Remote work is possible largely thanks to the tools that connect us globally. Each organization, as well as each individual person working in a dispersed team, creates his or her own ideal system over time. I’d like to show you the applications which I use to best organize my time. The article will consist of two entries:

  • Part I: Time management and task organization (you are here!)
  • Part II: Communication and note-keeping (read here)

It is worth adding that I use these tools on a daily basis, not only at work, but also in my private life. If it weren’t for Todoist, my house would be a mess from floor to ceiling. If it wasn’t for Google Calendar, I would struggle to ever socialize with friends. If it weren’t for Evernote, all the crazy ideas I sometimes have in the shower would go down the drain.

Time management

Avaza

Avaza is a very useful tool for teams working in dispersed positions. It allows you to enter the time spent on a specific task and assign it to a project. It has a number of useful charts to analyze working hours. It also makes it easy to see where we spend too much or too little time at the level of the entire organization. Are team priorities reflected over time?

For me, it is also a trust-building tool. Firstly, it pulls micromanagement out of the boss-subordinate relationship, making it easier to build a healthy relationship. If you have a boss who only believes in work when he sees tangible evidence, Avaza is great at taking your reporting off your shoulders. When asked what you are doing, you can always just reply: Check out Avaza.

Second, well-completed entries build self-control – which I like to call self-trust. In the office, it sometimes takes a week before someone asks you about the progress of your project. It is then easy to collect cumulative activity (2-3 days of real work) and sell it to someone as a whole week of hard work. In the case of daily Avaza refills, you become your own judge. You can’t type “I was playing Tetris for 30 minus”, which is a bit of a shame, right?

While you may think you should account for every moment of the working day on some project or other, research shows that we can be proud of ourselves if we are productive at work for about 4-6 hours. Let those who have never browsed social media on the company’s time cast the first stone! 

Honesty time-keeping is not about bending reality. It’s about being honest with yourself, not trying to trick the system to look like you are always busy. One way that Avaza can help is by showing you how much time you are not productive and then, if you can’t seem to flip the switch, there is another tool for helping you use time more efficiently…

RescueTime

RescueTime has no mercy. By monitoring the screen and the currently displayed page content, it calculates the productivity pulse and, on this basis, evaluates the quality of your work. The results can be painful. However, careful analysis is the first step to work better—and not only from home.

Let’s be clear: you are unable to optimize what you are not tracking. Psychology shows that we either think too critically about ourselves or we are too kind to ourselves. Therefore, before you start looking for ways to spend time productively, find out about your habits.

Praca zdalna z rescuetime time tracking software
Source: https://rescuetime.com

Organization of tasks

There are a lot of tools that I have tested in this area: from Wunderlist (no longer active) to Google To-do List, from Evernote and Any.do to a simple paper and notebook. However, I always come back my most beloved tool of all…

Todoist

Todoist is my favorite tool for the hustle and bustle. It allows all tasks to be listed in one place, in a logical way, so that you get an overview of what as been taken care of and what is still on your plate. The app has a rather Zen sales pitch, stating that once you are sure that all those nagging tasks have been tracked, you can focus on the big things and go about your day with peace of mind.

It has a number of automations which collect all scattered information in one place. It is irreplaceable when it comes to aggregating all the tiny steps you need to do. An additional bonus for me is a quite extensive free option, which is more than enough to enjoy the use of the application. In terms of UX, the application is very consistent across different environments, and the company introduces improvements to it in a well-thought-out manner. In my opinion, this is not a tool that is suitable for setting quarterly or annual goals.

Source: https://todoist.com/pl

Automation

Last but certainly not least, Zapier is the champion of automation. I love it mostly for the multitude of applications it can connect.

My daily time-saving automation is the Slack + Todoist connection, which puts a starred message as a task on the list. Without it, I would probably forget about 90% of requests for feedback, proofread of a text, and analysis of charts. Anyone who has ever encountered project management in a larger organization knows that the number of such tasks can reach a dozen a day. Thanks to Zapier, it does not take even a second to throw these 15-minute tasks on the list—just in time for a break between larger duties. 

For many, Zapier’s disadvantage is its price. IFTTT is an alternative that I haven’t tested myself but others have recommended it to me. A short read indicates that the app has some pretty good home automation potential and is probably worth getting to know better. 

This is the end of the first part of the recommended tools. In the second article, I’ll tell you what I use for note-taking and daily communication. And you, what tools you need for your daily work routines to work like a charm? 

Marta Ciesielska

Project manager with 7 years of experience in IT. Her unique mix of studies (linguistic and computer science) helps her to understand both devs and businesses. In her free time, she digs into psychology and NLP, and is a dog enthusiast and nerd.

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