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11 productivity tools for entrepreneurs that work from home

(BUSINESS) We asked remote professionals what some of their favorite (and most necessary) productivity tools were for the home office, and have 11 ideas that you might not have tried yet.

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work from home productivity

Working from home comes with its perks – comfortable pants (sweat pants*), working at your own pace, and not having your boss breathing down your neck are only a few. But staying productive and on-task can be a challenge when the only one watching is you (and your cat [who requires frequent cuddle breaks]).

We asked remote workers how they collaborate, stay on top of their work, and get shit done. Here’s what they said are their most reliable and necessary work-from-home tools:

First, let’s check out collaboration and team productivity tools:

Time Doctor

timedoctor780x433
Manage a remote team? When you need them focused on that time-sensitive report you needed yesterday, we’ve got a solution.

We use our own time tracking tool which we find essential for remote work and remote teams. It has everything you would need to give you an analytics of your workday and managing remote teams,” says Carlo Borja, Online Marketing Head of Time Doctor. This includes real time updates, gentle nudges to get you and your employees back on track, and a free trial run.

Azendoo

azendoo
Stop miscommunication in its tracks.

One of the best tools that we use to keep in contact and make sure everyone stays on task is Azendoo,” says John Andrew Williams, PCC, Founder and Lead Trainer at Academic Life Coaching, “It is an amazing tool that allows you to assign tasks to members of your team, leave comments and messages, and organize everything based on projects. It has truly been the best thing for us to improve our productivity and stay connected when we all work remotely.

RealtimeBoard

realtimeboard
What about brainstorming and collaborating with your team in real time? “RealtimeBoard is an online whiteboard and super simple collaboration service for marketers, developers, designers and creatives worldwide with user list exceeding 675k. It’s frequently used for project management, user experience planning, creative concepts visualization, story mapping, brainstorming, etc,” says Anna Boiarkina, Head of Marketing at RealtimeBoard.

Popular Favorite: Slack

slack780x433
Without question, it is Slack! With our marketing team spread from San
Antonio to San Francisco, Seattle and Madison, we couldn’t do our job
efficiently without this messaging communication tool,
” says Marcia Noyes, Director of Communications with Catalyze, Inc.

Noyes adds, “Before I took the job with Catalyze, I wondered how I could possibly stay on top of the very technical subjects of HIPAA compliance, digital healthcare and cloud computing, but with Slack, it’s easier than email or being there in person at corporate headquarters. I don’t think I could ever go back to being in an office. With this tool and others, I get so much more accomplished without the commute times and interruptions from water cooler talk and discussions about where to go for lunch.”

Now, let’s move on to tools and tips for your health:

A treadmill desk

treadmill desk
Slump no more.

Gretchen Roberts, CEO of Smoky Labs, a B2B digital and inbound marketing agency says that her treadmill desk helps her fight through the afternoon slump. “The endorphins that are released from the walking get me right into a feel-good mood again, same as a conversation and piece of chocolate would.

Not only is it great for you, but it keeps you awake and alert so you can fight the urge to take a “quick nap” right around 3pm. Good weather not required.

Lumbar support

lumbar-support
Then there’s always the issue of your health. We asked Dr. Barbara Bergin, M.D., Board Certified orthopedic surgeon her thoughts on how to best furnish your home office, and she had a few simple ideas that go a long way.

Invest in a good chair, a McKenzie lumbar pillow (because no work chair has the perfect lumbar support), and a drop down tray for your keyboard and mouse. If you have short legs which don’t quite reach the floor, either adjust your chair (which means adjusting everything else) or get some kind of a platform on which to rest your feet. I recommend those old bench step aerobics steps.

These are all suggestions that are easy to implement and positively impact your health (and wallet, when you consider chiropractic visits, massages or even surgery).

And some of our favorites – tools to manage time, data, and communications:

ClockingIT

clockingIT
In a similar fashion to Time Doctor, ClockingIT is a time-tracking application that logs everything you do. This allows you to keep track of how much time you’re really spending on a project (or time spent off-task on a project).

