As the buzz around concepts such as ‘hustling’ or ‘four hour work week’ grows, so too does the need for productivity tools to be put in place to help a busy entrepreneur use their time wisely.
Working from home is becoming more and more feasible, flexible and popular. People everywhere, from start-up entrepreneurs to small business owners are finding that working from home is better for productivity, work-life balance, and savings on overheads and transport costs. While working in your PJs has some fantastic advantages there are also drawbacks to not having the support, IT and personal networks or access to the same equipment common in office workplaces.
Accountability is the other part of working from home that can cause some income and productivity bruises as well.
When something becomes popular, everything around it blossoms. As working from home gets more popular, systems are invented to make it easier, creating a positive spiral in favour of working from home.
New systems are popping up every day that allow individuals to streamline tasks, tailor items to their business needs and operate on a level that feels corporate. With the right apps and programs in place, you have the capacity to cut down on your admin hours, have access to your information on the go and look as though you have a pro team of accountants, designers and Personal Assistants.
The systems that work best for you really depends on what kind of work you do and what results you want.
To help you get started on your research here are some common and well-rated apps to increase your digital Troublemaking ability and impact. Work more efficiently, manage your time better, lock in some accountability and reach further with these communication and measurement apps.
Analyse your efficiency to maximise how much you get out of a day with this web-based productivity tool. You might be using more time than you realise, or want, on certain projects. To find out how much time is dedicated to any particular project add Rescue Time to your status bar and it can measure your usage of certain windows, i.e. Twitter or Facebook, as well as programs like Photoshop. The best part about this one is the flexibility to measure what you want it to.
If you need help with focusing on your goals and tasks, you can apply Focus Mode, which notifies you if you try to access a site you have previously input as a problem.
If you know you are most easily distracted in the morning, set Focus Mode for 9am to 1pm and let it screen your browsing activity to let you know when you wander into distraction zones. It’s a dash of accountability that comes as a pop-up message reminding you this is an unwanted distraction. Bringing unwanted behaviour to your consciousness is usually enough to get you back on track. The more you practice avoiding distracting sites the easier it becomes to bypass time wasters. If you really want to knuckle down, set Focus Mode for 8am to 6pm to eliminate distractions that sap time and energy from your work all day long. If the site you are using is legitimate for research purposes you can choose to proceed, and track it if you like to analyse your time off your original path. When you start using this app you will really notice a difference in how much work you can get through in a day.
You can also check your productivity patterns and performance using the reporting dashboard with easy to read data, including graphs to help you quickly measure your time management efficiency long term. Armed with this info it’s easy to find energy leaks, or restructure your week so that like tasks are clustered together.
Cost: Free for the Lite version.
$6 US a month if you can’t live without the Pro version.
While the previous app’s job is to keep you on task, Coffee Break is all about reminding you to take it easy.
There are so many benefits to having regular breaks in your day including posture and ergonomics. We are simply not made to be in one position for long periods of time. It doesn’t matter if we’re standing, sitting or laying down, we need to remember to give our muscles a break and get the blood moving through our whole system. It’s super important for your short-term and long-term health.
Breaks are also brain food. We become zombies if we work non-stop, we might not even realise that our creativity has left us, our accuracy is down or our stress levels are climbing as we try to push our brains to just finish this next thing.
Taking a rest from work will help increase your brainpower and have you respond better to your workloads and tasks at hand.
You set it for the break time and duration so it will work around your schedule. If you are really good at ignoring your own advice, you can even set the alert to dim your screen so that you can’t easily avoid stepping away from the keyboard. You don’t have to leave the room, go for some stationary exercises, like squats, lunges or stretching. If you do want to leave the room you can use your break time to top up on water, tea, coffee, go to the shops, even take the dog for a walk around the block.
Systems: Mac and iOS
Cost is $2.99
Personal Finance App. When you have your own business up and running, spending wisely and balancing your financial ins and out are going to be a key to your success.
Mint.com makes it easy to track your spending and locate patterns. It captures your financial profile on a single dashboard. Apps are not just around to collect data anymore, they also give you advice, like the Mint.com app which doesn’t stop at telling you where you have spent money, it also makes suggestions on where you can save.
Mint.com can help you create your very own budget, using data it gathers from your actual spending. Mint also has a website. Use them to track anything you can think of, from your bank account, credit card spending, personal loans, even your mortgage.
Cost: Free (it is supported by ads but, weirdly, they are not annoying ones)
This is a time management tool that can improve focus and cut out wasted time, provided that you like it. It’s one of those processes that you either adore or despise. Every brain works differently and every person has different responses to different stimuli, but if it works, it really works and having an app to back it up is genius, so I’m including it.
The Pomodoro Technique has been around for almost 40 years so something must be working.
What Francesco Cirillo found is that his focus was best when he limited his project time to a maximum of 25 minutes then took a five-minute break, then back to another 25 minutes, and another break. As a college student who was a fantastic procrastinator and felt overwhelmed with the assignment in front of him, the timer technique broke his day down into bite-sized pieces. Each 25-minute block is called a Pomodoro (and yes, if you were wondering, ‘isn’t that the Italian word for tomato?’ you are right. This is the tomato technique.) After you complete four tomatoes it’s time for a proper break of 15 to 20 minutes.
Give yourself a mark every time you successfully complete a tomato.
This might test your ego some, which is why so many people hate this technique, but if you stay creative and give yourself time and patience it will pay off. Give yourself a full month to really get the hang of it and note down the number of times you felt the need to switch to another task or do something off topic. It’s great for increasing mental strength and stamina. It also encourages you to get up and stretch, maybe put on some music. For the inventor of this technique, breaks were all about having fun.
It’s important not to use this technique for anything recreational or for research, the breaks will be counterproductive as you will need to find your place again and overlap a lot of your reading. Sometimes you need to just be in the zone. For everything else, there’s Pomodoro.
You can use a kitchen timer or regular clock, even the alarm on your phone although if you are a clock watcher an app timer eliminates the need for having a ticking timer on your desk. The tomato name comes from the timer Francesco Cirillo used to break up his day – a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato.
You will need to be fully accountable for this one as nothing specific is on the market but there are plenty of free apps out there that can help you design a time-set plan to break big tasks, sort out your massive to-do list or just get your butt in the chair for more hours of the day.
Look at your options online at:
or download Focus Keeper : Work & Study Timer By Limepresso ($1.99) Great for IOS
Clockwork Tomato by phlam (free)
This program is designed for co-workers who are operating remotely. It helps stay at home or in the field teams stay in touch, sends simple reminders for what tasks need to be done, and gives workers an easy way to communicate what they got done at the end of the day. If your business is not quite big enough yet for staff you can still use iDoneThis as the ultimate to-do list, to easily keep track of your tasks and how much time you spend on each one. Tasks are labelled with hashtags so it is simple to find and retrieve emails and info on a certain project. There is also an option for co-workers to celebrate and reward each other with comments and hi-fives.
Detail what you want to do, what you are doing, and what you have done.
Cost: $3 per person, per month
The Importance of Productivity Tools
Help on your tasks doesn’t have to mean a payroll or staff, it can be as simple as finding the productivity tools that work for you and using them well. You are not alone in your office, even if it seems that way. Thousands are working alongside you and some of the best entrepreneurs started out exactly where you are now.
Keep working, take breaks and believe in what you are doing.