My favorite apps to manage a work-at-home life

When I tell people I work from home, sometimes I get this response:

“Oh, that’s so nice! You must have so much more time to do other things!”

Um, yeah, not so much. It’s tempting to believe I have a super-flexible schedule, but that kind of thinking can get me in trouble. In other words, I still have an actual schedule I need to work around, even if it’s a schedule of my own making.

And, to be honest, working in my house is distracting. I’m a bit like a cat with shiny things: Oh, there’s the laundry! I can fold it now and save time later!

Two hours later my kids’ drawers are full of clean clothes and I missed a deadline.

Seriously, it happens! I’m surrounded by a three-dimensional to-do list in the form of my living space. There’s always something I can be doing, if you know what I mean. Add those pesky work deliverables to my pile and pretty soon I’m buried.

Let’s not even talk about the time-suck that is the Internet. Did you know that a seller on Etsy makes armor for your cat in the form of a dragon? I won’t tell you how I know that, but suffice to say it’s 15 minutes of my work-life I’ll never get back.

I struggle with organization but as a self-employed worker I have to have my act together. Technology is a wonderful thing when it isn’t distracting you with homemade cat armor, and here are three apps I use to keep me honest (and on task) during my work day.

1. Evernote. Evernote comes in a free and a paid version, and for a long time I used the free app. It lets you create to-do lists, clip items from the Internet to read later, add tasks and appointments to your calendar and so much more. It can live on both your laptop and your smartphone, so you always have it with you. I even use it to keep a running grocery list and weekly menu. If you still love paper (and I do), it also works in concert with a special Moleskine notebook. Seriously, this app is my lifesaver.

2. Desktop Task Timer. A few years ago I was juggling multiple clients and billing each of them hourly. It was a nightmare to keep track of who needed to be invoiced for what, and at which rate. I searched the app store for something that would help and happened on Desktop Task Timer. This is a simple desktop timer that lets me add multiple tasks — and the price per hour. I was surprised to see how much time I wasted! Now, this nifty timer keeps me on task and helps me when it’s time to bill my clients, too. Desktop Task Time is only 99 cents!

3. Freedom. You may have heard of some famous folks who rely on Freedom protect them from the siren song of BuzzFeed, including author Dave Eggers and the folks at “O: The Oprah Magazine.” At $10, this may seem pricey but Freedom prevents you from accessing the Internet for specified amounts of time. For me, it makes financial sense. My productivity is worth $65 to $100 an hour, depending on the project I’m working on. I’ll happily pay a one-time fee of $10 to keep myself on task–and I’ll use the time I didn’t spend looking at your Facebook page to volunteer in my kids’ classrooms.

Do you have any apps you love to help boost your productivity?

Photo:  Jason A. Howie, Flickr