I work from home exclusively as a freelance communications and marketing manager. One of my clients, Simon Slade, CEO of SaleHoo, introduced me to ClockingIT. ClockingIT, a free project management system, is now a tool I can’t work from home without. It provides an easy way for me to log my time on different tasks and communicate project updates to colleagues without sending cumbersome mass emails. I like ClockingIT so much that I’ve created an account separate from SaleHoo’s, just for myself, and I use it to manage my work for other clients as well.

This would be a great tool for freelance designers and writers who need to keep track of time so they can appropriately charge their clients.

Zoho Vault

zoho vault
Throw away the Rolodex. With all of the social media information, websites, passwords, and logins a company might need to remember, there is a better way. Molly Wells, an SEO Analyst with Web301 believes in the power of Zoho.

The one tool that I can’t work at home without is the one that stores our many clients personal information. Links to live websites, production websites, their social media usernames and passwords. All of our own websites logins, social media logins along with all the tools we use. Rather than storing all of these on our server or on pen and paper, we use Zoho Vault. It’s a lifesaver for accessing information while at home or on the go. All of our passwords are all in one place.

Cloze

cloze
Winner for most comprehensive all-in-one freelancing app goes to Cloze, which does… pretty much everything.

As a freelancer, the tool I absolutely can’t live without is Cloze,” explains JC Hammond, “Cloze is a contact management app and website that is perfect for freelancers because it is highly customizable, links email, social, phone and notes in one place, lets you track interactions and statuses of projects, companies, and people and even delivers an informative “Morning Briefing” to help get your day off to a great start.

She thinks one of the most useful tools is the email read receipts and the ability to link with your cell phone provided to track calls. It also schedules and posts social updates to Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and other platforms. Because it’s designed for individual or very small team use, it’s easy to use and a user can efficiently run their entire day from the app.

Uberconference

uberconference
When it comes to phone conferences, meetings and client phone calls, Jessica Oman, Planner-in-Chief at Renegade Planner loves Uberconference.

She says, “As a business plan writer who in 2014 made the transition from leasing an office to working from home, I can say that Skype and Uberconference are the tools I can’t live without! Uberconference is especially wonderful because it easily allows me to record calls, use hold music, and connect with people who either call in from computer or phone. It allows me to have a 1-800 number too. It’s like having a virtual assistant to manage my calls and I love the professional feel of the service.

My Tomatoes

mytomatoes
And finally, a quick and simple idea – a timer. Jessica Velasco, Senior Editor at Chargebacks911 works exclusively from home. She uses the Pomodoro technique of time management: work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, work for 25 more minutes.

She says, “I use My Tomatoes. I like this particular timer because the countdown is shown in my browser tab. I can be working on other things and quickly glance over to see how much time is left. I like to race the clock; see how much I can get accomplished before the timer goes off. I also use it to limit my unproductive moments. Fun things like checking social media must end with the timer dings.”

Got a favorite?

All of these tools are yours for the taking, so why not give them all a shot? Then, even if you’re wearing your most comfortable pants (sweat pants*) – with all of the right tools, you can run your business from home like a boss, and give people the impression that you probably showered today.

*no pants


This article was first published in 2017.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. JaDonnia Bishop

    December 19, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    Excellent tools with creative, time saving usefulness for educators, also!

  2. Jeremy Bandy

    June 27, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    I like that you’ve included a physical product – the treadmill desk. I was thinking about this the other day as I work from home and I really don’t use many apps for productivity. Dropbox, Google Docs and WordPress are about it. What I find works really well for productivity are some things people don’t ever think about. A dishwasher for one. How many people waste time washing dishes? I know I used to. What about something as simple as a slow cooker or a smart vacuum. Anyways enjoyed the list and got me thinking about trying out some more apps and software that you suggest.

