Need help tackling all the tasks demanding your attention while working from home? Find your focus with these helpful apps


  • Mobile apps
  • Monday, 13 Jul 2020

It’s so easy to get distracted by pretty much everything now that many of us are working from home. — Dreamstime/TNS

Now that many of us are working from home, it’s so easy to get distracted by pretty much everything.

Though we can’t control things like kids asking us about multiplication, a partner’s conference call or needy pets, we can try to control our time management.

Thankfully there are productivity apps to keep us focused while we work from home.

So whether it’s organising assignments or not wasting time on the Net, here are apps we recommend, each tested by one of us.

Create habits: Streaks

I can get very lazy about the simplest things: flossing, drinking water, exercising. But I’m also pretty competitive, which is why I’ve used Streaks since long before the coronavirus quarantine.

Instead of a list, your tasks appear as circles with cute, matching graphics in each. — StreaksInstead of a list, your tasks appear as circles with cute, matching graphics in each. — Streaks

The app is very simple but beautifully designed (it’s an Apple Design Awards winner).

Instead of a list, your tasks appear as circles with cute, matching graphics in each. The idea is to keep your streak of tasks going for as long as possible.

The way it works is you pick a variety of things you want to do (or don’t want to do) and once you complete each one, you press the circle.

You can pick something generic, like reading, or you can assign a length of time to your reading, and how many days per week you’d like to do it.If you do your task everyday, yes, you create new habits, but you also build streaks. Like, I’ve had vegetables every day for 16 days! The thought of losing my streak often forces me out of bed to floss just to keep it going.

Streaks is only available for iOS and it costs RM19.90.

Manage tasks: Todoist

Todoist is exactly what it sounds like: a to-do list. Simply write in tasks you want to complete, add due dates and check them off as you go.

Todoist is exactly what it sounds like: a to-do list. Simply write in tasks you want to complete, add due dates and check them off as you go. — TodoistTodoist is exactly what it sounds like: a to-do list. Simply write in tasks you want to complete, add due dates and check them off as you go. — Todoist

I admit I’m a physical planner person; I prefer writing to typing and had trouble transitioning to digital calendars.

Surprisingly, I found that Todoist actually compliments my analogue calendar.

Every morning, I jot down any assignments, meetings or chores into my planner.

Then I take my notes and input them into the app, which lets me create subtasks, something my physical planner doesn’t have room for.

Sure, writing down (and checking off) each task twice is a little repetitive, but I’ve found that repetition has actually helped me while working at home. I mean, sometimes I can’t even remember what day of the week it is.

You’ll need to upgrade to Premium (RM18 per month or RM167.90 per year for Android; RM16.90 monthly or RM157.90 yearly for iOS) to unlock features like reminders, labels and filters, but the free version is enough for me.

Limit distractions: Pocket

Pocket has only one purpose: bookmarking online articles.

With other built-in bookmarking alternatives, like Reading List, an additional app may seem unnecessary.

But I think Pocket’s additional features make it worth the free download.

Use Pocket to capture the content that comes at you all day long. — PocketUse Pocket to capture the content that comes at you all day long. — Pocket

I spend approximately 90% of my workday online, often surfing the Internet for article inspiration or research. But spending so much time online often means stumbling across interesting articles that are not work-related that can be tempting to read on the clock.

Now, I resist the urge and tuck the article in my Pocket with a click of a button (through a Chrome extension on my computer).

Then I open my Pocket app on my phone at 6pm and indulge in all the content guilt-free.

Rather than directing you back to the website, Pocket saves the text of each article so you can read without Internet connectivity.

And when I don’t want to stare at the screen after a long day at the computer, I opt to have the article read out loud to me.

If you want different fonts, a permanent saved library, or no advertisements, premium costs RM19.99 monthly or RM32 (not a typo) annually for Android and RM20.90 monthly or RM189.90 yearly for iOS.Increase productivity:

BlockSite

While Pocket is great for bookmarking articles I come across during my workday, there are some specific websites I find myself returning to during office hours. The biggest culprit? Social media.

Enter BlockSite, a Chrome extension which restricts access to certain websites.

Give BlockSite the URLs that tend to distract you the most – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – and bam! The websites are gone. — BlockSiteGive BlockSite the URLs that tend to distract you the most – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – and bam! The websites are gone. — BlockSite

I gave BlockSite the URLs that tend to distract me the most – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – and bam! The websites are gone.

When I try to visit them, I receive a web page with a cheeky message like “No way, Jose,” or “What do you think you’re doing?”

If you have a separate office computer, you can permanently block sites from your work devices for maximum productivity, or use the scheduler app to block off the websites on certain days and times.

I prefer Work Mode, which uses the Pomodoro Technique: 25 minutes of work, followed by a five minute break.

This feature has been super helpful for increasing my productivity while not completely restricting my access.

BlockSite is completely free, but to be honest, I’d probably pay for it. It’s like having your boss over your shoulder, reminding you that even though you’re at home, you’re still working. – The San Diego Union-Tribune/Tribune News Service

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