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TOOLS

Field-tested by me to help you
live and work on your terms.

TOOLS

Field-tested to help you live & work on your terms.

With the right technology, you really can live & work on your terms. 

Twenty years ago, working a ‘normal’ job from a remote location was a pipe dream. Today, it’s fast becoming the new standard. Being able to work on your terms opens up opportunities to live on your terms, too.

The tools I’ve assembled here are carefully curated and enable a healthier, less stressful way of doing great work while maintaining a life as well. Together, they’ve allowed me to:

  • Enhance my contribution to the businesses I serve
  • Pursue other creative and commercial opportunities
  • Work where, when and how I choose
  • Spend valuable time with those I love
  • Keep stress to a minimum
  • Look forward to Mondays
  • Save money and time
  • Live intentionally

Affiliate Notice: If I recommend something to you (e.g. a book, software, a physical product, etc.), it’s because I’ve bought it, used it and benefited from it. Yes, I might get a small affiliate commission if you buy it (as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases), but it won’t cost you any extra. Besides, you don’t have to buy it through me, and if you don’t think it’ll help you, then don’t buy it from anywhere.

Also, not all the tools on this page are affiliates partners (E.g. Basecamp and Ergohuman AU), but they’re here because they’ve helped me to live and work on my terms, and I believe they’ll help you, too.

PRODUCTIVITY & HOME OFFICE

GoToMeeting

Outside email and text, GoToMeeting is one of my most-used tools for engaging with colleagues. It allows us to get the team together no matter where we are or what device we’re using.

With GoToMeeting, we can share screens and webcams, and we can draw and highlight onscreen content in realtime. It’s pretty cool. What’s more, we can record our meetings, and then share a PDF of our slide decks in chronological order – automatically.

If you’re working with teams, or even a couple of people, GoToMeeting is, in my view, even more effective than getting together face-to-face. It’s one of the best tools in the remote worker’s toolbox.

 

ScreenFlow

I’ve been messing around with video for about a decade – mostly for clients. Today, I rely on it to explain projects I’m working on or to demonstrate progress on a website I’m building before I let the client loose on the live site. Just recently, I’ve begun using video in my own course materials.

I’ve used a ton of screen capture and video editing tools, including iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, VideoPad, Screen Cast-O-Matic, Camtasia, SnagIT, Loom and Adobe Premiere. However, my favourite by a huge margin is ScreenFlow. The reasons are simple.

  1. Speed
  2. Resource usage
  3. Simple user interface
  4. Functionality and features

 

Basecamp

I’ve tried heaps of tools to manage projects, including Trello, Asana,  Monday, and of course, Excel. However, the one I’ve stuck with for years is Basecamp. It’s simple to learn, easy to use, and it does most things really well (task lists, scheduling, file storage, messaging and live chat). Also, you get unlimited projects and unlimited people for USD$99 a month. That might sound pricey, but when you consider the tools it replaces, it’s actually good value. There’s also a free plan, which might suit you just fine.

What I love about Basecamp is, it’s super easy to create projects – each with their own lists of tasks – schedule activities and invite people to follow and engage with them. As I move through a project, everyone’s on the same page. If I complete a task and want others to be told the moment it’s done, I can. If I want to add comments, images, files and the like, I can. It’s brilliantly simple, and because of that – extremely powerful. For example, if I add a comment to a task or send out a message from Basecamp, the recipients can respond via email and their responses land back in Basecamp where they can all be tracked. Nothing slips through the cracks because it’s all there in the once place. A single source of truth.

What’s more, Basecamp alerts me when a deadline is approaching so I have time to get my ducks in a row.

The guys who created Basecamp (Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson) are living proponents of remote work, with their team members scattered across more than two-dozen cities around the world. They literally wrote the book on remote work, so they understand what people like us need (and more importantly, what we don’t).

Listen to what Jason, David and members of the Basecamp team say about the benefits of working on their terms, and how it leads to better outcomes for the business and the individuals who work there. 

Grammarly

Whether I’m writing an email, a blog post or a $2M pitch, I can’t live without Grammarly. Proofreading your own work is fraught with risk (we rarely spot every error), so it’s important to have someone or something check your work before hitting SEND or PUBLISH. Grammarly checks everything I write in realtime – pointing out spelling and grammar issues and offering suggested changes as I go. It isn’t foolproof (thanks, Troy for stepping in sometimes), but it’s damn close.

The base product is free, but to go beyond basic spelling and grammar, you’ll want Grammarly Premium, which also checks readability, vocabulary, writing style (which you can set), and potential plagiarism. It also offers synonyms and definitions, while explaining its reasoning beyond the recommendations it gives. It’s quite simply, brilliant. 

