You don’t have to work from Everest base camp to call yourself a digital nomad. Everyone works from home, on multiple devices, over the weekend, on vacation, or even just from their phone once in a while, so why not do it right? The key to being a successful digital nomad—whether it’s on the road full-time or just the occasional Friday—is the right productivity apps connecting all your online accounts.
Ramp up your productivity with 15 of my favorite apps to help you transition from the cubicle to your new remote workspace. Get psyched, because these are going to make your life a lot easier.
The Best Time Management Apps
We all want more time in the day. Sadly, most of us can’t just decide to sleep less and make it through the day. Biohacking is tough stuff.
The best way to gain extra hours in the workday is to work automate as many processes as possible. Luckily there are a few apps for that.
IFTTT—short for “If This Then That”—is the premiere automation tool. IFTTT works by setting up a system of “recipes” that trigger when an action or alert is performed. You simply connect your accounts—Dropbox, Twitter, Facebook, Google, and hundreds more—and plug in the recipes you want IFTTT to perform for you.
For instance, you can get alerts and automate:
- Specific hashtag mentions on twitter
- Weather forecasts in real time
- Changes to Dropbox folders or Drive documents
- Automatically archive texts or emails in a Google spreadsheet
- Schedule appointments and update your calendar in one tap
- You can even get notified when the International Space Station is orbiting over you; seriously
Setting up your channels can take a few minutes, but once you have your recipes in place, you’ll save hours a week automating repetitive tasks. IFTTT has a recipe for pretty much everything. Add new recipes and manage new recipes in your dashboard with just a few clicks.
Best Use: Calendar management, recurring tasks, social media alerts. time management, and tracking.
Sometimes, the best way to manage your time is to track how you spend it. The amount of time we all waste every day is appalling, and digital nomads are some of the worst offenders. Every time you switch tasks, click open a new tab, or “take a break” to watch a quick Facebook video you lose valuable time and energy. Toggl helps you see exactly how you spend your time, so you can stop wasting it.
The simple interface is the best part. Just select your task, click the timer and you’re off. This tool is great for billing clients (talking to you, freelancers), but it’s almost more valuable as a mirror that shows you how you spend your time. It’s easy to forget that some projects, while earning more money, take significantly more energy and time to complete. Get a better understanding of your work flow and habits with this premium time management tool.
Best Use: Freelance billing software and time management tracking.
Focus Booster (Free, $5/month)
Focus Booster is another simple time management app designed to help you do more. Based on the Pomodoro technique of 25 min work intervals, the minimalist time tracker divides your day into manageable chunks, tracks each project, and creates easy to read reports of your workflow.
The free pricing scheme includes 20 pomodoro sessions per month and quickly scales up to 200 for $3/month and unlimited sessions for $5/month.
Best Use: Fighting off distractions.
The Best Email Productivity Apps
I’m a massive inbox zero fan, but as a travel writer I have to subscribe to a lot of newsletters, blogs, and publications to keep my finger on that throbbing pulse of the travel world. I also do a LOT of weird searches and buy a ton of random stuff online, so my inbox can get spammy, quickly.
I use a lot of apps to help me clear the wheat from the chaff while keeping it all organized, searchable, and ready for action.
FollowUp CC — Email Reminders That Work ($18/month)
This app does one thing—remind you to follow up on an old email. If you’re anything like me, you can’t reply to every email the moment you read it. So, being a diligent, organized worker, you make a note to reply to the email, file it away in a folder, and then forget about it forever. Congrats, you’ve just wasted five minutes and accomplished nothing!
Follow Up CC solves this problem in one step. Simply BCC the email in question with a date specific June25@followup.cc and the email will reappear in your inbox on the date in question. Boom; instant reminder that you can trigger from within the email.
Best Use: Email management and email reminders.
Rapportive is amazing. This Chrome plugin lets you see a ton of information about the people that send you email in a small window that automatically pops up when you scroll over their email address. I’ve been using this plug-in for so long that I forget that it’s not a native Gmail feature.
Rapportive a great way to get a snapshot of your recent correspondence as well as some simple info about them, including a picture, LinkedIn info, Google+ account, twitter handle, etc. Making this an indispensable tool, especially when you email a lot of people in a short amount of time.
Best Use: Managing lots of professional contacts.
The iOS Gmail app sucks. It’s clunky and doesn’t work very well for mobile. A simple fix to this is to download the Google Inbox app.
The simple swipe features (right = done a.k.a. “delete,” left = remind/schedule later) and calendar integration make this app my go-to email app. Honestly, I would rather read emails on my phone now.
Download it and realize that email is supposed to be simple.
Best Use: Everything to do with email. Ever.
Similar to a lot of other inbox management apps, Boomerang simply works better. Integrated seamlessly with Gmail, Outlook, and Android, this app has over 2 million regular users, meaning it isn’t going to suck.
While it does have the ubiquitous “remind” elements you’d expect, the best feature by far is the ability to write an email then schedule it to send later in the day. You’ll be stunned by how much back and forth you’ll save by scheduling your emails to arrive later in the day. Your clients and co-workers get all the info they need, and you can check them off your to-do list in the morning without having to deal with their responses until the afternoon. Divide up your work day into correspondence time and work time and you’ll be amazed at how much work you get done.
Best Use: Scheduling email correspondence.
