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Struggling against distraction? Use these 7 productivity tools

Trying to finish your work in a reasonable time frame when working at home? Use these 7 productivity tools to work more efficiently.

May 22, 2020 by Taylor Barbieri

Feel like you’re doing everything and getting nothing done at the same time?

Same.

Being productive when working from home is no joke. Sure, you don’t have coworkers congregating around a water cooler, but you’ve got something worse:

Unlimited freedom to get distracted.

And that freedom may be the dream, but it’s also a nightmare for getting things done without sacrificing every wink of sleep.

Today, we’ve got seven productivity tools to help you reclaim your sleep, time, and good sense without sacrificing your sleep or work quality. 

As a bonus, they’re all super cost-effective, if not free. So if you need to procrastinate less or work more productively, then read on to start eliminating your greatest time-wasters.

The 7 best productivity tools when working from home 

Tool #1: Cold Turkey

If you’re looking to stop distractions from eating your time, you’re going to love Cold Turkey. 

Cold Turkey can help you to block websites, games, apps, the entire internet, and even your computer. Basically, if it’s something that can distract you on a device, it’s something Cold Turkey can take care of. 

It doesn’t just block distractions, though. You can also set breaks and time limits so you can minimize distractions without sacrificing every ounce of fun from the day.

Cold Turkey has a schedule function, too, so you can set aside the best time-blocks to be productive for your day in advance.

As if that wasn’t awesome enough, Cold Turkey also shows you statistics about your usage so you can see where your time is misspent. 

And if you think these fabulous features will cost you a small fortune, you’d be (happily) mistaken. Cold Turkey is free to use, although they offer a premium plan for a one-time payment of $29 CAD. 

Features:

  • Block websites, specific pages, Google searches, applications, and more. 
  • Custom whitelisting so you can access the tools you do need
  • Scheduling tools to set up block periods in your schedule, predetermine when your block period ends, slate in breaks, and set daily limits
  • Password-protected settings so others -- or maybe just you in a moment of weakness -- cannot change your settings without a long, hard think (or password).
  • Statistic overview so you can see where your time is, and isn’t, misspent.
  • Works with VPNs and is available on Windows and macOS

Who it’s best for: 

  • Creators who need a strict but flexible distraction-blocker that keeps them from visiting distracting sites and apps
  • Creators who need a tool that can help keep them from working on their computers 24/7
  • Creators who want a free-to-low cost time-blocker

Free trial: 

  • No, Cold Turkey offers a free forever plan 

Pricing:

  • Cold Turkey offers a free plan 
  • The paid plan is a one-time payment of $29 CAD (about $20.78 USD at the time of this writing)

Tool #2: Freedom

Okay, so you like the idea of Cold Turkey, but it’s a bit too intense for what you’re looking for. 

Besides, you’d prefer to have a distraction blocking tool that works on multiple operating systems and which syncs across devices. Enter: Freedom. 

Freedom allows you to block websites, apps, and the internet. You can also create custom whitelists so you can only access websites related to your work. 

Freedom is available for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, and ChromeOS. Freedom can then be synced across your devices. 

You can use the Freedom Pause, Freedom Insight, and Freedom Limit extensions to break your browsing habits, track your time, and set daily website limits, respectively. 

You can also schedule blocks of productive time, which can halt distracting behaviors. Having dedicated focus time can help you stay on task. Doing so may also help you to work more quickly (or at least feel that you’re working more quickly). 

Features:

  • Available for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, and Chrome
  • Advanced and recurring block scheduling 
  • Create custom block whitelists and blacklists.
  • Locked Mode to stop you from ending a blocked session
  • Ability to view your session history and annotate it
  • Break your browsing habits with the Freedom Pause Chrome Extension
  • Time tracking with the Freedom Insight Chrome Extension
  • Daily limits with the Freedom Limit Extension 

Who it’s best for: 

  • People who want a distraction-blocking tool that can thwart even their direst attempts at distraction with a lock mode.
  • Creators who want a distraction-blocking tool that can be used across multiple devices 

Free trial:

  • Freedom offers a seven-session, no-obligation free trial that you can use on each of your devices. 

Pricing:

  • The monthly plan is $6.99 per month
  • The yearly plan is $29.04 per year
  • The forever plan is a one-time payment of $129

Tool #3: RescueTime 

RescueTime is a time tracking tool that helps you to see where your time is going, online and offline.

But it does so much more than track your online habits. 

RescueTime provides a daily productivity score so you can understand how productive you are today and how that compares to your past productivity levels. The program also uses your habits to suggest a personalized daily schedule that aligns with your productivity habits. 

