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‘Tis the season for taking time off of work—but putting paid time off on the calendar and actually enjoying it are two different things. As we’ve previously written, truly unplugging requires intention and preparation, both on the part of the individual and of their colleagues. 

Today, we’re highlighting the best tools available to help workers prepare to step away, stay unplugged while out of office, and quickly catch up after returning to work, drawn from past Charter Work Tech picks.

The best AI time-blocking tools to help you find time for everything left on your to-do list 

We’ve previously shared a template for out-of-office plans that divides work into three buckets: things to do before signing off, things that should pause, and things to transfer colleagues during time away, a suggestion from time-management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders in the Harvard Business Review. For everything that falls into the first bucket, time-blocking, a time-management practice of dedicating specific windows to focus on a single task, can help you carve out the necessary hours to get through your list amid a hectic schedule. 

Our picks for the best time-blocking tools of the five we tested: 

  • TrevorAI is an affordable, streamlined tool for those who want a low-lift way to time-block their schedules without getting too in the weeds, though it lacks many integrations with productivity apps and team memberships. 
  • Reclaim is a pricier option with helpful schedule-personalization features, including templates for recurring habits and the ability to define work and personal hours.

Read our full review here.

The best distraction-deterring browser extensions to help you finish those last assignments before logging off

Finishing assignments before taking off can become a time crunch, especially with potential distractions lurking in another tab. Distraction-blocker apps allow users to restrict access to certain sites, either entirely or in part, to help them stay on task. In the days before PTO, they can help preserve heads-down time to make sure you don’t have to keep working during vacation. (Note: Our review covers tools that encourage more mindful browsing by steering users away from distracting sites, rather than blocking them outright; a forthcoming edition of Work Tech will cover apps that restrict users’ browsing more forcefully.) 

Our picks for the best distraction-deterring browser extensions of the seven we tested:

  • Pause, part of the distraction-blocking product Freedom, implements a waiting period of a user’s chosen length before they can continue on to a distracting site. It comes preloaded with an extensive list of common distraction sources and allows users to customize the length of the pause.
  • Mindful Browsing boasts a beautiful, soothing interface that asks users to set priorities for what they want to accomplish, and reminds them of those priorities each time they visit a blacklisted site. It has a 10-minute workaround for short breaks. 

Read our full review here.

The best screen-recording tools to film tutorials for team members taking over specific responsibilities

Short video tutorials can be an effective way to quickly train colleagues on a new system or tool. With screen, webcam, and audio recording, these tools simplify the process of creating a step-by-step walkthrough for specific tasks. Users can share these videos directly in Slack, embedded in a Notion page, or directly with a web link or video file to make revisiting the tutorial easy. 

Our picks for the best screen-recording tools of the six we tested:

  • Dropbox Capture is our overall pick for its ease of use, video quality, and recording features. Users do need to have a free or paid Dropbox account to use this tool, but the Dropbox Capture app is separate from the file management software. 
  • Loom is our pick for Chrome users looking for a tool that integrates seamlessly with their browser. Although Loom lacks some of the features that Dropbox Capture has, users make few compromises in terms of overall user experience and video quality. 

Read our full review here.

The best tab managers to save your place until after you get back

Before logging off for an extended break, it can feel difficult to close out of all the many tabs that contain unfinished drafts, reports yet unread, and resources for future projects. With a tab manager, users can file away all of these pages in customized folders and return to them once they log back on. 

Our picks for the best tab managers of the nine we tested:

  • Skeema, our top pick, is an extension developed by Carnegie Mellon researchers based on their study on causes of browser clutter. It allows users to organize tabs, save parts of pages with a clipping tool, and turn saved content into a to-do list. 
  • Workona is another strong tab-management system that offers users additional features for sharing and organization, though its platform is somewhat less visually appealing than Skeema’s. 

Read our full review here.

The best audio-transcription tools to avoid FOMOOM (fear of missing out on meetings)...

Upon the return to work, one of the most time-consuming and stressful tasks can be catching up on all the meetings that occurred, especially if meeting attendees didn’t keep detailed minutes. With an audio-transcription tool, meeting attendees can instead record and share transcriptions of everything that has happened, allowing absent team members to easily review what was discussed. 

Our picks for the best audio-transcription tools of the six that we tested:

  • Sonix, tied for best in class with Fireflies on pure transcription, has extremely high accuracy, almost perfect recognition of distinct speakers, and correct spelling of many proper names without a dictionary.
  • Fireflies has extremely high accuracy, superb differentiation of speakers, an AI meeting summary, and a comparatively low price point for significant monthly usage.
  • Rev’s automated service is only a degree or two below its peers, with excellent transcription and speaker recognition—and for those spending endless hours on Zoom, the unlimited transcription can be a substantial price advantage.

Read our full review here.

…and the best AI text summarizers to get the key points from meeting transcripts.

For meeting transcripts that don’t require a fine-toothed comb, generating a summary of key discussion points and takeaways may be a more efficient way to catch up on everything you missed.

Our picks for the best AI text summarizers out of the nine we tested (at least one of our picks for audio transcription tools, Rev, also has a built-in summary feature powered by AI):

  • Genei is the strongest summarizer of the ones we tested as well as the easiest to use, allowing users to upload pdfs or paste URLs for content to summarize.
  • ChatGPT Plus, tied for second place, is highly versatile, adjusting outputs based on feedback and letting users ask it anything about a document in question.
  • Jasper, our other second-place pick, summarizes text accurately and quickly as one of several functions, contributing to the tool’s higher price point.

Note: Since we released our review, AI company Anthropic released its new version of Claude. It’s currently free for users, and it does a great job summarizing content, even lengthier documents.

Read our full review here.


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