Working from home presents completely different challenges to the standard 9-5 employment life. Since you’re no longer in a ‘professional setting’, it can be tricky to remain productive. 

Don’t worry, there’s a bunch of tools and programs you can use to help. We’ve collected some of our favourites, so you can be as productive as possible. They fit into the categories below:

  • Time management
  • Minimising distractions
  • File sharing
  • Task automation

Our top work from home productivity tools

We’ve split the tools up into categories, so it’s easier for you to find what you need.

Time management

When you run your own small business, you have to make every minute count. These time management tools will help you do exactly that.

Stopwatches

Sometimes, the simplest solution is the best one. If you suffer from ‘time blindness’ (where time can pass quickly without you noticing it), you might benefit from using a stopwatch. 

Online or tactile stopwatches can work extremely well, because you can actually see time passing. It also helps you spot exactly how long a project takes, and if your speed is improving. 

Toggl

If you need a more general overview of your time management, then you can try using Toggl. It’s a time tracker, and the free version is designed specifically for freelancers and small businesses

It collects data on how long each project takes you, and can alert you when something takes longer than expected. This feature is excellent for noticing when your productivity drops, and means you can start working on any bad habits.

The paid plans do have some additional benefits, but one-person teams are better off with the free version

Minimising distractions

Dealing with distractions is a way of life when you work from home. From delivery drivers at the door, to your phone vibrating every ten minutes, there’s a lot going on. 

These tools should keep you focused on the task at hand. 

Digital Wellbeing/Screen Time

Social media is specially designed to get you hooked, and take up hours of your time. When you’re trying to work and be productive, this can be devastating. 

One simple solution is to use your phone’s time limit feature

Android has the Digital Wellbeing app, while Apple has a Screen Time setting. When enabled, both of these features let you set specific time limits for certain apps. Perfect if you get caught constantly scrolling for hours on end. 

The best part? Because these come with your phone as standard, they’re free. 

Serene

If most of your distractions come from your computer rather than your phone, then check out Serene. It’s a macOS app designed specifically to shield you from distractions. 

Serene aims to be your one-stop shop for distraction prevention. It controls various aspects, from blocking certain websites and apps, to timing your breaks and providing insights. 

Use of the app does require a subscription, but at $4 (£3) per month it’s pretty reasonable. 

File sharing

Sometimes, being more productive is just about cutting down on wasted time. If you and a client are emailing a file back and forth, you’re wasting a lot of time. 

Try these file sharing tools instead.

Google Drive

One of the easiest ways to share a file with a client is to use Google Drive. As a cloud based platform, Google Drive lets you share files with anyone on the internet for free. 

You can also set permissions for individual files, or even entire folders. For example, setting ‘Commenter’ permissions means your client can only make comments instead of directly editing the file. 

The best part about using Google? It’s completely free. There is a ‘storage limit’ if you save external files, but Google files don’t actually use this storage space. 

Essentially, you could create and store terabytes of data without it costing you a single penny. 

OneDrive

Microsoft’s challenger to Google Drive, OneDrive is included as part of the Microsoft 365 package or as a standalone. Unfortunately, there’s no free version — the most basic package costs £3.80 a month, rising to £9.40 a month.

The service does allow you to store, share, and password protect files, which is really useful at keeping your data safe. You can edit your files too, but this feature is exclusive to the most expensive plan. 

Task automation

Sometimes, tasks are relatively simple but take too long. By the time you finish them, you’re late to complete your next task. To stop this domino effect, try automating those tasks instead.

Countingup

If your finances take up the vast majority of your time, then you might want to try the Countingup app. This two-in-one business current account and accounting software is great at making money management a breeze

With various features like automatic expense categorisation and mobile invoice creation, you can drastically reduce the hours you spend thinking about money

It also has a lengthy three month free trial. Perfect if you want to test it without fully committing. 

Automate.io

For more general task automation, check out Automate.io. This lets you automate almost any repetitive process, with either simple or complex instructions. 

For example, you could set up a workflow that automatically sends users marketing emails, and then sorts them into different contact groups by their open rate. 

With custom triggers and actions, any repetitive process can easily become automated. 

Best of all, the free version comes with 300 actions per month. That should be more than enough for your small business.

Improve your work from home lifestyle

Of course, productivity isn’t the only thing you have to worry about when working from home. It’s also pretty tricky to keep yourself motivated

If the work days are starting to feel too long, see if our guide ‘Work From Home Motivation Tips’ can help you.

Once you’ve been working from home for a while, you might start wondering if there’s any expenses you can claim. It turns out, there are. You can get some tax relief for different elements of your home. 
For a comprehensive breakdown of what you can claim, read ‘What expenses can I claim when working from home?.