Buy The Right Desk

Working from home is fantastic, but there are a number of ways you can screw this whole thing up, and ruining your health is one you mightn’t have considered. Once you’re in control of your work environment, it’s critical that you manage your body as well.

In a traditional office setting, you might get out of your chair 20 times a day to chat with colleagues. When you work from home, it’s all handled from your desk. As a remote worker, this lack of movement poses a genuine health risk.

I used to spend up to 18 hours a day sitting in front of my computer. That kind of habit can destroy your health just as easily as a pack-a-day smoking habit. Nowadays, I have an electric height-adjustable desk and I switch from sitting to standing a few times each day. This single acquisition has changed my life, and I no longer feel stiff, cramped or lethargic. Unlike the old days, I listen to my body, and as soon as I’m uncomfortable, I hit a button and switch to another stored position. I even have one for squatting.

There are tonnes of choices out there – from simple manual devices that sit on top of your existing desk, to full replacement electric desks like mine. Amazon offers a sizable range at all price points, so go take a look.

Get the best office chair you can afford.

Sometimes I look back at how I worked in the past and wonder why it took so long to learn some things – like how to remain energised throughout the day. During a two-year stint at the outlaws’ (while our apartment was being built) I set myself up in a tiny lean-to next to their garage. It was biting cold or sauna-hot, depending on the season.

I’d sometime do up to 23 hours straight in there, grinding away at my next big idea. The fancy-looking but totally impractical glass-top desk transmitted the near-zero temperatures straight to my hands, while my crappy $30 office chair struggled to remain level on the sloping concrete floor. I’d crawl out of there – often at dawn – barely able to walk.

These days, I don’t mind spending great wads of money on the things that matter, like my bed, pillow, laptop, software and chair. These are the things I use every single day, and they can make or break how well it all goes. I’m all for getting a bargain, but never at the expense of quality.

That’s why I recommend getting the most comfortable chair you can afford. My Ergohuman ‘Luxury Leather with Footrest’ keeps me aligned, comfortable and fresh for 12 hours straight. If you scrimp on anything, don’t let it be your chair.

I’ve linked to two options, here. Amazon has a solid range, and if you’re in the US, they’re your best option. Not all models ship to Australia, though, so for my fellow Aussies, go to Ergohuman Australia.

When music matters, speakers are everything.

Charlie Tremendous Jones gave a lot of sound advice, like to women looking for a good husband: “Find one with pants on and pray!”

Another chestnut was this: “There are three things in life that’ll stop you going crazy, and they’ll each take turns saving your life. One is your family, the other is your work and the last one is music.”

Creative people like us recognise the power of music. It urges us to press on when we’re tired, or inspires us to reach higher than we’d otherwise dare, or soothes us when life goes dark. Music brings people together. It tells solo travellers they’re not alone. It lifts us up and carries us to places we’d never have dreamed had our journey been silent.

Like many of you, music has been a constant in my life. From my first taste of it with ABBA in the early 70’s, to ELO, Dire Straits and Queen, and later Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Coldplay and Pink Floyd, music has been there every step of the way – documenting my life as it unfolds.

Twenty years ago – when I really couldn’t afford it – I invested in a pair of Bowers & Wilkins speakers and a Sonance subwoofer. Over the next ten, I acquired another four B&Ws, until I had a high-quality surround sound system. I still have them, and they’re still amazing.

I suspect the Audioengine A5+ Dual Class AB monolithic amplified speakers sitting on my desk (scroll up to see pic) will equal the B&Ws for longevity. They’re solidly made in Austin TX, and musically, every bit as detailed and punchy. In fact, the moment I connected them to my Macbook Pro, I wanted to listen to my 178-album collection all over again. If space is tight, they offer the smaller but equally amazing A2+.

If you spend all day in front of a computer, or in one room making things, these speakers will change your life. Plug them into your computer and enjoy your music like you’re hearing all for the first time again. Trust me, this is one ‘indulgence’ you won’t regret.

Besides, if Charlie was right, they might just save your life.

Affiliate Notice: If I recommend something to you (e.g. a book, software, a physical product, etc.), it’s because I’ve bought it, used it and benefited from it. Yes, I might get a small affiliate commission if you buy it (as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases), but it won’t cost you any extra. Besides, you don’t have to buy it through me, and if you don’t think it’ll help you, then don’t buy it from anywhere.

Also, not all the tools on this page are affiliates partners (E.g. Basecamp and Ergohuman AU), but they’re here because they’ve helped me to live and work on my terms, and I believe they’ll help you, too.

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