11 Tools We Use for Remote Work

Remote work is here to stay. Let's run through our favorite tools.

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When we wrote this article back in 2020, we came up with several reasons to try working from home. These included:
  • saving time and effort otherwise lost in traffic
  • spending less on meals (better meals, in my case)
  • avoiding a bug going around the office
  • less laundry (and less clothes?)
Then the pandemic happened. It forced many to work from home. "Do or do not, there is no try".

Japanese rice terraces at sunset. Maruyama-senmaida, Kumano, Japan.Keeping it real

How was it for you? Were you forced to transform? Were you among the lucky who survived?
Thankfully, for us, nothing much changed. Our clients never went to our office when we had an office. We had to go meet them at their location. It did not matter where they were. We had to get used to working from anywhere there was power and WiFi signal ... and maybe coffee. With travel restrictions, anywhere became home.
Besides traffic is traffic. It wasted time. To avoid the it, we left really, really early in the morning. Really early. We got in so early, we were often among the first to park. We even got the chance to assist staff open their coffee shops. Then to get back home before the day end rush hour, we schedule meetings with the clients mostly in the morning as well.
Despite getting there early and the scheduling morning meetings, we still had a lot of time to kill. We made the most of that time by being productive.

Getting Things Done

Stuff is anything that entered my world and is asking for attention. In no particular order, these are the apps that keep us stay in the game:

1. Gmail

this is my primary personal inbox. While a great deal of communication gets done with conversational tools like Messenger, Viber and Whatsapp, we prefer email. It is way easier to organize, search, and track. We're also under the impression that it can stand as a legal document. That would make it a good reference to resolve any misunderstanding.
I do a fair amount of processing to put things in their proper place.
Shocked young business woman using laptop looking at computer screen blown away in stupor sitting outside corporate office. Human face expression, emotion, feeling, perception, body language, reactionPatterned after GTD, the process goes like this:
  • what does this mean to me?
  • is it actionable? No. Archive or trash or unsubscribe. Put a blue-question on stuff I may want to visit someday
  • will it take more than 2 minutes to answer? No. Answer it now. Put a green-check star
  • am I the best person to do this? No. Forward to the best person. Put an orange-guillemet star
  • does this need action by a particular time? Yes. Calendar or Gmail snooze. 
  • Put a yellow star.

After processing all message, archive them all. I setup multiple inboxes that gather email that meet a condition. In this case, the stars that I assign. Yellow star messages are on a discretionary list of things to do. Orange-guillemet messages go on a a list of delegated work.

Green-check also gets archived with the rest of the messages

That was a long detour I hope you found that useful.

2. Slack

Messaging for faster communication that gives you a chance to stay focused. Depending on client preferences, we've also used Whatsapp and Signal. Our team prefers Viber. For similar reasons as email, I prefer personally prefer Slack or Discord. A bit more organization, a bit better searching.
If needed to, a number of these apps can do group video or audio calls.

3. Zoom

This your online alternative to face-to-face meetings. Speaking of video calls, Zoom is now our defacto video conferencing app. Google Meet is an alternative but we find it a bit clunky, a tad harder to use.
As a host, if you turn the option on, you get to download a video, audio, and chat log of the meeting. The 40-minute limit on the free accounts can actually a good thing. It gives a reason to focus the conversation

Project plan with pen4. Trello

Used to track projects for us. Then we tried Monday.com. Behold. Now we're trying using the tasks tools and by repurposing HubSpot's deal and ticket pipelines. We'll leave it here for now. Expect it to be bumped off in the next session.

5. Google Calendar

There are things that have deadlines (i.e. taxes, business registration). And then there soft schedules that you need reminders about (plan team vacation). Add team members or external parties to the invite to keep everyone on the same schedule.

6. Google Docs, Sheets, Slide

A word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation editor come with your Google account. This is where we do a lot of our work. It facilitates real-time collaboration. It also works offline, syncing everything when your connection recovers. Make sure to turn this offline feature on. We count them as one office suite. Should we have counted these separately?

7. Hemingwayapp.com


8. Grammarly

We added these because it helps us communicate better. Guided by writing rules, these apps, in their own way,
coaches us to write better. Hemmingwayapp.com goes beyond the usual statistics like word count. First of it gives you a readability score. It also tells you that that this blog is understandable to a 4th Grader. It has 1000+words, 6 adverbs, no passive voices. The writing needs to have 2 phrases made simpler. 4 sentences out of 119 sentences are hard to read. Grammary, well, takes care of grammar.
Our job demands that we write better. I would say these 2 apps are my favorites. And I strongly recommend them. Most of us can benefit from better communications.
By the way, don't let AI tempt you. Write your own copy. Believe in keeping it real and just let Hemingway guide you.

9. Google Drive

or Dropbox - use these to make sure your team is working off the same digital assets. You could try WeTransfer or Firefox Send if the files are massive (i.e. more than 25MB). No syncing with these two but you get to send massive files. Make sure to send the latest build.

10. HubSpot CRM

Customer Relationship Management. We don't do business in a vacuum. Getting the job done involves engaging a customer, a vendor, or a partner. At the least, this CRM is where we collect data about contacts. On top of taking care of business, the information makes it possible for you to remain relevant, helpful, and human. It can do way more that it deserves a whole topic cluster.

You should try its mobile version.

11. Clockify 

Working mobile takes a bit of discipline. Tracking usage of time helps you be mindful of how you use your time. The app allows you to measure time use for each task. A task can are then associated with a project and a project to a client. This attribution of time allows the app to give insights on how you use your time.

Mechanic lying and working under car at the repair garage

More tools?

 There are more tools we can talk about, but these would not be applicable for most. There are vector graphics, image, audio, video, 3D software, etc. The list goes on.
Believe it or not, some businesses use up to 200 plus software whether on premise or on the cloud.
We actually managed to get by with less by using HubSpot CRM. That platform replaces for us
  • scheduling software,
  • social publishing,
  • email marketing,
  • ticketing,
  • among other things.
Standalone solutions are more robust. But if you have a chance to integrate tools and use more comprehensive yet relevant platforms, go for it. And it that falls short, remember integrations.
A benefit of working online is syncing across all your devices. Most of the applications are available on desktop, portable devices, including your phone. If you had to, you could take a peek at a spreadsheet on your phone.
There you have it. 11 tools, depending how you count, to help you get the job done wherever you are. What tools do you recommend to keep productive (and safe)? Do you have more or less?