The Productive Professor: The Tech Tools You Need to Get More Done When Working Remotely

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Whether you’re plugging away at work over break, doing some late night grading, or teaching your online course from a distance, it can be hard to stay focused on work the same way you might in your office, whether due to the addition of distractions or the logistics of not always having colleagues and materials you are working with steps from your workspace. That said, working remotely doesn’t have to sap your productivity and can actually help you better balance your life and get more done.

Here are some tips for greater remote productivity and the apps and online tools that can help you more easily make them a reality.

Reduce distractions.

Does your couch beckon? Pets vying for affection? Dirty dishes in the sink commanding attention? In addition to the ever present distraction that is the web, your home can be full of things that pull attention away from what you really need to focus on. You can, of course, lock yourself in a room until you finish what you need to get done, but there are some computer-based tools that can help, too, and don’t require much time or effort to set up.

Tech Tools to Use:

  • Stayfocusd This Chrome extension allows you to block distracting sites or limits the amount of time you can use them.
  • Marinara Timer Embrace the Pomodoro Technique by using this interval-based productivity tool.

Build a to-do list.

To-do lists can be a great way to stay on top of all of the things you need to get done, personally or professionally. While old-fashioned pen and paper work just fine, you can take your lists with you using a wide range of great apps, too.

Tech Tools to Use:

  • Wunderlist Whether you’re planning a trip or organizing a big project, this to-do list can help you manage everything you need to get done.
  • Todoist Available on more than 10 platforms, Todoist lets you take your to-do list with you anywhere.
  • Any.do This enormously popular to-do list tool is another great option for helping you stay on top of all of your personal and professional tasks.

Save tasks for later.

Sitting at home may remind you of countless other things you need or want to get done, but stopping to do them can derail your productivity. Instead, create a to-do lists of tasks for later, whether articles you want to read, people you need to call, or even just errands you want to run.

Tech Tools to Use:

  • Pocket Pocket lets you save articles, videos, or any other kind of web content for viewing later in your browser or favorite aggregation app.
  • Instapaper Whether you’re collecting research or just want to read an interesting article later, you can save it with this app and later access it through any of your mobile devices.
  • Readability Readability not only lets you save and take web articles with you, it also helps you get rid of the clutter and pare things down to just the stuff you find interesting.

Get organized.

Tired of not having the notes and research you need in one place? Taking advantage of an online repository that lets you organize all of your stuff online can be a huge help and will allow you to keep working no matter when or where you decide to do it.

Tech Tools to Use:

  • Evernote Take notes, save information, create to-do lists, and organize all of your digital “stuff” in one place using this free and versatile tool.
  • Google Keep Can’t get enough Google? Download this app to help you organize your information both offline and on.
  • OneNote OneNote is Microsoft’s answer to research organization tools—a great choice for anyone using the Office suite to work.

Schedule your time.

Are you a night owl? Love mornings? Can’t sit still for long periods of time? However and whenever you work best, it can be to your advantage to do the most when you’re at your peak. These tools can help you schedule work blocks and take breaks before you burn out.

Tech Tools to Use:

  • Toggl The most basic feature of Toggl, a time tracker, is free to use and can help you get a better idea of how you’re using your time and when it’s time to take a break or switch things up.
  • Sunrise Calendar Use your existing Facebook or Google account to take advantage of the time management tools offered by this mobile and web-based calendar.
  • Schedule Planner This is the basic iPhone calendar on steroids. It lets you plan out every minute of your day, organize tasks by category and priority, and even gets stats about how you’re spending your time.

Stay connected.

In today’s always-on world, there’s no need to work alone just because you’re working at home. Whether you’re working collaboratively on a paper, developing a new course, or just need to chat with students, you can connect in a variety of ways that will take you beyond standard email.

Tech Tools to Use:

  • Slack Need to chat and organize a project with colleagues? This tool is one of the best free team collaboration resources out there.
  • Basecamp Create a to-do list, divvy up tasks, communicate over a message board, send yourself reminders and more though this multi-featured collaboration tool.
  • Blackboard Collaborate You can video chat with students (or anyone at COD) right through Blackboard. Need help getting started? Contact Learning Technologies.
  • Google Hangouts or Skype Both of these free tools allow you to easily video chat with people anywhere in the world and come with a variety of useful features that make it simple to record, share and remember what you’ve talked about.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for greater remote work productivity, but these tech tools can be a good start and help you minimize distractions and maximize focused work.

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