22nd April 2020
When we initially planned this blog, the coronavirus wasn’t on the radar. In the past month, our working lives have changed radically. For those who have never worked from home before, making that shift while being separated from everyone you work with has no doubt been a hugely disruptive and disorientating experience – especially if you throw childcare, lockdown and self-isolation into the mix.
Many of us may still be struggling with working remotely. It’s not so much “Working from home” – more “At home, during a crisis, trying to work.” And while we know it’s not easy, we hope this article, with some recommendations for my favoured SaaS tools for productivity, will prove useful for you and your colleagues or team, especially at a time when productivity might be harder to achieve than usual.
Slack is a great collaboration software that brings together team communications and tools all in one place. It combines chat and team comms with the apps you use every day, including Google Drive, Dropbox and Box. It organises activities into channels to help maximise productive teamwork and reduce unnecessary email back and forths. You can also use it to make voice and video calls (but only to an individual on the free version).
A good alternative for users wanting to collaborate on various Office documents is Microsoft Teams, which also offers videoconferencing features.
Likewise, if you want to collaborate on documents with your team there are platforms such as Xtensio available to create beautiful presentations and documents.
Another handy tool for managing projects and creativity is Milanote. Whether you’re dreaming up new products, planning a campaign or setting a clear vision for your team, Milanote is flexible enough to accommodate it all in one place.
Staying in touch is key. You’d have to have been living under a rock not to have heard about Zoom, especially in the past month. It offers HD video, screen sharing and many more collaboration features. It is easy to use, with a 40 minute limit on group calls for up to 100 participants on the free version, while the paid version allows up to 500 participants to collaborate seamlessly.
For larger teams and companies, ProofHub is the one place for remote teams to work productively, bringing teams, projects and clients together thanks to all-in-one project management and task management software. It helps keep things organised, increases accountability and enables more efficient communication. You can easily plan, collaborate, organise and deliver projects of all sizes, on time, using one project planning software.
A list is a great way to keep on top of things, especially when things are feeling a bit crazy. Lists are a good way to train the mind, and if you prioritise the hardest tasks first, you might find you’re getting more done in less time.
We like Microsoft To Do, which will fully replace Wunderlist in May. Microsoft acquired Wunderlist back in 2020 and are finally phasing out the much-loved free to-do list app. I’ll be sorry to see Wunderlist go but Microsoft To Do has managed to take all the best things of Wunderlist and not over-complicate it. And there’s nothing more satisfying that having all your to do’s in one place, and being able to tick them off.
I’m going to recommend two time tracking SaaS tools for productivity. I use Harvest, which offers time-tracking according to project (or if you’re self-employed, according to client as well). It has a desktop app and smartphone app, and a desktop interface which provides powerful reporting and insights into how you use your time, as well as allowing you to create and send invoices online. A lot of people also recommend Toggl which is built for speed and removes the need for timesheets, as well as integrating with lots of other tools to increase its functionality.
Evernote enables you to take notes anywhere and brings them together with ideas, lists and reminders into one single place. Save meeting notes, web pages, projects, to do lists and capture ideas and inspiration in written, voice and picture form. You can also share and sync across different devices so your notes are always with you – which is great when you don’t have a piece of paper handy, and your brain can only hold so much!
Email is probably one of the biggest productivity-killers, especially if you’ve got an inbox that is out of control. A few tools to consider are: SaneBox, which works with any email address, automatically sorting your emails and prioritising your email with smart filtering to declutter your mailbox; Boomerang, a dedicated email management app for Gmail and Outlook that schedules and sets email reminders; and Airmail, which provides you with a consistent experience regardless of how many email accounts you have.
We hope some of the above will be useful not just in your day-to-day remote working but also when we all return to our normal, non-lockdown version of work.