By Monica George

Work from Home and Still Feel Productive: 6 Top Productivity Tools

Monica Geroge
If you work remotely and ever find yourself struggling to feel productive, I’ve compiled a list of strategies that have worked for me. As an avid – nay – obsessed consumer of content on optimal morning routines and how to get more done in the day, I feel it’s worth clarifying that this article isn’t sponsored. All the information contained herein is first and foremost to share tools that have made accomplishing my work and goals much easier.

Alarmy

I am not a morning person nor – *yawn* – do I expect to ever be one. It’s fine. Because I still manage to get up at 5:15 am, four mornings/week and get a ton of s*** done. (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays I sleep in until 7:00 am).

For me, developing this habit has required trial and error and lots of practice; I used to use my husband as an excuse for disrupting my ‘hyper-productive’ morning routines, citing a not-entirely-unjustified concern with disturbing his precious law-school-student sleep. So instead, I’d simply wait until he needed to get up and then grumpily follow suit. All this did for me was give me a rushed and unfocused start to my days and it lead to resentment over the 2-3 hours I felt I’d lost from my mornings. I’ve since found a solution to this problem in order to preserve my morning routine – and the sanctity of our relationship.

Alarmy, thankfully, has a variety of gradual and un-startling alarm sound options and various “missions” to complete before the alarm will shut off. My favorite mission is the math which I complete at a Hard level first thing in the morning (á la (37 x 11) + 321). You won’t be able to fall back asleep after this mindful awakening (if you are able, you’re probably not challenging yourself enough). Pro-tip: smart watch users can keep their phones in a separate room and wake up with a simple wrist vibration to respect the light sleepers in your life.

Bluetooth Headphones

If you cohabitate with someone else and you don’t have wireless headphones yet, what are you waiting for!? I highly recommend you invest in a pair of these bad babies. (Hint: I’ve found the over-the-ear versions to usually have a longer battery life. I only charge mine a few times a week!) This is how I listen to TedTalks and audiobooks in the mornings while getting ready for the day. I’m emphasizing the “wireless” aspect of these because I find a great deal of value in being able to distance myself from my phone in the mornings. With wireless headphones, I relish my new found ability to prepare breakfast, walk my dogs, or do my morning cardio without my phone glued to my hand.

List Tracking

It’s hard to work from home or be productive without adopting some type A tendencies. It’s been imperative for me to maintain weekly to-do lists in order to track my progress on a variety of projects at once. I try to prioritize these by most important to least important and I find that, though I gravitate towards analog record-keeping (like my bullet journal) for daily/weekly task lists, I prefer Google Keep for sharing and travel purposes. A slight compromise between both analog and digital list-keeping is the Rocket Book that comes with reusable pages and erasable ink. The selling point here is the easy page-scan you complete with your phone that is automatically uploaded and sorted into predetermined folders in the cloud.

Airtable

This is my favorite tool for project planning. Whether I’m planning an event, overseeing a collaborative project with multiple deadlines, or tracking my own project to-do list, this platform has everything I need.  Some have compared it to “excel on steroids.” This tool does what your excel sheets just aren’t strong enough for. Airtable not only offers me a way to sort my to-do list by project but I can also choose between alternative views allowing me to see my tasks sorted by deadline or priority. There’s an additional kanban view for those that prefer that style of project management. You can also store documents, photos etc within these lists (so handy when interviewing applicants!) The best part is, the basic platform (which is all I’ve ever needed in the last three jobs I’ve had) is completely free to use. I’m serious. It even has calendar integration capabilities so that deadlines auto populate. It will rock your world.

Calendar Blocking

If I add an item to my task list, I also schedule time to accomplish the task in my calendar. I recommend prioritizing the tasks you know you tend to put off or dread doing at your most productive time of day. I’m least productive between 1-4 pm so I never place any creative work at those times if I can help it. Block out every section of the day with the tasks you need to accomplish and stay honest. If you unintentionally got sucked into a task that was personal or unproductive, alter your calendar so that you can do better the next day. I set this up at night for the following day and add any unfinished tasks from the current day to my upcoming schedule.  

Time-cube

Again, maybe this is just a type-A thing, but I love to set timers for myself. I’ve found these one of the most effective tools to motivate me to get something done. Maybe it’s weird that I like to see how fast I can fold my laundry or read a chapter in a book — but if that sounds like you, get yourself a timing device (preferably not your phone if you find it a distraction). The Time Cube is an adaptation of a kitchen timer in a compact and attractive cube form that has different time-increment options available. Set it on its side while you complete 20 minutes of morning pages or 15 minutes of emails at the beginning of each day. I also use this when I take a 5 minute break midday to clear my mind.