Zero Equals False
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Zero Equals False

Looking for useful apps to stay focused and productive at remote work? Check this WFH guide

First of all, it worths mentioning that I’ve started to work from home in Nov 2019, before COVID-19 came out and locked us down. I moved to a big house in the countryside and have here a large room, which allowed me to split my space into both work and personal area.

For the last couple of years, I have been doing some researches on how to organize my life. I work in 3 time zones, do a lot of networking activities and business consultations for startups. Also, I’ve started to learn Chinese recently, currently involved in the pre-MBA program, generate new topics for a podcast, write a blog in 2 languages and…play console games! Underline LOTS OF GAMES. Sometimes seems like 24 hrs per day is not enough and it’s a good point to manage my workflow better.

WFH helped me to discover a few new apps that increased focus and productivity, cause my home is full of distractions like cats, dogs, housework, or family needs. Below you can find a list of devices my workspace contains.

Monitor: Dell P2418D (24’’) I consider the option of buying a second one since I use a lot of apps at the same time, but for now, Dell got it covered :)

Lamp: Xiaomi Philips EyeCare. Please be serious when it comes to choosing a lightning device at your desk. I wear glasses and have some issues with reading texts on small and big displays. This lamp has a convenient position adjustment. Bendable elements, automatic light adjustment (via MiHome app). Contains two sets of LEDs: one main built-in on top, the second on the outside, to dissipate excessive contrast when the lamp is glowing. Thus, eye fatigue is removed when reading or working at a computer.

Mic: HyperX Quadcast Gaming. I use it to record a podcast, but if I make work calls from home, this microphone helps to sound like I’m in the studio. Setup is quite easy. It has four selectable polar patterns (stereo, omnidirectional, cardioid, bidirectional), an internal pop filter, built-in headphone jack. Works on major streaming platforms like Streamlabs OBS, OBS Studio, and XSplit. Can be connected to PC, PS4, or Mac.

Speaker: Alexa Echo Dot (3rd gen). Alexa is my smart assistant. While I was living in the US I learned how to communicate with her. If used wisely, it can save you a lot of time. Previously, I had integration with Todoist app by adding many tasks using voice commands. In my room all the lighting is set by the timing and works via Wi-fi, music playback is on the voice control, calls are managed between Alexa speakers in different rooms (no, it's not what Apple invented as you may think of a new HomePod presented recently)

Keyboard: Apple Magic MLA22. If you use your iPad as a second monitor and don't have a keyboard for it, don't hesitate to connect this one via bluetooth. Once I even connected it to my iPhone and it worked perfectly. A strange experience, but definitely worth a try.

Phone stand: Lamicall S1. Just a nice and useful accessory if you have some off-work notifications and would like to stay up to date.

So… let’s talk about apps.

EMAIL CLIENT

I previously used only Gmail in the browser and default Mail client on the Mac. In 2017 I went to WebSummit in Lisbon and met Denis Zhadanov, VP of Marketing at Readdle. At that time, I already had their Spark app installed and tested it to switch, but there were bugs and flaws in the app that prevented migration from one client to another. I shared my feedback with Denis, so after a few updates, my requests were heard and everything was fixed. Since then, I have moved from Gmail to Spark. They delight with features such as smart inbox, team collaboration, where you can create email templates with colleagues in real-time or comment on an incoming letter without transferring it all to messengers or slack — it all happens in Spark.

a piece of functionality on Mac client

And their delegation is a killer feature that makes it easier to assign emails as tasks for colleagues in a work domain.

if there is more than one account in one domain, you can easily delegate email to your colleague, the same thing with the sharing function

Available for MacOS, iOS and Android. Windows is on its way

https://sparkmailapp.com

CALENDAR

For a long time, I liked everything about Apple’s default calendar. But a few Google Calendar features were a heck of a draw. And then again Readdle appeared. 2 months ago, I bought their Calendars app. The perfect combination of Apple n Google. Integration with Zoom, Hangouts. Such a small Slack on the calendar. You can add both regular events and tasks.

how their widget in iOS 14 looks like
multiple calendars integration and event creation

TASK-MANAGEMENT

I’ve tried dozens of different apps over the past five years. There was Trello, Wunderlist, Action by Moleskine, and even Notion (which was later used for taking notes), Todoist held out the longest (bought Premium and Business), but I don’t know what went wrong then. My tasks have become more complicated + companies have always had different tools for task tracking. I lost my focus.

Now I'm testing Minimalist app on iPhone. If you buy Premium, you can get sync with a laptop, but I still wonder if it’s worth the money. Below you can see the options and features they offer for Premium.

premium option (left) and main page (right)

They have a cool widget in iOS 14, everything is as simple as possible. User-friendly interface, reminders, dates/times, location, multiple lists, voice input, and more.

Available for MacOs, iOS and Android

Google Play, App Store (paid version), App Store (free version)

TIME TRACKING

I like to keep track of how much time I spend on certain tasks, in the future, it helps to optimize my workflow.

To do this, I use Toggle application for Mac. One of my friends helped with the development, so the guys got noticeably better over the years. The mobile app is useless to install because iPhones have built-in Screen Time (and you may be unlikely to like these graphs)

Screen Time stats

But Toggle recently came up with rebranding, I highly recommend to check their website and download PC or Mac client.

MINDFULNESS

There won’t be a yoga story or an attempt to meditate. My relationship with this stuff didn’t work out, I prefer to relax differently.

There is such a great app called Noizio containing wonderful nature sounds that can help you to switch off from the noise around and stay focused. And it will probably help you meditate (can’t say for sure), but it has some similar sounds like Calm, Balance, and Headspace.

interface (left) and timer setup (right)

Available for MacOS, iOS and Android

https://noiz.io

But all sound magic doesn’t end there. I should have mentioned a great app from ex-MSQRD founders. Their Loòna app is rapidly growing on the mindfulness market. The game format and its coloring option accompanied by interesting stories behind it impressed me from the first playable episode. You should try this and look at how soon you go to sleep after such extraordinary storytelling. Also, check out their soundscapes bundles as a sleep music background.

Available for iOS and Android

https://loona.app

NEWS

I read a lot of news on LinkedIn and Telegram, but over time, the number of channels turns it into a trash can, and I get lost in the shuffle. Therefore, I found a perfect app — Feedly, which allows me to choose the publications I want and interested to read, so I could always stay aware of important events happening in the world.

BOOKS

I have a Kindle Paperwhite. An irreplaceable thing when it comes to reading e-books. Yes, there is a better generation, but this one has been with me for almost 2.5 years, and I still have no complaints. I buy books directly on Amazon (there are some discounts for Kindle editions), and usually, it saves me $40 on average.

if you subscribe to the newsletters from the authors, you can receive email notifications about such discounts

In addition to Kindle, it would be great to have Audible app, where you can listen to audiobooks (mainly in English). By having a paid subscription, you can resume playing our book exactly from the moment you read it last time on the Kindle app or Kindle device. This integration works great. It’s even more convenient when I can ask Alexa to resume it from the moment I stopped listening book in my car or phone via Audible app.

Download Kindle (available on all platforms)

Download Audible (available on iOS, Android, Windows Phone)

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Irma Harlann

Irma Harlann

BD Manager @Anzu, blended in-game advertising