracking and top-of-the-hour reminders (nudge to wrap up meetings), glasses, water bottle, earbuds, wireless mouse, chargers, and my faithful Chromebook.

I keep all of these packed in a bag that I can take anywhere I feel like working from that day (which has included hotels, trains, the library, mountain tops, the gym, or even my kids' school).

Laurel is an advocate for remote work and helps companies learn how to work remotely through her consulting and writing.

Read full interview from Interview with Laurel about helping companies transition to remote work.

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.

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