  3. Sharon

    June 28, 2017 at 8:59 am

    Great list. I’d like to suggest ProofHub here for workplace productivity tool. ProofHub brings a blend of amazing productivity features that teams can use to run their day, their projects and their work-life. Tasks, Online discussions, Group chat, Reports, Gantt Charts, Proofing tool, Calendar, Timer, Timesheets, Quickies and what not; everything you need to bring teams together, collaborate and get projects delivered on time is available within this single tool.

  4. James

    November 14, 2017 at 8:26 am

    Informative post! I use remail.io and can’t recommend it more highly. The best software I’ve found for automating your outbound sales activities. There are more services that provide more or less the same but for me personally, this is the best.

  5. Caity

    December 5, 2018 at 8:02 am

    Please, *please* remove the apostrophe from the subheadline. It should read:”it also comes with its challenges”.

    • Lani Rosales

      December 5, 2018 at 1:29 pm

      WOW, that’s a bad one – good catch, and thanks for speaking up! 😀

  6. Mary

    December 5, 2018 at 9:00 pm

    Thanks for suggestions. The tool I use and like a lot is Kanban Tool ( https://kanbantool.com/ ). It’s effective, it’s easy to use, it can serve multiple purposes (for example, it’s a good task manager and a time tracker). If you’re searching for a good productivity app, try that one.

  7. Chris Shouse

    March 14, 2019 at 11:14 am

    Thanks, Lani I enjoyed this post very much and the Treadmill desk is on my wishlist or at very least a standup desk with a mini treadmill. I also have on my list Alexa Echo and a Roomba! I have always wanted to say “Alexa start Roomba” and actually have it start vacuuming! Have you heard of Flash Briefings on Alexa ( and I also assume Google Home) I know that Chris Brogan does one, I heard him speak on it somewhere. Would love to see you dig into them and see what is up with them. Since I do not have my Alexa yet I have not heard one.

  8. Nick Boyle

    April 19, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    Remote working can be a hurdle in your performance, only if you don’t have right tools to operate from out of office. Like communication and project management tools. I use this purevpn dedicated ip to access company restricted applications.

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Business Entrepreneur

Talking entrepreneurship and sextech with Liz Klinger [INTERVIEW]

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) A conversation about entrepreneurship and sextech with female entrepreneur Liz Klinger, CEO of Lioness, the FitBit for your sex bits.

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Lioness app, the first of its kind in the sextech entrepreneurship world.

“We had this observation that a lot of people had questions about sex, but there weren’t many resources for them”, said Liz Klinger, Co-Founder and CEO of Lioness, the smart vibrator and app brand that helps you visualize, track and analyze your orgasms. “We wanted to have a way for people to explore and learn more about themselves, because there is not a ‘one size fits all’ answer to questions about pleasure.”

Klinger has always had an interest in sex. After a brief stint in investment banking, she began selling sex toys at various “parties” where, she describes, someone would always come up to her after the presentation and ask her in-depth questions that she had no idea how to answer. At least I’m not the only one obsessed with this stuff, she remembers thinking.

The idea for Lioness came from AI – sex toys can be hard to use, complicated, or just plain intimidating. So, what if there was a toy that adjusted you and what your body wanted?

After a bit of prototyping and collecting feedback, it was clear to Klinger what her users wanted: Data. People wanted to see what their bodies did and use that data to better understand themselves.

The Lioness vibrator and accompanying app does just that. By using biofeedback and precision sensors to visualize your orgasm via the app, users can easily track their experiences. When you try something new, you can see how your body reacts to it.

But Lioness isn’t just a vibrator.

Last year, the company launched a research platform where users can choose to participate in medical or scientific studies, as well as ask those questions we all have about sex. Additionally, the Lioness site provides many “Sex Guides” for users; the thorough, no-nonsense sex-ed we wish we had growing up. This is Klinger’s dream come to life.

More recently, Lioness is launching “(S)explore” – a premium version of their existing Sex Guides to tackle the less popular, more personal questions users have. This feature is set to launch on Black Friday.

By 2021, Lioness hopes to release a remote-control distance feature for the vibrator (gasp!). There will also be a 2.0 update for the app, in which users will be able to access new visual experiences, such as a heatmap that adds pigmentation to your most pleasurably moments (here for it 100%).

