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10 Apps and Tools to Be More Productive at Work

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10 Apps and Tools to Be More Productive at Work

It seems that today everything is about productivity. It is one of the buzzwords, so we hardly ever take a moment to consider its meaning. Of course, it may vary individually, but for most of us, productivity is about avoiding distractions and keeping a focus on the thing we do, while we do them, which at times can be a challenging task. Even if we are determined not to procrastinate and finish the task as soon as possible, the very means of our work can be distractions galore with all the incoming emails, instant messages and social network updates. The tools below will be a helpful addition to your desktop, tablet or phone optimizing your workflow.

1. Rescue Time

Compatibility: Android, Web platforms

Rescue Time is browser and application time meter that runs in the background and gathers information about how much time you spend on work, networking, reading news, etc. It gives you an invaluable insight into your daily habits and helps to boost your productivity. If you feel that you, perhaps, spend too time on a particular app, you can set reminders, urging you to leave it after a specified period. You can also block the most distracting apps and sites if you want the maximum focus for some time. This product has definitely earned its self-explanatory name: using it leads to some unexpected revelations about the amount of time you waste.

2. TickTick

Compatibility: Android, iOS, Web platforms

This simple task management app is notable thanks to its ability to integrate and synchronize across multiple platforms. It also has a number of unique features, such as for example, the possibility to set location-based reminders. They will be triggered by your leaving or arriving at a predefined location, so you will never forget to finish everything before you leave the office and will always remember to pop into the supermarket to complete your grocery list. This to-do app is not limited to lists: it can help you meet deadlines and boost your productivity thanks to customizable reminders, shared lists, voice memos, tags and priority ranking of the tasks.

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3. Workflow

Compatibility: iOS (iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch)

This productivity app was created to streamline your work by making shortcuts between the apps you use most often to complete certain activities. There is an unlimited number of possible connections and combinations, so Workflow watches you work, learns, and then teaches you how to do it more efficiently. It creates your customized unique workflows, which you can save as new widgets on your home screen or try out the workflows other users have created. This versatile personal automation tool will also help you to manage your social media accounts, calendars, maps, media and more.

4. Trello

Compatibility: Android, iOS, Web platforms

Trello is a project management tool with dashboard, lists, notes, tasks, calendars and more. Its kanban-style system is visual and fun to use. The application of the service varies from personal use to project management on a larger scale. The cards and lists can be shared for collaboration or assigned for task delegation. Although there are many other project management services out there that are more powerful, Trello is perfect for personal use thanks to its flexibility and customizability, which makes the work well-organized and enjoyable.

5. Pumpic App

Compatibility: Android, iOS

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Sometimes we fail to concentrate because our mind is miles away occupied with all kinds of worries. Pumpic will take care of one of them that is the most important – the safety of your loved ones. Wherever you are, with this monitoring app for parents, you can always be sure that your child timely arrived at school or returned home thanks to the GPS tracker. It will also track your kids’ phone activity taking care of their online safety by blocking inappropriate content and applications you find objectionable. With this parental app, you will kill two birds with one stone – put your own mind at rest to be more productive, and help your children to concentrate on their homework, by eliminating all the usual distractions.

6. Pocket

Compatibility: Android, iOS, Web platforms

How much time you waste daily because while surfing the Web in search of relevant information, you come across some interesting and useful articles and cannot help but read them, even if their topic has nothing to do with the task you are currently working on? The probable answer is way too much. On the other hand, you would not wish to miss all those exciting facts that may come in handy later. With the Pocket app, you can save and store everything from the Web and social networks you find worth reading or viewing for the later. Now you do not have to choose between pressing tasks and some useful video, and your curiosity is no longer a time thief.

7. Boomerang

Compatibility: Gmail, Outlook, Android

Boomerang is a mailing service that is helpful in many ways, but its best feature is scheduled email sending. For example, you are working late and composing an elaborate letter, but you wish it to be sent during business hours next day. Or you have colleagues on the other side of the globe and you wish to send them reminders just before their lunchtime. This is all possible with Boomerang – set the time and is will mail your letters for you, and the built-in AI will assist you in writing better. Another useful feature – the reminder service can make a very apt CRM tool – now if you do not get a response to your letter, Boomerang will not let you forget about it. On top of this, there is an “Inbox pause” option – you can hold the incoming emails, so they won’t distract you while you are coping with something urgent.

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8. Gero Time Management Companion

Compatibility: iOS (iPhone and Apple Watch)

To be productive, we should work smart, not hard. If you have a habit of plunging into work and emerging 8 hours later exhausted and burnt-out, Gero Time Management Companion is definitely, what you need. This app is a stopwatch of a kind and its main goal is to nudge you to take your well-deserved scheduled breaks. On default, it is 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of downtime, but you can set it to whatever intervals suit you. You can also use this app to remind you to do the eye exercises to prevent vision problems, to take medication or simply to refresh yourself.

9. Reporter

Compatibility: iOS

Reporter is a pocket big-data collecting tool for personal use. This app quizzes you on every aspect of your life, asking questions, such as “How did you sleep?” or “Are you alone?” several times a day, collects data from your GPS and step-tracker, and provides quite an insightful feedback into your daily habits and activities. It cross-references everything, so you can see how your mood influences your productivity and so on. The questions and suggested answers are customizable, so you can tweak your Reporter to make self-tracking and building up a personal database quick and seamless.

10. SaneBox

Compatibility: Android, iOS, Web platforms

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In essence, SaneBox is another time savior and it works with any mailbox. It sorts your emails basing on their priority, which it learns from the way you handle your mail. SaneBox watches which kind of messages you open quickly and leaves them in your inbox while moving less urgent emails to folders you have created. This filter also notes which messages usually stay ignored or end up in a bin. There are many other useful features, such as auto-download of attachments to the cloud, “snooze” that postpones letters until the time you are ready to read them, and various notifications. This service is paid, but it does not require installation, so you can use it on any platform.

Productivity is a skill of making the most of our working hours, so there is more time to enjoy other important things. Hopefully, these tools will be a boon to your productivity and will help you improving your life.

Featured photo credit: Ryo Hirosawa/Flickr via flic.kr

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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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