5 apps I can’t live without as a freelancer

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Life is too short for a 9 to 5 job, useless morning traffic jam, and stressful deadlines. Making a living as a freelancer is the best way there is.

However, being able to be motivated and productive all the time can be a big challenge. You’re not only your own boss, but you’re also a project manager, accountant, sales representative & more.

Wether you’re a designer, developer, writer or any type of freelancer, here are my favorite tools that I use daily to better track my time and organize my day as a freelancer.

1. Inbox by Google

inbox.google.com

If you want to start organizing your life, start by replacing your regular Gmail (I hope you’re not still using Hotmail) with Inbox.

What is it?

“Inbox is an organized place to get things done and get back to what matters.”

Google’s brilliant team built the best (as always) e-mail tool for us. The first time you use it can be uncomfortable, it’s a new concept and it requires a small walk outside of our comfort zone.

How does it work?

Your messages are grouped inside “Bundles”. Bundles are automatically organized by Inbox and you can change the notification preferences of each one.

Purchases bundle

Inbox organizes your trips by collecting data from your flight & hotels booking e-mails and displays it in a beautiful design that makes you feel eager for your next trip!

Trip details

Additionally, you can create your own custom bundles and set which e-mails get received automatically into the bundle.

My favorite feature in Inbox is marking a message as “Done”. This will move the message to the Done section. This allows to move your messages out of the way and keep only the important things displayed.

Nothing feels more productive than emptying your inbox & getting this pretty empty state.

Inbox empty state

Need to check that message later today? Hit the snooze button. This will move the snoozed messages from the Inbox to the Snoozed section.

Snooze feature

2. Pomodoro Technique

pomodorotechnique.com

Time is our enemy, and procrastination is unavoidable. We start the day with Facebook and a cup of coffee, then we find ourselves wasting the whole day on one task.

There are so many distractions nowadays that we end up with 1 hour of work on a 6 hour sit. Using a time management method will make our day efficient and procrastination-free.

What is it?

“The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s.”

The main purpose of the Pomodoro Technique is to eliminate burn-out, manage distractions and create a better work/life balance.

How does it work?

“The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are named pomodoros.”
Be Focused App for Mac

I use Be Focused App for Mac to track my pomodoros. You can also use Tomato Timer which is web based.

Just follow these 5 steps:

  1. Choose a task
  2. Set the pomodoro timer (25 minutes)
  3. Work on the task until the timer rings, no distractions!
  4. After the timer rings, take a short break (5 minutes)
  5. After 4 pomodoros take a longer break (10–20 minutes)

As a design consultant, I try to do around 10 pomodoros every day. That’s 4 hours of efficient and productive work!

3. Toggl

toggl.com

What is it?

Toggl is a free time tracker and timesheet software.

Basically, the point of Toggl is to track, categorize your time and measure billable hours. It will make it easy to analyze your days and improve your productivity.

How does it work?

Toggl is simple. You choose the project/task, you start the timer when you want to start logging, you stop it when you’re done. You can also log time manually and save it.

“With Toggl you track time in real time. You never lose a minute of your billable time. If you forget to switch it on, then enter time later on.”
Toggl timer

At the end of each project, you can view your tracked time in reports. Here you can see how much time you spent on each category, which will help you give an estimate timeline for your next projects.

4. Trello

What is it?

Trello is a management tool that enables you to organize and prioritize your projects in a fun, flexible and rewarding way.

“Trello lets you work more collaboratively and get more done. […] Infinitely flexible. Incredibly easy to use. Trello keeps track of everything, from the big picture to the minute details.”

How does it work?

You create a board, you can invite your team to it. In every board, you create lists like To Do, Doing, etc. Then you add cards to every list and move them around. As a designer, I create a board for every project I work on. I also use it to organize my personal tasks, and most importantly, to plan my upcoming trips.

Every card has lots of details inside like description, labels, assign members, and my favorite: checklists. You can also add custom fields.

It’s a must if you want to stay organized.

https://trello.com

5. Rescuetime

What is it?

Rescuetime is a personal analytics service that shows you how you spend your time and provides tools to help you be more productive.

“It allows you to easily understand and optimize how you and your team spends their time and attention.”

How does it work?

Rescuetime runs in the background. You download the app, you let it do all the work. A week later, you log in to see your weekly report. Detailed reports show which applications and websites you spent time on. You can also set an alarm to tell you when you spent more than 2 hours on Facebook!

From this, you’ll know exactly how much time you wasted, how productive you were, and wether you achieved your goals. You can it this every once in a while to make sure you’re always being productive. Don’t be surprised if you found out you spend 20% of your time on e-mails.

Wrap up

The last advice I can give you is to create a specific list of what you’re planning on doing every morning, or even the night before.

Here’s how I do it.

I use Bear to write my checklist down (it’s a beautiful writing app for Mac and iOS). You can also do it as a checklist on a Trello card named “Today”.

I create a list of Pomodoro items (25mins tasks). Each item has the project name and the specific task I’m gonna work on. Why so specific? Because if I only mention the project generally, I will feel overwhelmed and will waste 10 mins of my Pomodoro figuring out what I’m gonna do next.

My to-do list

I always try to use the format project name: task for every item.

There are also some small tasks that don’t need 25 mins, like checking emails, applying to conferences, etc. So I always like to keep a task called “Misc” and create another list of miscellaneous tasks (Geeky tip brought to you by Jad Joubran).


That’s it! I hope you enjoyed reading about my favorite apps. If you liked it, give me a ❤ below.

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