Last update: October 12, 2021
Working from home can at times feel like a blessing and a curse. You’re able to work from the comfort of your bed, still in your pyjamas, completely foregoing the double commute to and from the office. Heaven, right?
Forbes even reported a lofty 47% increase in working from home productivity in 2020 — a clear win-win for employers and employees alike.
There are however exceptions. For many, mandatory working from home periods become days rife with distractions and ever-stacking tasks. There’s no magic bullet to solving this problem, but there do exist apps to help maintain focus and encourage effective time management.
There’s a certain kind of distraction that should not be present in any home. Covenant Eyes is a tool that seeks to discourage users from viewing adult material by monitoring browsing habits and sharing reports with an accountability partner or partners.
Covenant Eyes utilises a ‘Tunneled Monitoring Service’ (TMS) filter as part of its monitoring software to reduce the risk of visiting illicit websites, either deliberately or accidentally. Where possible, Covenant Eyes will also activate ‘Safe Search’-like settings for Internet search engines that support safe searching. Google and YouTube safe searches are, thankfully, supported and strictly enforced upon installation of the app.
Covenant Eyes allows for multiple uses per plan, which makes it also a great choice for keeping younger Internet users safe from happening upon inappropriate content. Unlimited devices are permitted per user, meaning that Covenant Eyes can be installed on your Windows desktop, Android and iOS devices.
Google Keep allows you to ‘save your thoughts’ throughout the day so that can better concentrate on your work and revisit those thoughts later. Notetaking, to-do lists, special occasion reminders — Google Keep keeps a record of items that demand your attention, but don’t necessarily require immediate handling.
The interface is simple and slick, and creating new tasks (referred to as ‘notes’ within the app) is typically a straightforward two-step procedure.
The Guardian reported in 2020 that listening to certain genres of music whilst working from home can have a positive effect on a person’s work productivity.
MusicBee is a free music player app that does one job and does it well: play music. Whereas iTunes offers accessibility to a huge library of songs to buy and movies to rent, as well as painless playlist exporting to iPhones — MusicBee keeps it simple.
You don’t even need to register an account to use MusicBee. Simply import your desired music libraries, set up a playlist or two, and you’re off to the races. No ads or no nag screens of any kind.
Tasks can become quite tedious when you are performing the same laborious steps over and over again. Enter AutoHotkey: a tool that seeks to expedite your workflow by eliminating the number of steps required to fulfil a task.
Don’t expect AutoHotkey to do your job for you — that’s a little out of the scope of the app. What AutoHotkey can do, for example, is accomplish a task that might involve inserting long strings of text with a user-set key combination. It can launch an app with another key combination, and it’s capable of some very advanced command queueing if you have the imagination and patience to learn the syntax.
AutoHotkey isn’t just limited to the Windows desktop either. You can use AutoHotkey to perform multi-step tasks within many apps and video games. Makeuseof.com shared 10 cool scripts to get you started.
Once you’ve tried Groupy, you’ll wonder how you lived without it. Groupy allows you to organise multiple apps, folders, files — pretty much anything into grouped tabs.
If you work with a lot of folders open, it becomes quite easy to get lost as you try and track down that one specific folder for one that specific task. Groupy effectively turns any number of folders into one folder with easy to navigate tabs.
Think browser tabs, but for your folders. Then go a step further and imagine groups consisting of pretty much any Windows app. Perhaps you have a report that needs completing pronto and you need to repeatedly refer to a certain folder, spreadsheet, Slack workspace, and of course your report document. Simply group them and have them appear as a single group instance in Windows, never separating, and hopping between the groups using tabs.
If your job requires that you have access to a dedicated work email address, it can become a chore to routinely hit CTRL+T to create a new browser tab, punch in the webmail URL into the address bar, wait for the page to load up only to inform you that your inbox is still empty or you’ve been inundated with emails.
Thunderbird is an email client for Windows, Linux and iOS that’s been around since 2003. Developed by Mozilla, the very same company behind the popular Firefox browser, Thunderbird has stood the test of time and is still considered the go-to email client for many.
Thunderbird allows you to handle multiple email accounts from within the same app and organising them into individual folders and sub-folders based on your preferences. This allows you to not only keep on top of your work emails as they come in, but also your personal emails if you should permit Thunderbird access to your personal email account.
You’re afforded many of the same perks as Gmail, Outlook, ProtonMail and others provide, such as saving emails as drafts, email delivery scheduling, email archival and more.