By Kyra Kuik
When it comes to managing time, working from home or owning a business can be both a blessing and a curse. Sure, you don’t waste endless hours fighting off traffic, there aren’t as many coworkers to gab with in the break room, and you can leave work early to make that 4pm little league game … just as long as you pick that task up again later in the evening, when the rest of the household is fast asleep.
And that, right there, is the “curse” side of things. Yes, your time is more your own, but you’ve got to be a rock star at managing it, equipped with all of the right tools to keep efficiency high and that feeling of, “I should be doing something more with this rare free moment” low.
Here are 7 productivity tools for doing just that.
First things first. In order to manage your time, you’ve got to be able to track it. Toggl is just the right tool for the job. The interface is relatively simple — much like a traditional time sheet, except that you can use it on any of your devices (laptop, tablet, smart phone, etc.) and you can instantly assign tasks to projects, rather than having to do so manually later on.
This data is then nicely visualized in colorful charts, so you can get a much better sense of how both you and any employees are spending your time. Best of all, Toggl plays nice with invoicing and accounting software like Freshbooks and Quickbooks, so you can quickly go from doing the work to getting paid for it.
If you’re anything like me, your email inbox is your communications hub, as well as being that place where you keep track of new ideas and tasks. In other words, it’s the kind of place where important communications easily get buried.
Enter Boomerang, the Chrome extension for Gmail that tells you whether or not important contacts have opened your email and allows you to draft and schedule sending of emails at opportune moments. So, you can draft an email on Saturday and schedule it to send on Tuesday when you know your contact will actually be in the office.
What’s more, Boomerang will, well “boomerang” important emails back to the top of your inbox when you’re waiting for a reply so you can follow up.
Whether you’re working on your own or across a team, a project management tool like Trello is an absolute must. Trello allows you to create as many projects as you like with multiple task cards for each one, which you can arrange on a very visually-friendly project board. You can then add team members to relevant tasks and track completion, cutting out all of the chatter and confusion of long email chains. And it’s free, so really, Trello is an all around win.
It happens to me all the time: a two minute task on a website turns into a twenty minute sinkhole as I try to login with one of my ten million passwords, only to have to reset the whole thing, wait for the new email, take note of the new password, etc.
LastPass addresses this problem by remembering passwords for you. And if you’re worried about security, don’t be; they help you generate secure passwords, too, and will help protect you against phishing scams and other online risks.
Chances are, you work on the web for at least some portion of your day. Whether that means researching for blog posts, reading up on the latest innovations in your field, or connecting on social media sites, those open tabs tend to add up quickly.
This can be overwhelming, leading you to click between too many sources of information without fully concentrating and getting one task done, and it can also seriously slow down your page load times. With Pocket, you can add that open tab to a list, close out, and return to the page when you’ve got more time to read it. And, unlike with bookmarks, you can just check it off when you’re done and it will be out of your hair.
When I really want to concentrate without any interruption, I revoke my ability to access the internet with an app for Mac called Freedom. However, because most of what I do necessitates an internet connection, I more often use SelfControl, which allows you to turn off select websites for a set period of time.
So, for instance, you could turn off Facebook and maintain access to Gmail. And there’s no cheating allowed, as the application can’t be quit, not even when you purposely crash and reboot your computer. Not that I’ve tried this…
When you first start out and business is slow, it’s tempting not to want to invest in a tool like Quickbooks Pro. After all, you’re a spreadsheet wizard, and you can color code your financial activities like no one’s business. But as your business starts to take off, there’s an inevitable migration of data from one, centralized spreadsheet to several, and before long, keeping track of everything becomes a time-consuming mess.
Quickbooks Pro greatly increases productivity by centralizing your bookkeeping and accounting in one, highly organized system. You can track time spent on projects and easily create invoices, watch inventory and sales data, monitor expenses, and analyze profits and losses, all without ever having to copy and paste data that affects multiple aspects of your financials. At the end of the year, you can even do your own accounting… though it’s probably better to just put that Quickbooks file on a drive and handing it to an accountant. Voila. Done.
With these 7 productivity tools in hand, you’ll be able to fully live that dream that all of your friends who work 9-5s think you do; you can control your time, make the most of it, and get a whole lot done.