WORKPLACE / APR. 07, 2014
version 4, draft 4

How to Boost Productivity While Working from Home

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It can be hard enough to stay productive in the office, where there are built-in structures (like your boss strolling by) that help you stay focused. At home, with distractions like chores, hobbies, and gorgeous weather right outside your window, it’s easy to get off-task. Fortunately, there is a range of apps that can help you boost your productivity.

To-do

If you work at home, having a to-do list is essential. There are a lot of them – some free, some not. My personal favorite is Wunderlist. You can create a separate list for each project and then add tasks to each list. You can also just drag to rearrange tasks. I like that part a lot because my priorities are always changing. Asana is an online version of a to-do list that comes with some pretty powerful team and collaboration functions.

Focus

A neat little app called Focusbar takes the place of the boss looking over your shoulder. When you need to get something done, you just type in the name and click “Start activity.” Then, every time you switch windows, it’ll pop up and remind you of what you’re supposed to be doing. So if you decide to take a quick peek at Facebook, Focusbar will remind you to get back to work! Other apps are based on the Pomodoro technique. These apps help you break big jobs into chunks by reminding to take a five-minute break every 25 minutes and a 15-minute break every four chunks (most let you adjust the timing).

Organization

Evernote is the best organizational app I’ve ever used – by far. I use it primarily for research. I create a folder for each new project and, when I find a web page I want to use as a resource, I save it to that folder. It comes in especially handy since I do a lot of my preliminary research sitting in front of the TV at night. I’ll find pages I want to use and just save them to Evernote for when I’m ready to get to work the next morning.

Time-tracking

If you work on an hourly basis, you have to know how much time you spend on each project. Sure, you can use a stopwatch, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll forget to stop it. Timing takes it out of your hands. The app tracks the time you spend on each window, document and web site and gives you a list of time chunks. You can then drag each chunk into the right project folder. No more forgetting to turn the timer off and having no idea what to charge!

Invoicing and accounting

If you have your own clients, you’ll need a way to invoice them and to track your income and expenses. I personally use PayPal for invoicing and a custom Excel spreadsheet my husband made me for accounting. But there are plenty of apps that provide both functions. The range from free versions like Bean Counter to fully-loaded apps like AccountEdge Pro.

 

Working from home in itself can boost your productivity, simply due to the lack of interruptions. But instead of interruptions, you have distractions. And you don’t have all of the structural helps that an office environment provides, so

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