Plus, you can set goals and alerts with RescueTime to make sure you complete certain objectives. The platform generates reports so you can stay accountable to your goals and see how your time usage and productivity are progressing. 

RescueTime also offers a FocusTime feature that allows you to block distractions like websites and applications. 

Lastly, creators with small teams can benefit especially from RescueTime, as it allows for team-level insights so you can see how well your team is doing overall. 

Features:

  • Works on macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and ChromeOS
  • Automatic time, website, and app tracking and categorization
  • Productivity Pulse score to compare how focused you are today to past days
  • Three months to unlimited historical data, depending on your plan
  • Integrates with other apps, including Zapier and GitHub (great for developers!)
  • Daily highlights, team-level insights, weekly reports, and office time tracking

Who it’s best for: 

  • Developers will especially enjoy this tool, as it can track your time and keep a log of your code check-ins on Git and Github
  • People who want detailed reporting across multiple devices -- your phone, tablet, netbook, and et cetera -- of where their time is going.

Free trial:

  • RescueTime has a free forever plan 
  • RescueTime offers a 14-day free trial for its premium plan
  • RescueTime offers a 30-day free trial for its RescueTime for Teams plan 

Pricing:

  • RescueTime offers a free forever plan
  • The lowest-paid plan is $6 per month
  • The highest-paid plan is $6 per month per team member

Tool #4: Clockify

This is a solid choice for small teams or consultants. Why? Because Clockify can help you and your team save time by calculating your billable hours. You can track time on projects and mark time as billable directly in Clockify, which makes invoices way, way easier.

You can also see which of your team members are working on what projects, as well as breakdowns of what your team members worked on specifically. 

Basically, if you’re among the 68% of freelancers who want to make more money, Clockify can help you better track and manage your work hours so you can earn what your work is worth. 

Features:

  • The desktop app works for Windows, macOS, and Linux; the mobile app works for Android and iOS
  • Unlimited users, different permission levels for different users, set hourly rates for your team members, and pull activity tracking and reports for each.
  • You can manually enter time, track it with a stopwatch, track it by projects, and more.
  • Comes with timesheet templates and the ability to log time in them
  • You can categorize time as billable, categorize time by job type, or categorize tasks by job type
  • As with most tools in this vein, you can pull visual breakdowns of how your time (or your users’ time) was spent, as well as customize your reports for different tasks, jobs, and users.

Who it’s best for: 

  • Anyone with a small team to manage will rejoice with this tool -- it makes invoicing, as well as tracking hours -- a cinch.
  • Creators who bill their clients hourly for work on their projects will have a similar joy, as you can automatically log and categorize billable hours and export in a wide variety of formats.

Free trial:

  • No, Clockify offers a free forever plan

Pricing:

  • Clockify offers a free forever plan
  • The lowest-paid plan is $9.99 per month
  • The highest-paid plan is $9.99 per month per user

Tool #5: Trello

Trello is a project management tool that allows you to see and manage each of your tasks as they move through your workflow.

One reason why you should consider using Trello is because of its Kanban-like setup. 

Kanban is a way for visualizing and managing work as it progresses. The purpose of the Kanban system is to spot potential obstacles in your workflow, so you can work more efficiently. 

The Kanban-like set up isn’t just easy on the eyes either. One study found that the Kanban system helped software engineering teams to harmonize their work pace and increase collaboration. 

With Trello, you can get a bird’s eye view of your projects and tasks to see how they’re developing. 

You can create boards with Trello, which you can think of as separate workspaces where you can list tasks for each of your major projects. 

You can add cards to each board to represent tasks you need to complete each project. To see what has been done or still needs to be completed, you can then add checklists, comments, due dates, and members to each card. 

You can also create categories to move your cards through to represent the stages of completion that they are in. 

For instance, my Trello board for articles I write has six categories:

  • Outlines
  • First draft
  • Second draft
  • Waiting for editor
  • Third edits
  • Published

Trello also allows you to create rule-based triggers and other automated tasks so you don’t have to manually monitor and move each card on your board. 

So, if you’re looking for a better way to manage and visualize your workflow, then it sounds like Trello is right up your alley. 

Features:

  • Unlimited personal boards, cards, and lists
  • Team boards (number varies depending on your plan)
  • Power-Up boards (number varies depending on your plan)
  • Power-Ups (number varies depending on your plan)
  • Simple automation
  • Commands (number varies depending on your plan)
  • Command runs (number varies depending on your plan)
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Over 100 app interactions

Who it’s best for: 

  • Creators who want a simple system for organizing and prioritizing their tasks as they move along different stages of completion
  • If you’re looking for project management, it’s hard to do better -- but if you’re looking for workflow management, you’re probably not going to love Trello.

