There are only so many hours in a day, so as freelancers it is wise for us to use the time we do have effectively. From keyboard shortcuts to limiting outside distractions, we all have our own ways of speeding up the work involved in certain tasks.
Personally, my day can consist of a number of different tasks including web development, logo design, research, reporting and quite often…writing. While I love what I do and appreciate the opportunity to work from home, there are just some tools that I would find it hard to live without.
I use all the following tools on a daily basis, some less than others (you’ll see why) but they all have their place in my ‘work from home toolkit‘.
Online forms are one of those things that are time consuming but always necessary. We see them everywhere don’t we:
- Blog comments
- Shopping site checkout carts
- Website registration forms
…and everywhere in between. There are a few possible solutions to this issue, but my favourite is definitely InFormEnter. This Firefox plugin means that I can fill in any field of any form in literally two clicks, especially handy for blog comments and other forms you tend to fill in regularly.
2. StumbleUpon Toolbar
I hear what you’re saying “StumbleUpon is a time waster, definitely not a productivity tool“, and if that was you’re response then you’re probably missing out on a great SU feature. As you may know, when you sign-up to StumbleUpon you enter your interests, and whenever you hit the Stumble button you are shown a random, but relevant page that has been submitted by someone.
There is often a time when I’m looking for design related material and Google just doesn’t have the results I want, whether it be a certain tutorial or some basic CSS templates that I can put my design onto. Therefore, I use the under-utilised StumbleUpon search function (All >> Search) and come across a popular page (as it has been voted for by the community) and fits my needs exactly.
The toolbar is especially useful for freelancers, because freelancers are a huge part of the userbase.
Now this is one tool I really couldn’t live without. I’ve tried a number of online to do list tools including popular solutions like Remember the Milk, but nothing has fit my needs better than ToDoIst.
The site comes from the developer of Twitter rival, Plurk, and features Ajaxy-goodness throughout the site. If you don’t have an online to do list tool, I definitely recommend using this one.
4. Google Docs
I definitely haven’t made the full transition to an online office suite but I’m 90% of the way there thanks to Google Docs. Even with such serious competition from the likes of Zoho, I’ve found Google Docs to be reliable, fast and definitely enough for my needs.
Because I write a lot, I would love to see some form of online spell checker, but the sharing ability, ease of use and organisational aspects are just amazing. Whether you want to use this for serious team collaboration or you simply need a ‘note taker’ that is accessible from anywhere, you could definitely benefit from this.
You might think I’m crazy, but for the last 3 weeks I’ve been using a laptop that has a hard drive which doesn’t work. Each day I boot my computer using a Xubuntu Live CD, use the already built-in Firefox to download Foxmarks, and then I’m ready to get on with my day.
Of course, I have another computer for the necessary programs like Photoshop, Filezilla and others, but I’ve found Foxmarks is a tool that allows me to get to work from literally anywhere in the world and very quickly. You sign up for a free account and it automatically saves all your Firefox bookmarks, allowing you to sync them at anytime.
I worked as a social media manager for some of the biggest companies in the world for the last two years, and this was a life saver. As you know, online there are so many sites that can turn out to be timewasters, the likes of Facebook, MySpace, Digg, Youtube and more.
Leechblock allows you to effectively ban yourself from websites that you know are distracting. When I knew I had to get a project finished soon, I would simply turn it on and it would ensure I stayed focused on the task at hand.
The great thing about the tool is that it takes about a minute to actually re-enable the sites so you aren’t tempted to cheat yourself either.
7. Rescue Time
As everyone knows, one of the best ways to stick to your goals is to hold yourself accountable. Whether it is your website readers, your friends or even just having a note on the fridge to remind yourself of your aims. I guess you could class Rescue Time as an online alternative to this, allowing you to see how effective you are compared to other members of the site and exactly where your time is being spent.
The great thing about Rescue Time is that you don’t have to input any data. You install the software and it automatically records the tasks you are doing and then uploads them to the site for you so you can keep a track of your own activity.
You might be surprised to see how much time you are wasting, but at least you’ll discover where you can improve.
Now, it’s over to you guys!
What productivity tools could you not live without? See you in the comment section!
Image in this post: EricGjerde