One of the best things I ever did was to go self-employed, set up my own business and start working from home. Being your own boss can be scary but ultimately it is very satisfying.
However, I very quickly realised that organisation was key to making the most of your time. And because I love digital tools and apps, I started to try out different things to help organise working from home. Here are some of the ones I use and have used in the past.
Whether you are a full time blogger or take client work, you will have documents to store. Now you can store them on your computer or laptop hard drive, but this slows everything down.
I have had an external hard drive for a number of years and it still holds a lot of stuff. But the digital storage options are gradually replacing it due to the speed, ease of access and affordability of them.
So one of my first tips for working at home effectively is to get cloud storage for all of those essentials.
Top of the list of online digital storage options is Google Drive. If you have a free Gmail account, you can use Google Drive, or you can upgrade to G Suite which is around £6 a month. This gives you a lot more storage and there is even a higher tier for £9 a month that gives you unlimited.
Google Drive is also brilliant because you can share stuff easily. There are various share settings so if you set up email freebies, for example, you can store them here and add the link to your website so subscribers can easily download the item. Or you can share a file with a customer to work together on a project.
I have started to use iCloud more recently with switching to a Mac computer and also having an iPhone as it lets you sync the two easily. You get 5GB free with your Apple device and you can upgrade for a small amount – too many photos means I’m currently paying £0.79 a month for the next tier.
You can easily transfer files and images between devices, including accessing it from a desktop.
Dropbox is another digital storage option that has a reasonable free plan and upgrade options available. The main thing I used it for before switching hosts was to automatically store backups from my website. I use Updraft Plus, and they can store the backups on Dropbox, so I don’t need to worry about them being on-site. Then once a month, I delete all but the last copy.
Evernote is for me a little more than just a storage device – it is a bit like a digital library to organise things. It calls itself a note-taking app so you can use it to jot down all kinds of notes, business and personal.
You can also create folders like Google Drive but also make notes and other features. I often use it for articles that I want to read later as it has an easy to use app where you can access content on the smartphone a little like an eBook. I often add eBooks there as well to read later.
LastPass is a secure digital password storage app that is a lifesaver when it comes to remembering passwords and is definitely one of my top working at home productivity tips. You have one central login password to remember along with your email address then all other passwords and usernames are stored in it.
It is also handy to share passwords safely with clients or them with you – you can even set it up so they can log into a site but not actually see the password. I use the free plan but if you want to access it on your smartphone, there’s an additional cost which is $36 a year for 1 user or $48 for up to 6 users.
Read later apps
One thing is for sure – there’s plenty of content out there and as you start to read more about your area of business, you start to find stuff you want to save for later. That’s where read later apps come in.
You can store stuff in somewhere like Evernote or you can use an app just for the purpose. Part of adjusting to working at home is learning when to switch off and these apps can let you store stuff to read later and resist the urge to do another half hour’s business reading before bed!
Pocket is a simple and effective read later app which has a browser extension to easily save articles or blog posts. You can add tags as well to later search by if you can’t remember the exact article. Plus when you start using it a bit more, it will even start making suggestions based on your chosen articles.
It has a good free plan or if you want to upgrade to add more features, it is either $4.99 a month or $44.99 a year. It also integrates with a few scheduling tools such as SocialBee and Buffer to help with curated content.
Feedly is an RSS reader and read later app all in one. It is ideal to store a range of blogs or business sites that you enjoy, instantly see their content and you can even save stuff on boards for later.
You can save the feeds by category, mark what you have read (or don’t want to) and also export the feed information to tools like SmarterQueue that have built-in RSS features to easily share the content onto social media.
There are also upgraded options to add extra features and to connect automatically with Zapier or IFTTT integrations to looks like Buffer and Hootsuite. It can even save stuff to Pocket, Evernote or OneNote and lets you create Google keyword alerts. It costs about $65 a year to upgrade.
Reminder and calendar apps
I’m not 100% set on my reminder and calendar app system at the moment as I’ve not found something that quite suits me. However, that isn’t to say there aren’t some great ones to help organise working from home.
Todoist is a to do list app and a task manager that is one of the top-rated apps of its kind. It is simple to use and lets you create folders to store different types of tasks. You can integrate it with your smartphone to easily add and view tasks and it is great if you want something simple and easy to use.
Most of the features are available for free and there is a premium level for £3 a month (billed annually) that includes things like templates and automatic reminders.
Like Google Drive, Google Calendar is an automatic feature with any Gmail account or G Suite upgrade. And when it comes to a simple calendar to keep track of what’s happening to master how to make working from home work, you can’t go wrong.
You can create various calendars for home and work life, even for projects and more. You can invite people, share appointments and integrate it with a ton of different apps to get more advanced features. For instance, I can get items from ClickUp to show in my calendar and vice versa with a simple integration.
Project management tools
When you work from home, project management tools and apps are crucial. There are plenty out there and I’ll tell you my favourites in a moment but here are two that I can recommend, having used them in the past.
Asana is pefect to organise both content writing and Pinterest management client work as well as blog work and even some home stuff. If it has a date, it goes into Asana. There are so many great features to it that it can work perfectly as a key part of your working from home routine. But chiefly, you can organise work into projects, add dates, sub-tasks and even add other people to it – then you can leave each other messages inside the tasks.
Most of the best Asana features for me are free. Their upgrade plan is a little complex as you have to add a minimum of 5 users, and it does add extra features, but I manage just fine on the free version.
Trello is a project management tool that works on a Kanban system, so you have boards with lists and cards on them for each thing you want to do. Cards can have checklists, add images or files and even add other cards or boards to them.
I have loads of different boards but the ones I used the most when I used it frequently was a general to do list for all stuff that doesn’t have a date, client management boards and also content calendars for my blogs.
My work from home essentials
Digital organisation is one thing but what do you do to organise the other side of working from home – getting stuff done? All of these apps above will help you get organised and that digital organisation will then prepare you for the actual work. This might be blog work, client work or any variation. The final piece of my puzzle is my work at home essentials – and the good news is all are free!
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One of my crucial apps currently is ClickUp. I’ve been using it for over a year now and it keeps getting better. It is a combination of Asana and Trello for me.
It uses a system of Workspaces and inside these you can have Spaces, Folders, Lists and more. But you can rearrange the information in a variety of ways including in lists, calendars, boards (like Trello) and more. It is extremely flexible, cost effective and easy to use, with a solid free plan and great upgrades.
The second in my crucial three apps is Notion. Notion also has a great free plan although I’ve upgraded it to get a little more in the way of features. Notion is like Evernote but has a lot more features. You can use it to store information but also to organise things. This is my ‘Company Home’ page on Notion with links to loads of other areas I use including off-site like Airtable.
For example, I have a goals area where I jot down goals for the month and what needs to be done to achieve them. I have a content calendar overview where I can see all of the posts for my blogs in one place. You can add tables, lists, boards and calendars alongside loads of formatting options.
The final piece of my digital organisation puzzle is Airtable. This is a brilliant tool that can be used for a range of tasks, but I primarily use it as a database. I store things like blog post information, details about client work I’ve done and also statistics for my blogs.
It uses a system called Bases which can be list form, Kanban style, grids or even calendars. There are extra features called Blocks which add more abilities under the paid plans, but I just use the free features currently.
How to organise working from home
The great thing about deciding how to organise working from home is that there are loads of tools and apps to help you find the best ones to suit how you work. For me, these apps are the core of what I use but I often try new things or get recommendations from fellow online business owners to try. All the time, you learn more about the perfect system for your business!