Free trial: 

  • No, Trello offers a free forever plan 

Pricing:

  • Trello offers a free plan
  • The lowest-paid plan is $12.50 per month per user or $119.88 per year
  • The highest-paid plan varies according to the number of users you have 
Tool #6: Todoist

Todoist is a worthwhile option for creators and small teams looking for a project management tool. 

As with other project management platforms, you can create tasks and set one-time or recurring due dates with Todoist. Todoist users can also create subtasks and comments for each task, in addition to viewing that task’s activity. 

You can categorize these tasks into sections and then use favorites, filters, and labels for further organization. 

Todoist also provides breakdowns of your daily and monthly productivity progress. 

Basically, whether you’re going solo or working as part of a team, Todoist provides the features you need to turn your to-do list from chaotic to calm. 

Features:

  • Available in over 10 apps and plugins, such as Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS
  • Set recurring due dates, favorite tasks, create sections and subtasks, set priorities
  • Task overview, the ability to delegate tasks, track completed tasks, and task and project comments
  • Notifications for task comments, completed tasks, and et cetera 
  • Earn Todoist Karma points for completing tasks and staying on productivity streaks
  • Visual productivity breakdowns
  • Integrate with multiple apps and services
  • Project templates

Who it’s best for: 

  • Creators who want a project management tool for teams
  • Creators who are looking for a project management tool that can encourage them to continue their productivity streaks

Free trial:

  • Todoist offers a free plan
  • Todoist offers a 30-day free trial of its Premium plan 

Pricing:

  • The lowest-paid plan is $36 per user per year
  • The highest-paid plan is $60 per user per year or $6 per user per month 

Tool #7: Zapier

Less than 50% of small business owners use technology to handle tasks in their business.

Not using technology to assist you can eat up more of your schedule than you’d think. That can translate into longer work hours and an increased chance of burn out. 

Of course, manually managing each of those services can take up time, too. 

That’s what Zapier solves.

Zapier helps creators to automate tasks by integrating with over 2,000 apps. 

You can automate tasks by creating workflows in Zapier, known as Zaps. These best Zaps for online businesses can help you automate common small business tasks, though Zaps can complete almost any digital process imaginable. 

Simply choose an event that will trigger your workflow and tell Zapier what to do, and then the platform will take care of that action for you. You can also create multi-step Zaps for more detailed processes. 

Zapier will even retry tasks that failed because of a temporary error or downtime. 

While Zapier can’t replace hiring a virtual assistant or an employee, it can help you and your team members save precious time so you can focus on more pressing matters.  

Features:

  • Create workflows for certain processes 
  • Automatically complete certain tasks
  • Fill-in-the-blank set up for workflows
  • Integrates with over 2,000 apps (number of integrations depends on your plan)
  • As fast as one minute update times, depending on your plan 
  • Five to unlimited zaps, depending on your plan
  • Multi-step zaps 
  • Formatters so you can customize text, numbers, and dates to your preferred format 
  • Design advanced workflows with branching logic 
  • Auto replay for failed tasks 

Who it’s best for: 

  • Creators who are looking for a tool to help them automate tedious and repeatable tasks
  • Creators who are looking for a more affordable solution to handling repetitive tasks than hiring human help 

Free trial:

  • Zapier offers a 14-day hassle-free trial 

Pricing:

  • Zapier offers a free forever plan 
  • The lowest-paid plan is $239.88 per year or $24.99 per month for 750 tasks
  • The highest-paid plan is $7,188 per year or $748.75 per month for 100,000 tasks 

Use these 7 tools to work more productively from home

Whether you’re struggling to balance your full-time job with a side-hustle or are working remotely full-time, there are tools to help you more productively from home. 

Some tools you should consider using when working at home include:

  • Cold Turkey if you need help blocking distracting websites, apps, and more during your work hours
  • Freedom if you want a distraction blocker that works on multiple devices and operating systems
  • RescueTime if you want to track your productivity levels and where your time is being spent
  • Clockify if your team needs help tracking your billable hours
  • Trello if you want a task management tool that gives you a birds-eye view of your projects and workflow
  • Todoist if you want a tool to help you better manage your tasks
  • Zapier if you need help automating repetitive tasks 

If you’re a digital product seller, there’s one more tool you should consider: Podia. 

Sign up for Podia for free today to sell membership programs, digital downloads, and online courses, and have access to an email marketing tool, sales page builder, customer messaging tool, and more from one easy dashboard. 

Look, procrastination and productivity get the best of all of us. None of these tools will eradicate wasted time altogether, but they’ll all help you reclaim your time so you’re spending less of it working and more of it doing whatever the heck you want.

And I think we can all agree that’s a beautiful thing.

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