5 PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS TO LASER FOCUS HOME WORKING
If you buy something using the retail links in our articles, sometimes we earn a small affiliate commission. This does not impact the products we recommend.
Working from home has huge benefits. Freedom over how your office is designed. Minimal overheads if you run your own business. Avoiding the commute.
It’s not all golden however. One of the downsides of working from your home is that the lines between work and day to day life become blurred and during what are supposed to be working hours distractions are aplenty.
Daily chores like washing clothes and preparing food are in your face all day. Inevitably you divert from the flow of work and allow your thoughts to drift towards, well, housework.
With this in mind it’s easy to understand why on average workers spend 72 minutes daily being distracted during regular working hours!
Working from our own home office as small business owners, consultants and creators we’ve explored and tested a large number of productivity tools. Some to prevent distractions, others to take small repetitive tasks off our hands.
Honestly the majority of productivity tools are great in theory but are often found lacking when it comes to delivery. Some actually actively distracting you away from the very tasks you are aiming to become more productive at.
If you’re looking for a little help to focus more, remove some repetitive boring tasks, or simply spend more of your time doing what you love this post is for you.
Here are the free productivity tools for work that we use each and every day. Hopefully you’ll be able to benefit from too.
- Motion Chrome Extension
- Otter ai transcription Andriod App
- Zapier web app
- IFTTT web app
- Focusmate co-operative working
Motion Website Blocker Improves Productivity By Removing Distractions
Motion is a free Chrome extension that aims to prevent you from wasting time online by providing real-time interventions as and when you attempt to visit ‘distracting’ websites.
The main point of difference between Motion and other website blockers is that Motion gives you the choice to continue on to the desired website rather than thrown up a virtual brick wall.
After all even Facebook and Twitter can be used for constructive business purposes.
During the act of approving the decision to continue on to a distracting site you actively challenge yourself to think about whether or not you genuinely need access for the benefit of your role.
Our favourite feature is the non-intrusive countdown timer and interventions that slide in from the side of the screen to provide gentle reminders about how you are behaving.
The reviews on the Chrome web store are almost blanket 5 stars and we can’t disagree.
Otter Voice Notes Is The Quick Way To Take Notes
A partner of Zoom video conferencing and webinar services, Otter voice notes is an automatic live transcription service.
In addition to acting upon live speech, pre-recorded audio files can be uploaded and quickly converted into an editable text file.
The app boasts features such as the auto addition of punctuation and the distinction between multiple speakers. Sure the software behind automated transcription services still have a way to go to match the accuracy of human transcription.
To demonstrate the accuracy we spoke the following words from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland into the Otter app on a Samsung S10 phone.
Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole: she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw.
How she longed to get out of that dark hall, and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains, but she could not even get her head through the doorway; “and even if my head would go through,” thought poor Alice, “it would be of very little use without my shoulders.
Unedited Otter voice notes transcription
Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage. Not much larger than a rat hole, she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw how she longed to get out of that dark hole and wonder about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains.
But she could not even get her head through the doorway.
And even if my head would go through thought paralysis. It would be a video to use without my shoulders.
A total of 7 errors required correcting.
Checking for errors and formatting corrections is required for all transcription services and the speed and cost savings of using automated transcription offset the extra work at this stage.
For us, we use Otter mainly as a speech to text service when writing blog article such as this one. It would be equally effective at recording lectures or simple note taking on the move.
A generous 600 minutes of free transcription with no feature restrictions is provided free of charge each month, which is plenty to test the service to see. Otter voice notes is available as a web app, on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.
Zapier Helps Automate Tasks That Are Easily Forgotten
Zapier makes automations between web apps and software (coined ‘zaps’) easy to arrange and simple to execute. From a business perspective it ticks the boxes by allowing workflows to be fully automated.
The selection of compatible apps is impressive, allowing a time saving framework to be constructed from a diverse array of platforms. For us as a very small team at the moment it suits us just fine to configure single processes. Saving invoices received as email attachments into a particular Dropbox folder for example.
If you choose to go for a paid plan, zaps can be stacked to create a whole domino effect of automations. With a free account you get the use of 100 single step zaps to be used across up to 5 separate instructions
IFTTT = If This Then That
IFTTT (If This Then That) is similar to Zapier but angled more towards the internet of things.
Some of the most popular automations, coined ‘applets’ are designed to communicate with personal devices and smart appliances such as lights, home speakers, and security systems.
Although it sounds counter intuitive, time away from the desk is also very important to include in your work schedule. This is where the entirely free IFTTT applets can help prevent wasted time.
As an example, think about how many minutes you take to make coffee or tea each day. First turning the kettle on, then waiting for water to finish boiling can take several minutes. A quick calculation scales that short time up to over 8 hours across a whole year!
Well IFTTT has this covered with applets that can instruct Smart kettles to boil upon a particular trigger (i.e. 5 minutes before a daily brief meeting) and then let you know when the water is freshly boiled.
As a novelty it’s even possible now to automatically order a Dominoes Pizza to celebrate the completion of a particular task or achieving a sale.
'Focusmate' Leverages The Power Of Peers To Help You Work More Productively
Moving away from automations, Focusmate encourages good working habits by pairing lone working strangers with one another.
A community of workers seeking to banish procrastination are paired off for 50 minute sessions at a time and connected via web cameras.
As humans we have evolved particular social behaviours in the presence of one another.
Focusmate helps unlock the power of the below behaviour triggers to produce some easy productivity wins:
- Pre-commitment = Written description of what you wish to achieve within the 50 minute session
- Implementation intentions = How you intend on completing this goal (essentially joining a Focusmate session)
- Specificity in task definition = Describe in fine detail to your work partner at the start of the session how you will be achieving your goal
- Social pressure = Showing good behaviour by following group rules and being devoted to your pre-commitment for the whole session
- Accountability = Should you fail to honour the pre-commitment then your user rating will be penalised and it’s less likely other workers will want to pair with you
Having a stranger watch over your every move while you work is not for everyone but if it clicks for you then say goodbye to asking the question “Could I have done more?” at the end of the working day.
With 3 sessions per week given for free you’ll have plenty of opportunities to experiment with this social hack.
Is it better to stand barefoot at a standing desk or to wear shoes? Is it better to use a standing desk at all? Here’s what the research has to say…
We investigate the benefits of adding motivational posters to your home office walls. Are they actually anything more than glorified wallpaper?