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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

Ideas on the Go: 5 Tools For Keeping Your Thoughts in the Cloud

When you work in a physical office, there are plenty of places for you to jot down your thoughts and tasks: the sketchpad on your desk for your to-do list, the big whiteboards for brainstorming, the notebook where you track progress for major projects.

But as a remote worker, even if you have these tools, it’s often more convenient to keep everything accessible on the web. After all—you’re rarely working from the same “office” every day, so it’s helpful to have tools that can easily travel with you.

You’re in luck: Whether you’re brainstorming, collaborating, or planning out your day, these five tools will help you get your thoughts and ideas down on (virtual) paper—making them accessible no matter where you are.


For Collaborating

One of the hardest things about not physically being with your team is not being able to sit down together in front of a whiteboard and hash out ideas or plans for a new project. And while you can still talk about ideas over the phone or Skype, sometimes the visual is essential.

Enter Mindjet. Mindjet calls itself a “virtual whiteboard, collaboration, and project management suite”—and it doesn’t disappoint.

For example, the other day I was explaining the many departments of our company to a new team member. With the help of Mindjet, I was able to draw out a diagram of our organization and catch the new hire up to speed in less than an hour—not to mention I had a take-away to share with others in the future. I also often use it for brainstorming goals, planning large projects, and mapping out product features.

For Quick Brainstorming

While I love Mindjet, there are times when you just need a tool you can dive right in and use for some solo brainstorming. That tool is As soon as you go to the website, you can click “Start Brainstorming” and go—you now have a virtual whiteboard at your fingertips. It’s not much more complicated than an actual whiteboard, and only takes a few minutes to get used to the tool.

For Simple To-Dos

I commonly hear my remote worker friends say that, while they prefer paper to-do lists, they always end up leaving them at home when they transition to a coffee shop or co-working space in the afternoon.

So I often recommend TeuxDeux, a virtual to-do list that prides itself on being simple enough to compete with a piece of paper. It’s the perfect tool to track tasks digitally without setting up a clunky system. The interface, a line item list for each day of the week with customizable lists at the bottom of the page, is incredibly easy to work with, and it’s nice to look at, too. The best part? There’s no threat of leaving it on the kitchen table when you run out the door.

For More Detailed To-Dos

For more in-depth lists, WorkFlowy is my go-to tool. It allows you to create hierarchical lists, so you can “nest” to-dos within each other. Start by breaking out broad topics like work, home, and personal, and then break down further by project —“Client A,” “Annual Report,” “Cleaning,” whatever—the number of lists you build under each point is limitless. WorkFlowy has convenient tabs so you can see how deep you are in a project or list at anytime. There’s also a great search feature, so even if you have 35 lists, your to-dos never get lost.

For Focused Work

In case you haven’t noticed, I love lists. I even work in “buckets”—meaning I focus all of my energy on one specific bucket for at least an hour, usually 90 minutes. Trello is the perfect way to focus on one “bucket” at a time and work through the actions of a specific project. It allows you to create custom lists for each individual project and even analyze the progress you’ve made toward a specific goal. When the goal is met, or the project is complete, you can archive that list. Bonus: if your boss or co-workers ask you, you’ll be well equipped to show exactly where you spent your time.

Keeping your work on the web is helpful for any remote worker. With the help of these tools (and a solid Wi-Fi connection) you’ll be ready to tackle the day—no matter where it takes you.

Photo of woman on laptop courtesy of Shutterstock.

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