In the last year I launched my own content agency and began working remotely after nine years of cushy office perks in New York media. As my business idea, The Why Women Project, began to pivot from passion project to budding business opportunity, I struggled to work from home without the corporate productivity tools I’d relied on for so long. While I’ve finally decided to trade my Brooklyn apartment for women’s co-working space The Wing, these fundamental home-office hacks will start you off—and keep you sane—when you first make the crossover to remote pro. Who occasionally works in his or her pajamas.
Six months ago if you had told me there would be workdays I’d go till 2 p.m. without eating, I would have laughed. I took for granted the ease (and expense factor) of snacking in offices stocked with industrial-sized cereal dispensers, grazing trays of assorted panini from catered photo shoots, and lunch meetings in the Condé Nast cafeteria. But outside of an office where there’s free food popping up on countertops everywhere you turn, basic sustenance takes time I have less of now that I’m my business’ own sales force, business development manager and content director in one. So block off your meals like you would any meeting, and save hours of your precious time with grocery delivery or meal-prep services with pre-measured ingredients to make meal productivity a non-negotiable part of your work week. Blue Apron starts at $9.99 per serving, which seriously competes with or beats the cost of lunch in most major cities, and delivers to your door the exact ingredient proportions you need, so you’re being a doubly responsible human being by avoiding food waste.
A Designated Desk
The thing no one tells you about working from home is that your schedule can quickly go wonky when you don’t technically have to sit down from 9 to 5 every day. (OK, they told me, I just didn’t think it would happen to me until I was writing content proposals till 3 in the morning from my bed. Delicately Himalayan-salted popcorn was involved and I’ll divulge no further other than that stuff is delicious at 2 a.m.) Carve out a corner or couch section to set up a designated desk space in your home office and start at 9 a.m. anyway. If you don’t have the sprawling apartment space or budget for a designer desk (I’m an NYC-based writer, yes, hello), you can find a decent-looking lap desk like this Sofia + Sam Memory Foam design with a USB light and a comfy plush bottom so your laptop doesn’t overheat and slow you down. (I swear by mine.) Consider it a $40 investment in your ability to focus when you add it to your next Amazon Prime order.
As the Internet taught us, there are two types of people. Zero-inbox people and past-the-point-of-no-return-inbox people. When you don’t—or can’t—invest in a paid email service in the early stages of entrepreneurship, your personal email becomes your professional email. And the pileup happens rapidly. After three months of freelancing, my inbox surpassed 100,000 emails. If you can still breath after reading this startling piece of information, hear this: Mailbird gets your inbox to zero. I eliminated 30,000 emails within the first hour of cleaning out my inbox. For $20 per license per year, Mailbird’s business subscription lets you manage an unlimited number of email accounts in a unified inbox, includes a setting for speed-reading emails, and allows productivity app integrations for your project management tools (like Asana) and task lists (I love Wunderlist). Oh, and a 30-second undo-send feature for that email you shot off too soon. Once you’re operating efficiently day-to-day with task apps, wireless storage tools and the like, consider software that makes your bookkeeping easier, too. If your company handles invoices for contractors, look into accounting software for small businesses, like QuickBooks.
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