Power Tools: the apps & add-ons you need for a smarter WFH experience
You’re halfway through a week of mandated work from home—one of many weeks to come for an indeterminate period. How are you holding up?
While many workers are accustomed to taking the occasional #WFH day here and there, some may need help finding their footing during this time. By now you’ve probably discovered that your working from home experience is only a good one if the products you have on hand are good, too.
From the right products and software to routines and systems, access to everything you need can make or break how productive or efficient you’ll be.
Likely your employer has set you up with several tech tools, whether that be a laptop, VPN or phone; these will probably be in your arsenal already if you’ve previously worked from home on an occasional basis.
If you’re part of a team, you’re probably familiar with collaboration software like Asana or Slack to help you stay on top of projects, and you’ve had meetings via Google Hangouts, Zoom or Skype.
For a long-term setup, you’re probably going to require a more robust workspace with more amenities.
I have a dedicated arsenal of online and in-house tools that I use to help me make the most of a workday, and I’m happy to share them with you.
These are the things I use daily; and if I need to pack up and go, they’re the first things that go into my tote.
- My MacBook Pro or Huawei T5 Tablet
- WiFi/Internet access
- A large 9×12″ artists’ sketchbook for notetaking. I have a large, fat scrawl that laughs in the face of regularly lined notebooks.
- I regularly use Whatsapp for video calls and messaging. It’s free, cheap and easy—most people have it, and it’s excellent for one-on-one video calls.
I was looking for a simple-to-use, nice-looking email client to centralize my multiple Gmail/consultant accounts instead of the native Apple Email or Outlook for my MacBook. After searching high and low, Airmail is the one I happily settled on.
There are a number of really cool functions, and it’s customizable like nothing else I’ve ever used. It also integrates several apps like Trello, Asana, OneDrive, Dropbox, and so many more. It’s not free, and I’ve seen some complaints online about it, but for $10 a year, it does all that I need to do and more.
Composing and idea gathering
Most definitely, Evernote is the notetaking app I didn’t even know I needed until it until a friend of mine recommended it. Now I know I can’t do without it.
It lets me compose, add attachments, clip webpages, record voice memos, create lists, set reminders, and edit documents.
Online or offline, on my phone or my laptop. Everything I need in one app. You can get a free account or pay for the premium (which is the version I have).
If you don’t want to go the paid route, and already have a Microsoft Office subscription, OneNote is a reasonably useful alternative.
Trello is my whiteboard/kanban come to life on my desktop. It houses my to-do lists, and I also use it to keep track of ideas and social/blog post inspiration.
Freedom is a productivity app/site blocker I’ve been using for about a year now, and I’ve had more than moderate success with it. I use it to keep me off shopping sites, or off the web in general for a designated time when I need to buckle down and concentrate.
Not without its faults, but it’s the only site blocker/app that I like, and I can program it through the different platforms on my phone (Android) and my laptop (iOS).
Based on the Pomodoro technique, this widget helps me get things done, breaking the time I set for completion into bite-sized intervals. I can program long or short breaks, and it tracks my progress and productivity.
I can also set different time goals based on a task (writing an article vs. proofing or editing, for example), so I’m able to review just how much time I spend on different activities in my practice.
As a consultant, Acuity helps me manage clients’ appointments and schedule consultations easily. Clients can self-book, reschedule appointments—and even pay online for services.
I can personalize links depending on the type of appointment, and it syncs with Google calendar and iCal, so I never forget an appointment.
Note: it’s super buggy on Android, but since I only use it on my laptop, I can still view synced appointments via Google Calendar on my phone. I use the paid version.
I have an Adobe Stock subscription, but also use The Stocks when I’m too lazy to recall my password.
As far as royalty-free stock images go, I have yet to find a better free online library than The stocks. You can easily find diverse, high-quality photos on almost any topic/subject matter. There are also videos, audios, icons, fonts and other visual elements.
I don’t know where I’d be without Canva. From graphics for my socials to PDFs for my freebies, this app fulfills all of my design needs.
I pay for the premium version (like $13 a month) and can customize the design experience. I get extended fonts and design options (like resizing); I can upload fonts and images, set brand colours, share files, create presentations and ton of other high-quality visual content.
It doesn’t work as well on my phone, but I hardly use the mobile version, so it’s a moot point.
Think of Venngage as Canva for infographics. The free version is only so-so, but the paid upgrade is pretty damn good once you get the hang of using it.
Choose from hundreds of templates for various industries and a wide range of projects, including infographics, reports, posters, promotional material and images for social. Bonus: It’s a Canadian-based app, so support your fellow Canucks!
When I upgraded my internet service, I had problems with a really weak signal upstairs. After a few calls, the techs from Rogers came back to move the router to a better position and installed Eero beacons to extend the WiFi signal. Now I can get a strong signal from anywhere in the house.
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And Bang! There you have it. My daily must-haves. I’d also like to note that I’m not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with any of the brands or products mentioned, nor any of subsidiaries or affiliates—these are some of the tools I like and use to help my day run smoothly.
Hope you find them useful—and I’ve provided the list for you to download here.
Keep an eye out for part three of my New Work Reality series for tips on productivity and how to establish a routine that will help you win at work.
Bang! Resume Works offers personal and professional development initiatives that foster and encourage growth through targeted content, curated services and workshops to help you gain confidence, navigate the workplace, and #winatwork. Don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter below to stay up on what’s going down.