The 2010 U.S. Census found that more than 13.4 million Americans telecommute at least one day per week, up substantially from the 9.5 million who did so in 1999.
One of the reasons this could be is shown in a recent study by the Harvard Business Review, which found that working from home dramatically improves productivity and increases employee happiness so they are less likely to quit.
But, as any remote worker knows, combining your home and work lives in the same place can be a double-edged sword.
Image via Harvard Business Review
Fortunately, there are some helpful apps and tools that make it easy to organize your work flow, enhance your productivity and leave yourself with some time to unwind. Best of all, they’re free! Here are six of my favorites.
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1. Evernote: Keep Everything Organized
Evernote is an all-in-one app that allows you to collect your ideas, notes, and tasks in one place. Think of it as an external hard drive for your brain. You can draft quick notes, attach documents and emails, set up to-do lists, and organize everything by category.
A powerful search function allows you to quickly locate any previously published notes. With the ability to share notes and discuss content in groups, the app is perfect for remote work spaces, providing the type of free-flowing idea exchange that is sometimes lacking among telecommuters. It works on a range of devices, including iOS, Android and Windows.
Image via Evernote
2. Wunderlist: Balance Personal and Professional Tasks
Many remote workers struggle with task management, balancing between work and home obligations. Wunderlist is a great remedy to this, as it helps you organize and prioritize everything you need to accomplish. You can arrange your tasks by category and due date, set up recurring reminders, and check off items once they’re completed. The user interface is free from clutter, and tasks make a satisfying “ding” sound when checked off. The app is free and integrates with all major devices.
Image via Wunderlist
3. Hours: Manage Your Time
With Hours, you can track the time you spend on different tasks throughout the day, organizing by group and type. Through its simple user interface, you can set up as many task categories as you need and set a timer with a simple thumb tap. A reporting function allows you to track weekly hours by category, a useful function for freelancers charging by the hour for multiple clients.
Currently, this app is free for a limited time and is only available for the iPhone.
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4. How Much Speed Do I Need Tool: Increase Digital Productivity
Waiting for a website to load or for an attached file to send can be a surprisingly large drain on your productivity. If you’re routinely contending with sluggish Internet, it may be time to upgrade your service. First, do some research to find out how much Internet speed you need. Then, conduct an Internet speed test to find out if your service matches what you need. You may find that the productivity gains of faster Internet more than make up the added service costs.
5. Boomerang: Schedule Emails for Later
One of the main advantages of working remotely is the ability to set your own hours. Unfortunately, people who work a regular 9 to 5 might expect you to be submitting documents throughout the workday. Boomerang provides a solution by letting you schedule emails in advance. So if you’re a night owl, you can type out emails when you’re most productive, click “Send Later,” and have them sent out during the daytime hours.
The app can also improve your productivity in other areas. If you’re routinely searching your inbox to see if you’ve followed up with a client, the app can save you the effort by sending you a reminder email to reply after a certain time period has passed. You can also archive messages and tell Boomerang to bring them back at a later date. It currently works only for Gmail accounts.
6. Timely: Track Your Hours
For freelancers who work by the hour or simply want to track how much time they spend on a given task, Timely is a useful tool. The app lets you track how much time you spend completing tasks throughout the day. You can set goals for completion and organize tasks by level of priority. It also allows you to track hourly rates and compare your logged time with previous estimates.
Solo users can choose from two pricing tiers: a free version offering up to five projects and the “Freelancer” version offering unlimited projects for $14/month. There are three additional pricing tiers for group projects. The app is available for iOS, Droid and Windows.
Image via Timely
Working from home can provide tremendous lifestyle benefits, but you need to take care to focus your energy and avoid distractions. With these apps and websites, you can find the tools you need to make the most productive use of your at-home work time.