As many of us have shifted to working virtually over the last few weeks, we’ve no doubt had to make some adjustments.
Now that we’re at home around the clock with pets, kids, spouses, and the constant temptation to watch Tiger King in the middle of the day, how do we stay productive, communicate with our teams, block out distractions, track our time, manage our projects, and have meetings?
Well, there’s an app — multiple ones, actually — for that.
Jotform can help you with lots of WFH tasks, like ordering supplies, requesting work from teammates, and hosting webinars.
Here are some other apps to help you work from home effectively, efficiently, and with, hopefully, fewer distractions.
Slack is a communication tool that allows you to chat with your coworkers instantly, through direct messages in “channels.”
Meant to alleviate the frustrations of email, Slack makes it possible to see all conversations and files related to a particular project in the channel dedicated to that project, without having to sort through endless email chains.
Until I used it for the first time, I couldn’t wrap my mind around how it worked, so if this description leaves you scratching your head, head on over to Slack to watch a short demo video. You might get hooked, just like I did.
Trello is a project management tool that helps you organize tasks and projects using boards, columns, lists, and cards to create an efficient workflow. Think of it as a digital bulletin board with virtual Post-it Notes.
Great for visual thinkers, Trello allows you to easily monitor the progress of big projects — and the myriad daily actions that move them forward — by categorizing cards into lists of to-do items, project notes, shared files, and more.
Once you’ve crossed an item off your to-do list, you can drag that card into your “Done” column. The Trello website walks you through the tool’s capabilities.
You’ll find many similarities to another project management tool — Asana. What’s the difference between the two? Some say Trello is more intuitive and easier to use, while Asana has more sophisticated functionality and is better for team collaboration.
Both Trello and Asana have a free basic plan, so you can try both and decide for yourself which one is a better fit for you.
Basecamp is another excellent project management tool. It includes task management, project organization, and accountability features. With Basecamp, you can create to-do lists, assign tasks with due dates, track deadlines, and have “Campfire” chats.
Basecamp has the added benefit of allowing you to collaborate directly with clients. Want to share project information, progress updates, and even files with clients? Basecamp easily lets you do this.
Not only are project details shared with the team in one place — no more communicating via annoying email chains — so are important client communications. And you get to decide what clients see and what’s off-limits.
Learn more about how Basecamp works by watching this two-minute video.
Whether you’re required to report project hours to your boss or need to keep track of hours spent on freelance assignments, a time-tracking and reporting app can help.
Toggl is one such app. Once you set it up, Toggl tracks and categorizes your time entries and provides reporting, so you know how long you spend on each activity per day. Toggl also allows you to track activities across platforms, meaning you can start an entry on your phone and finish it on your laptop, and your data will sync between the two.
After you’ve used it for a bit, you can do a time audit to see exactly where your precious hours go. You might be surprised. Think you only spend an hour a day on social media, or that recent freelance project you billed $1,000 for only took six hours? Toggl will tell you the truth. I know freelancers who swear by it — and who have used it to ditch less productive activities.
Other popular time trackers include Harvest and RescueTime. A Google search will turn up at least a dozen others you may want to check out.
If your work involves creating and keeping track of lots of files, you’re going to want a robust file storage system.
Dropbox is an online file storage app that allows for file sharing among work teams, service providers and their clients, and individuals. You can upload your files to the cloud and access them later from a different device. It’s also great for sending large files that are too big to send via email.
As a freelancer, I’ve found Dropbox invaluable for sharing project files and details with clients and subcontractors, and I’m sure I’m not even using it to its full capabilities.
Depending on how long you’ve been working remotely, you’re either already wildly familiar with Zoom or just learning its ins and outs.
What I love about this video conferencing app is how easy it is to use for intermediate techies like me who formerly hated video chats. Important side note: It’s just as easy for newbies too. Zoom has won me over, and I couldn’t imagine working from home without it.
The Zoom Meetings feature allows you to hold meetings in HD video with up to 1,000 people. Most of us probably don’t need that, but it’s equally great for meetings of just a few people.
It’s an effective tool whether you’re using it for one-to-one meetings with clients, giving a presentation to stakeholders, brainstorming with your team, or having a virtual happy hour with your pals. And if you don’t feel like being on camera, Zoom lets you choose audio-only for your meetings.
Doodle is an app that lets you coordinate meetings. It has one of the best value propositions I’ve ever seen: “It shouldn’t take 30 emails to schedule a 30-minute meeting. Book meetings faster with the smart scheduling power of Doodle.” Sign me up!
What Doodle allows you to do is schedule meetings with coworkers wherever they are around the globe, no matter the time zone. Create a poll of several time slots, and each invitee chooses what’s better for them.
Doodle keeps track of responses and recommends the best time for the majority to participate. No more email back-and-forth for days while several people in different time zones discuss their availability.
Find out more about what Doodle can do.
Loom is a screen recording tool that allows users to create instantly shareable videos. As they point out on their website, “you can capture your screen, voice, and face and instantly share your video in less time than it would take to type an email.” As with many of the other apps mentioned here, one of Loom’s key benefits is the ability to share complex information simply, in less time.
If you’re like a lot of people trying to acclimate to working at home for the first time, you may find it challenging to focus. Maybe you have kids underfoot pestering you every other minute. Or maybe you live alone, and the absence of coworkers leaves you with deafening silence. Either way, music may help you focus. But not any music will do. Enter Brain.fm.
The app uses patented technology to create what’s called “functional music,” which is specifically designed to remove distraction and “purpose-built to steer you into a desired mental state.” Simply download the app to your phone, put on your headphones, and create your next deep-concentration-necessary masterpiece.
Find out more about Brain.fm and the science behind it.
There are a lot more apps out there that fall into each of the categories above, so if none of the ones listed here help you get the job done, there are plenty of alternatives to be found with a quick Google search.