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 Ascencia, a content marketer, and avid gig economy professional

For note-taking, I use Evernote. I take notes there when I read books, take an online course, or just brainstorm for work.

To be honest, the most motivating tool for me is the Upwork time tracker. I work on an hourly basis, so it’s important to track time and keep the tracker on the whole time I’m working. It would capture my screen every 10 minutes.

Out of various project management tools I’ve tried, I like Asana the most.

A forgotten two-year-old Upwork account allowed Ascencia to become a content marketer—see how the gig economy has offered her an alternative path to success.

Read full interview from Interview with Ascencia, a content marketer, and avid gig economy professional.


Interview with Haley, a VP of Operations shares her stellar remote work strategies

To-do lists!

I start the week with a big to-do list. Writing everything down and then bucketing into categories: big picture, people, customers, blocking time for each.

I update it throughout the day, and each morning I make a new to-do list from yesterday’s list.

Our productivity stack includes Slack, Front, Airtable and Quip. I usually turn off notifications but always have Slack up and check other systems periodically throughout the day so that I’m not living in reactive mode.

Haley has figured out the way she works best as a VP of Operations. See her principles of remote work and the unique advice a former boss gave her about breaks.

Read full interview from Interview with Haley, a VP of Operations shares her stellar remote work strategies.


Interview with Stefan, a founder building a location-independent startup

Here’s a list:

Stefan now has total control over his time since leaving the traditional office in early 2019. Hear how his routine is helping him build a solid remote startup.

Read full interview from Interview with Stefan, a founder building a location-independent startup .


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.


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 Maggie, a senior product manager at HubSpot

Slack and Zoom mostly. We also use Jira to track work. I’m also a huge fan of Trello.

I use Zoom for face to face meetings with my team, and I use Slack to chat with my teams and other individuals throughout the day. We are quite low on email usage and chat live on Slack for the most part.

We also use Jira to manage our engineering work. Finally, I have used Trello for everything from managing lists in my personal life, to executing major projects.

Remote work allows Maggie to live in a small town and excel in her career. Hear about how she stays professionally connected, and her essential career advice for remote workers.

Read full interview from Interview with Maggie, a senior product manager at HubSpot.


Interview with Laura, a communications specialist and travel writer by night

I rely heavily on customized reminders from Slack known as Slackbots to remind me to do things. I like to play music while I work, too. Sometimes I play new age ambient type of stuff to keep me calm, centered and focused.

Other times I'll play upbeat music for motivation. Coffee is also a must-have for productivity. Oh! And strawberries. Strawberries keep me happy.

Laura Coronado discusses her method for juggling her career as a communications specialist by day and her side hustle as a freelance travel writer by night.

Read full interview from Interview with Laura, a communications specialist and travel writer by night.


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 Erin, a virtual assistant with a successful approach to freelancing

There are over 20 tools that I use almost daily to keep my clients happy (and myself sane). People usually fall off of their chair when I mention how many tools it takes to keep a business running smoothly!

A handful that come to mind are must-haves:

  • Harvest for tracking time and sending automated invoices
  • Google Voice to ensure my clients can reach me even when I'm overseas
  • Buckets (Trello competitor) for task management
  • Hootsuite to help manage my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts
  • LinkedIn for client prospecting and networking building with other VA's
  • Google Docs for online course planning
  • Udemy to list / sell my online courses
  • Spotify for a constant stream of jams

Last but not least, my Macbook Air and iPhone. Apple fangirl aside, both machines are great for travel because they're durable, light, and are easy to shoot and edit high-quality videos.

Erin has found freelancing success as a virtual assistant—see her organizational tips & insights into how she picks clients that suit her business.

Read full interview from Interview with Erin, a virtual assistant with a successful approach to freelancing.


Interview with Lily, an entrepreneur building VR conferencing for remote teams

My favorite tools are:

My laptop

Work cell phone seamlessly integrated with the apps on my laptop. I like a work cell phone separate from a personal one so that I can turn it off, setting a clear delineation between work hours and personal time. Also, you don’t accidentally risk sending something to a co-worker you didn’t mean to.

HTC Vive VR headset for immersive meetings

A good old-fashioned pen and notebook for taking notes and writing down ideas.

Lily has almost a decade of remote work experience, now she's building the team collaboration tool of the future with Virtual Reality

Read full interview from Interview with Lily, an entrepreneur building VR conferencing for remote teams.

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