Everyone likes working from home, but not everyone knows how to leverage work from home productivity.
It’s hard being in your element when you are surrounded by all kinds of distractions like your spouse and kids, the fudge cake in your fridge, the half-watched Netflix series on your TV, and — your biggest kryptonite — the inviting allure of your pullout couch.
Research says that work from home professionals are 13% more productive than their office-going counterparts. And yet, work from home productivity is an elusive goal if you don’t know how to navigate around these distractions. If you are new to working from home and struggling to find your Zen at work, we have compiled a list of tools that can help you be more focused on your goals.
They fall into the following four categories:
- Productivity tools for team collaboration
- Productivity tools for focus
- Productivity tools for storage
- Productivity tools for tracking your progress
Let’s identify the best tools for each of the above categories.
Productivity tools for team communication
The biggest downside of working from home is the lack of physical proximity with your colleagues. Thankfully, you have a buffet of tools to choose from to overcompensate the lack of in-person interaction.
Slack, in their own words, is “a single place for messaging, tools, and files.” It’s a workplace communication tool that has disrupted the broken, context-driven status quo of email communication across workplaces.
Google Hangouts is an app from Google that offers text, voice, or video chats. It’s an excellent solution for one-to-one interaction or group chats. If you have more complex requirements, you can also try Google Meet for scheduling video calls for larger teams.
Zoom is another excellent tool for making video calls and recurring online meetings. It’s free for up to 100 participants for a maximum of 40 minutes and unlimited for 1-on-1 meetings. If you want to explore alternatives, you can check out GoTo Meeting or RingCentral that offer similar features within the same price range.
Workplace by Facebook is probably the juiciest of all collaboration tools because it offers instant messaging, News Feed, and closed groups. You can imagine this to be a business version of Facebook coupled with powerful, business-friendly features and media storage capabilities.
Productivity tools for focus
Distraction is the archnemesis of direction. What’s worrying about working in working from home is that you might not realize that you are distracted because you have so many rabbit holes to chase when you are in the comfort zone of your house.
On the other hand, you will not realize the amount of work you can do, and the levels of creativity you can go into when you use apps such as Freedom. You may not be aware of it, but the internet is the biggest attention black hole that’s out there. Let’s say you are a sucker for certain subreddits or a Netflix addict. With Freedom, you can block such websites so that you can hone your productivity towards tasks that matter to you.
Besides distraction, the noisy ambiance is another big hurdle on the way to achieving work from home productivity. Some people like to have a monastic silence to dig deep into their creative muse. Many others like to cut iron with iron; they listen to artificial ambient noise or some kind of music to cancel the ambient noise in their physical surrounding.
A significant number of creative professionals prefer listening to EDM to narrow their concentration. Productivity guru and author Tim Ferriss listens to History TV or Nat Geo in the background to focus on his writing during wee hours at night.
You have to find what works for you because everybody’s attention works differently. Most deep work professionals, even in the physical office setup, swear by Brain.fm to enhance their concentration at work. If you are looking for free alternatives to Brain.fm, you should check out
Productivity tools for storage
Productivity is not a be all end all solution your work from home problems. A lot of times, you can jeopardize all your efforts by being unorganized. After all, what’s the point of writing fine lines of codes if you can’t find its source code to compile the program again?
Using cloud-based storage apps such as Box, Dropbox, or Google Drive can help you get rid of such a scatterbrain approach to work. In addition to backing up your work safely, you also have the advantage of sharing it with your peers for review and collaboration.
If Office 365 is the de-facto platform for your workplace email and file-sharing choice, make sure you store your files and backups in Microsoft One Drive. It makes everyone’s job easier to access and retrieve the file when they need it.
For tracking progress
Celebrated author and management consultant Peter Drucker famously said, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Productivity, in that sense, is a sum-total of the things that you can measure in terms of time and their business impact.
There are a plethora of tools to choose from, ranging from old-school techniques like an hourglass to a Tomato Timer. But if you want a more sophisticated digital solution, go with RescueTime, Trello, Wunderlist, Evernote, Asana, or Basecamp.
These tools can help you on two fronts:
- i) as a list of to-dos you can check off every day, and
- ii) to give centralized visibility to everyone in your team.
The latter will keep you accountable for your work commitments and create transparency for everyone in the team.
Parting thoughts on work from home productivity
More than being a tool or a technique, productivity is a mindset. There is no app or a hack that can help you achieve work from home productivity if you don’t have the right mindset for it. Productivity is intent over instructions.
You can have the most sophisticated, expensive, efficient productivity tool and yet unable to move an inch. While it’s easy to get obsessed with the tools, it’s important to remember that they are mere enablers. Productivity is a child of self-discipline, a force that’s more powerful than anything else.
Your mind is the most powerful productivity tool you can ever have. It has unlimited bandwidth for efficiency and storage. If you want to crush work from home productivity, all you have to do is — tame your mind.