How to work more efficiently from home

Top productivity boosters to help get your business on track.

By Heather Camlot

As someone who has worked from home for the past decade, it’s easy for me to tout all the benefits: flexible schedule, no office politics, no commute, fewer meetings and a workspace decorated to my liking (when I’m not tripping over toys).

According to Statistics Canada, almost 2.8 million people did some or all of their work from home in 2000, up from 2.1 million in 1995. For home-based women entrepreneurs, almost 60 per cent are “lifestylers,” business owners who choose home over office tower for a better work-life balance, as reported in a recent CIBC study. For women and men, technological advances such as laptops, internet and smartphones make it easy to work from just about anywhere.

But with the pros come the cons. Some people find it difficult to concentrate on work, may feel isolated and/or get frustrated when the technology that made it all possible isn’t working properly – or at all.

But there are ways to become more efficient when working from home – besides shutting the office door so you don’t hear the pile of dirty dishes calling your name. Here are six top picks.

Freedom

How often do you find yourself in the middle of a great work run when all of a sudden an email shows up or a friend instant messages you? Digital distraction is a killer. You lose your train of thought, you waste time reading an unfunny forward and boom, the day is done. Freedom software shuts you off from the Internet.  Just program the amount of time you want to be offline and you’re cut off.  The only way to get back online before the time is done is to restart your computer. And who has time for that? Available at macfreedom.com, USD $10.

Anti-Social

A little less drastic than Freedom, Anti-Social blocks Mac users from accessing social media sites. Better for those who do need to be online for work purposes, this  software will keep you from   checking your Facebook account, Twitter feed, online email, YouTube and any other sites you program in for as long as you’d like. Bye-bye friends and acquaintances — chat with you at 5 pm. Available at anti-social.cc, USD $15.

iYogi

One of the biggest problems with working from home is the lack of tech support when things go terribly wrong – and always on the day a project is due. iYogi is like your very own computer technician, one who works 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days of the year. There’s no need to leave your home office or have a stranger visit, as everything is done remotely, and under your watchful eye. iYogi, $140 per year.

Evernote

Time to ditch the paper trail. Evernote helps you collect all those sticky notes, web research and to-do lists in one centralized location, be it on your computer or your mobile device, and connects all your devices so you can search it from anywhere. Add a text note, take a snapshot, save an audio clip, capture a tweet and let the software categorize and index all the information for you. When you need to find something, search by keyword, title and tags – Evernote will even search printed or handwritten material.  Available at Evernote.com, free.

NotNow

If you have important clients calling you throughout the day but you’re too busy to answer your mobile phone, this BlackBerry app lets you send a friendly SMS message to their mobile (or some landlines) letting them know you’re aware of their call and will get back to them shortly. When the phone rings, click the ignore button, choose a pre-programmed message (you can program your own) and get back to the business at hand. Available at appworld.blackberry.com, USD $3.

iTeleport

When you need to access your desktop from the road (or the park or the mall), iTelelport is the app to have on your mobile. Take control of your Mac or PC computer’s mouse and keyboard, delve into your files, tap into your media player and watch your kids’ online behaviour. Available through iTunes App Store, $25.

First published August 23, 2010, on WorkLivePlayCafe.com.

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