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 Bennah, a remote ESL teacher that teaches kids English all over the world

Yes, I use QQ International to connect with the Chinese Administrators if I encounter problems such as black out or if my student didn’t come on time.

I use Zoom for our classes, so each of the students has their own room number. I also use Facebook Messenger since one of the administrators is based in the Philippines so I could easily contact him.

We use PDFs in giving instructions to the students. The Philippine admin asked me to install Team Viewer so he could easily access my laptop if there are problems from my server.

Bennah is an ESL (English as a Second Language) Teacher who teaches students from all around the world while working from home.

Read full interview from Interview with Bennah, a remote ESL teacher that teaches kids English all over the world.


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 Hannah, a freelance writer that travels the world

My laptop is obviously essential for work, so I’m currently shopping around for a new one. I like to use time tracking apps like On the Job to track how I’m spending my time. This isn’t necessarily for clients—most of the time it’s for my personal reference.

Since some of my freelance work is writing, it can help me know what kind of rates to set. Writers often get paid per word instead of hourly, but depending on the topics, how much time it takes you to write the same amount of words can be very different.

So let’s say I just started writing on cryptocurrency and my time tracker shows that crypto topics take a lot of time to write. Now I know that for future crypto topics, I should charge more per word to make up for that.

I occasionally also use BreakTime, but not lately. You set how long you want to work and then how long you want your break to be. This is really good for two things:

  1. If you tend to get very focused when you work, it makes you stop and walk around a bit, which is important for your body.
  2. It can actually be motivating to work longer. If you want to take a break, but see that you only have ten minutes left before the app will tell you to, you’ll probably push yourself that extra ten minutes.

Hannah is a freelancer writer and social media manager that travels the world while working remotely. Read her interview to learn how she works.

Read full interview from Interview with Hannah, a freelance writer that travels the world.


Interview with Elizabeth, a graphic designer and art director

I’m pretty nerdy and never complete anything without thinking through the tools available to me. I am not an analogue person, so when it comes to tools, I definitely have favourites.

The most life-changing tool I’ve discovered in the last year is Superhuman for email. My clients kindly “gift” me email addresses when I work with them, so I have 11 inboxes to monitor.

Superhuman makes handling that insanity almost a pleasure. It’s invite-only at the moment, but if you want a referral, drop me a line!

As I work within various teams, I couldn’t function without Slack, Google Docs and AirTable.

Working remotely means I hold most meetings by video conference. I use Gather for these as it integrates with Slack and takes meeting notes for me that are searchable. I find I focus a lot more on what’s being said on calls when I’m not constantly scribbling notes.

I stay on track overall with Notion, a note-taking and collaboration app that also integrates tasks, wikis, and databases. So much of what I do means keeping an eye and ear on the internet, so I use it to collect links and ideas in addition to tracking client projects and timelines.

Speaking of keeping an ear on the internet, I use Brand24 to do that as it also integrates with Slack and helps me keep my clients top of mind. The number of times I’ve beaten a PR company to a new article or mention alone makes it a very worthy spend.

For design stuff, I love Canva for a quick social tile or a zillion and, of course, couldn’t function in my role without Adobe Creative Cloud, especially Illustrator and XD.

Props to Unsplash for quick image pulls and inspiration.

Elizabeth provides the ultimate list of tips for aspiring freelancers and remote workers. Check out her game-changing tools, and advice for thriving as a freelancer.

Read full interview from Interview with Elizabeth, a graphic designer and art director.


Interview with Deb, a sales copywriter who transitioned from software development

The main tools I have used for remote work are:

I don’t use the above tools all the time – my choice at times is dictated by client preference. As an example, one of my current clients insists on the use of Jira, Slack, Zoom, Dashlane, and Google Docs. Another of my clients prefers Google Hangouts, Microsoft Word, and Trello.

Deb made the jump from full-time software developer to freelance sales copywriter—learn how he made the transition.

Read full interview from Interview with Deb, a sales copywriter who transitioned from software development.


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 Artur, an engineer who found purpose as an Intrapreneur

This list is in no particular order:

  • Alfred for running everything on my laptop, with a full suite of custom workflows
  • Trello for task management
  • Grammarly for checking my writing
  • Brain.fm for ambient noise and focus music
  • Bose QC25 for noisy work environments
  • PHPStorm for coding PHP & JavaScript, and Sublime for everything else

I use a MacBook Pro 13'' that I hook up to an external monitor at home and at WeWork. I have switched the keys in the laptop and the two magic keyboards to Colemak layout. I started having carpal tunnel symptoms, and this arrangement helped a lot.

I am also an Evernote junkie. A lot of my thinking happens there, and I have developed a set of custom tools. For example, every day I receive a journal entry created from a template that helps me start the day with the right questions.

I also try—and fail— to write a summary of every book I read. Every week, I get a book to review, and knowing that I have to write up notes makes me more mindful during the reading.

Artur realized entrepreneurship wasn't for him—see how he carves out his creativity and purpose as a remote Intrapreneur at Automattic.

Read full interview from Interview with Artur, an engineer who found purpose as an Intrapreneur.


Interview with Chanell, a freelance writer and social media manager

I am a huge fan of Google Drive.

I use Google Docs to share content with editors I work with, so they can quickly make edits or add notes for things I need to tweak. I also use the spreadsheets for content calendars and contact information.

In the past, I have used Harvest to track time, generate PDF invoices, and send these invoices directly from the app.

Asana and Airtable are other apps I have experience with in relation to project management and contact information storage.

If I need to create an infographic or regular graphic I will use Canva, which is an impressive free and easy-to-use online graphic design app.

Chanell is a freelance writer working from Atlanta that writes about business management tips and video game entertainment threads.

Read full interview from Interview with Chanell, a freelance writer and social media manager.


Interview with Nathan and Connor, owners of Freeeup

Skype, Viber, and Zoom for live chats, phone calls, and video meetings. Trello, Jira, and Notes for project management. Calendly and Google Calendar for scheduling appointments and meetings.

We’ve been working together for 8+ years, so we’ve really figured out the best ways to keep communication strong between ourselves and our entire team even though we’re all located around the world. For us, communication is everything.

Thinking of creating your own remote startup? See how Nathan and Connor built a successful and effective remote team from scratch.

Read full interview from Interview with Nathan and Connor, owners of Freeeup.


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.

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