When asked about how COVID-19 has impacted her business, Klinger was happy to tell me that Lioness and other ecommerce companies in the field are going strong, largely unaffected by the nation’s stunted market. If there was ever a time to experiment with pleasure, it’s during lock down, right?

Unfortunately, many other brick and mortar sex shops, like the ones Klinger got her start doing sales for, are suffering during this time – much of the adult market didn’t qualify for PPP loans.

I know I’m not alone when I say that I love seeing women like Klinger fighting the good fight by paving the largely untouched way in SexTech. Lioness is radical in the sense that it takes something so internal and pleasure-based (and, unfortunately, overlooked) as the female orgasm and externalizes it. By using data and tech, Lioness, in a way, validates an experience that is so foreign to so many of us.

There’s a reason there are a million and one fertility trackers, but Lioness is the first of its kind.

When I asked for her words of wisdom as CEO in SexTech, Klinger told me:

“If you’re a woman, or someone who isn’t the typical start up person, it’s important to focus on your customers first, above all. You’ll get all this different advice and feedback from investors and people in the industry but at the end of the day you have to focus on your customers and what need are you fulfilling for them. If you focus on that, no matter how difficult the business side of it will be, that is how you will stay afloat.”

It seems like 2021 will be a big, exciting year for Lioness. I’d also like to add that the potential uses of the Lioness technology outside of recreational pleasure are endless – I just can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

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Business Entrepreneur

If you’re an employer, don’t hire without knowing about these hidden traits

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) A candidate can look great on paper, but if you’re an employer, research shows you should look for these personality traits alongside their qualifications.

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Employer look at a hiring candidate, seated across from each other while one takes notes.

We all know that one person who’s a genius on paper, but a total wash when it comes to completing basic tasks. As an employer, sometimes someone high achieving can be tougher than simply spotting a high GPA on their resume.

In new research from the journal Personality and Individual Differences, Thomas Gatzka of the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) tackles the question of what personality traits are associated with achievement. What Gatzka and his team came up with are two traits – openness and conscientiousness – with two additional sub-components.

The sub-dimensions of openness are:

  • Senso-aesthetic openness: The preference for sensory and perceptual exploration and immersion in art, creativity, and imagination. This is pretty self-explanatory – if they are artistically-inclined, or take interest in the arts in any way, they are statistically more likely to be high-achieving.
  • Intellectual openness: The preference for intellectual stimulation, scholastic pursuits, and cognitive stimulation. Think: that person who is always reading, watching, discussing, and asking you to share your opinion so they can absorb as much as possible. This person is chronically curious.

For conscientiousness, the sub-dimensions are:

  • Orderliness: The preference for routines, deliberation, and detail-orientation. They keep a tidy calendar and map out their days for the utmost optimization. People with this trait will remember specifics and can be relied upon in team settings.
  • Industriousness: The tendency to stay focused and to pursue goals in a determined way. As the word implies, those who are industrious are constantly making moves. They have a high threshold for work, and they stay focused until their goals are complete. You want this person working for you, especially in a startup setting.

It’s interesting to note that the latter two components—intellectual openness and industriousness—were typically associated with slightly higher levels of achievement than senso-aesthetic openness and orderliness.

What does that mean? Well, if you’re an employer truly looking to build a robust team of super-achievers, skip over the artsy interviewee with the color-coded organizer. They’re only high-ish achieving.

This is not only useful information for hiring managers, but also for those of us who want to become higher achievers — who want to be hired. You might not be naturally curious or goal-oriented, but that’s okay. You can 100% take actions to promote those traits in your day to day to show a future employer.

Read more. Set little, attainable goals for your day. Become intentionally over-organized. Professional development is one thing, but fortifying your personality traits to promote achievement can help you in the long run.

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Business Entrepreneur

Is gifting an entrepreneur a website like gifting motivation, or anxiety?