Productivity Apps for Your Desktop or Laptop
I hate clutter; even digital clutter. A clean desktop is the sign of an organized person, but a lot of people don’t know how to manage their downloads, commonly used files, and personal folders without spreading it all over their desktop like a kitchen table crowded with last week’s leftovers.
There is a better way.
Alfred (Free, Premium)
Alfred is a powerful desktop app for managing basically every file you have on your Mac. Simply download the free software, and let Alfred do the work. Launch the search bar and use hotkeys to find files, launch applications, and see recent workflows.
Perhaps it sounds small, but having one unified way of working on your desktop shaves seconds off of every minute task, and those seconds add up. Stop searching for a missing file or wasting time clicking around menus. With Alfred, you always know where you are and what you’re doing.
Best Use: Desktop organization and streamlining workflow.
Productivity Apps for the Cloud
If you work remotely, you work in the cloud. But which app is the best way to safely and easily store and manage your delicate information? How do the best cloud storage apps stack up?
Google Drive (Free, Premium Upgrades)
Google Drive simple, obvious, and works like a charm. The best part is, if you have Gmail, you already have this powerful digital nomad tool.
Every Gmail account comes with 15GB of cloud storage, which is usually more than enough to store all your emails and text documents. However, things get a little trickier if you’re moving around large files, photos, or videos.
Routinely, I send large video files to editors, and that takes extra space. Luckily, Google Drive storage plans are super affordable. I upgraded to 100GB for just $1.99/month, and if things ever escalate beyond that I can get 1TB for $9.99. That’s a lot of cloud storage.
Embrace Google Drive. Keep all your writing at hand on any device, while also being able to collaborate and edit with others around the world in just seconds. I’m a big fan.
Best Use: Collaboration and storage.
Dropbox (Free, Premium)
- Dropbox Basic (FREE) — 2 GB of storage for desktop and mobile
- Dropbox Pro ($9.99/month or $99/year) — 1TB space + additional features
- Dropbox Business (Pricing varies)
2GB honestly isn’t much these days (that’s about 240 songs), but a free Dropbox account is great for managing your current workflow.
Recently, I talked with my friend Robbie Klein, organization nut and founder of Astrolab, a digital organization consultancy, about digital nomad tools and he told me about one simple hack he uses everyday.
He created a “Current” folder on his desktop that automatically syncs to his Dropbox account.
That way he can drop any relevant files into it, keep everything in one place, and still access it from anywhere, even his phone. Read more about his organizational hacks here.
Best Use: Collaboration and current workflow.
I’ve written about the best travel apps before, so there’s not a ton to add except for a good travel itinerary management tool.
TripIt is your one stop travel itinerary tool. Simply download the app, and let it take care of the rest.
Easily link your email account to TripIt and your booking confirmation emails (flights, hotels, reservations) will automatically update in your calendar and mobile itinerary. No more searching through old deleted emails or struggling to find tickets and dates on the run.
Best Use: Trip itinerary management.
Apps for Security
Have too many accounts? Can’t remember all your different logins for your Slack channel, Asana flow chart, and Dropbox folders? As a digital nomad, or a freelancer like me, you’ll quickly accumulate lots of extra email accounts and all the passwords and logins to go along with them. Don’t panic. 1Password is the simple password vault you need to keep all your elaborate passwords safe while easy to access.
Download the app for your phone and keep all your passwords safely within reach—even if your phone gets lost or stolen.
Best Use: Storing passwords.
Honorable Mentions: The Best Productivity Apps
Evernote (Free up to 60 MB, $34.99/year for 1 GB)
Evernote is a great way to stay on top of your workflow even when you’re on the run. Our founder Fred Perrotta, likes Evernote so much he even wrote a whole article about it.
(Spoiler: It syncs with IFTTT — see how it all comes full circle?!)
Best Use: Keeping all your cool thoughts in one place.
Fairly often, I publish on Medium because I love how easy it is (I’m lazy like that). One of the best features is the ability to type out a quick draft from the mobile Medium app and edit it later when I’m at my desk. This app seamlessly saves to your account so you never have to worry about moving documents around, or working on an old draft, without realizing it.
Best Use: Churning out drafts for later.
Buffer (Free, Multiple Premium Packages)
Scheduling social media posts can take an inordinately long time. Seriously. Sure, you can just randomly flail posts and retweets out there, but you’re just wasting your time like that. If you want to curate relevant information, or spread the word about a new project that you’re working on, use Buffer’s suite of scheduling tools to automate the whole process.
The tracking features are great to see which time of day is the best time to reach your audience, and the integrated image editing and sharing make your posts pop. My favorite feature is definitely the multiple scheduled posts. Too often we only share our work once, when in reality only a small percentage of followers ever see a single post. Use Buffer to supercharge your social media account without making it your part-time job.
Best Use: Scheduling multiple social media posts.
Productivity is a paradox—you have to set aside time to create the automated systems and workflows to make your job easier, but you don’t want to waste all your time setting up systems. Take the time to master today’s best productivity apps and tools; you’ll be glad you did. Travel is hard enough without keeping up with every little thing at work. Set it and forget it, and actually enjoy your life as a digital nomad.
- Inbox from Gmail is the best email app ever
- Sync Dropbox to a file on your desktop
- Medium is a writer’s best friend
- Alfred will keep your computer sleek and organized
- IFTTT has a recipe that will automate anything
Get at me on twitter with your best productivity apps and hacks, and I’ll feature it in the next article I write. Or I’ll forget. I don’t know.