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Is a website really the only thing stopping someone from starting their own business? Are there entrepreneurs who simply need a push to start their own thriving empire? Let’s find out.

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Website design open on dual monitors for an entrepreneur.

Being an entrepreneur is arguably the highest form of self motivation someone could have – the drive to build out your own business, deliver a product or service that you know is in demand, and ultimately secure profits. It’s something that is discussed over and over and over.

It’s the holiday season, and Exchange Marketplace is making the rather surprising argument that you could gift someone a business. Their pitch states that they provide some ebooks, Shopfy credit, and some other starter materials, and promises that you could pay as little as $50 to jumpstart a brand new career.

Looking around at their site, it’s essentially a list of companies that their respective owners are willing to sell. They provide some data (someone who is more familiar with this stuff could parse it better than I can) such as revenue, profits, average number of hours worked, and so on. I’m going to assume the legal side of things are all in place, and other considerations are handled.

But my question here is – who is this truly for? And what message are you sending when you surprise someone with a website and start telling them it’s time to get to work, better learn fast before your entrepreneur business fails?

The logistics alone are mind boggling – where is the base of operations, knowledge of an industry, obtaining inventory, knowing which suppliers are involved, will language barriers be a problem, contacts, the quality of the product or service, etc. I’m not a business person by any means, so maybe I’m overstating the difficulty here, but it just seems like you’re opening the door to a literal galaxy of unknowns on the part of the entrepreneur that would require immediate understanding and action.

Look, gift certificates are sort of a bad gift – you restrict where money can be used, and it’s usually not enough to cover a full purchase, and that requires you (the receiver) to cover the remaining cost. Giving someone a car (despite all the slick commercials with celebrities) is even worse; setting aside the tiny chance someone pays off the vehicle entirely, you’re still leaving someone with increased insurance rates, future maintenance, and other costs. Even a new pet – while adorable – might arguably be the worst possible gift, as someone shovels responsibility for life itself onto an unsuspecting person.

(Before I continue, please feel free to buy me a car and fill it with puppies wearing Amazon gift card suits.)

I’m being a little unfair in the above scenarios, because there is definitely an audience for each. The problem is that each option requires some amount of work and thought by the receiver, and putting the onus on them to fully realize the gift can be daunting.

So maybe the better way to describe this is that these situations are a bit niche in their efficacy – that there’s a smaller number of people who are actively able to accept a gift that requires additional work.

Gifting a business, then, could be seen as something negative – “I think you need to work harder.” And that carries a rather heavy payload of consequences, thoughts, and considerations. Maybe you aren’t outright calling someone out as lazy, but that implication is easily arrived at if someone is blindsided. At the least, you are saying I need you to do something.

Surely, there are people who represent the targeted audience, and it would suggest that they already have business training/education, considerable free time, access to investment, and enough drive and motivation to eagerly begin an entirely new chapter in life as an entrepreneur. But that has to be a small group of people, and even fewer so when you consider those who would be successful at it, and would actually want to undertake such a massive task.

Beyond all of this, I have to question a number of things, and they are all centered around how trustworthy all of this might be. My only interaction with anything remotely close to this subject is watching episodes of Shark Tank, and I know that the panel there would meticulously go over a LOT of things before even offering to buy a percentage of a business. Purchasing the entire thing seems volatile and full of risk; who wants to negotiate all of that?

Maybe it is simply that I am not the type of person who would deal with that amount of uncertainty willingly. I am very much a look-before-I-leap type person, and the thought of being handed a potential money making an entrepreneur enterprise when I have no insight into it beforehand is completely terrifying.

I’d need to prove to the gift giver that their faith in me was valid, to say nothing of whatever audience already exists. But I’d have literally no idea where to start on all of this; the numbers on businesses failing is scary enough.

In a way, I applaud the idea of businesses being fluid enough to become commodities themselves. I just question how easily this sort of marketplace could mask true costs, exaggerate profits, and seemingly hide all sorts of disturbing, unpleasant details. And then taking all of that and gifting it to someone? What a wild ride.

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