5 Work from Home Essentials

"Working from home” has pretty much been The Dream.

It started at age 22, when I first entered the work force and realized that “going to work," um, kind of sucked. Not the work itself--the going there.

But my first post-college job was a receptionist at a fancy commercial real estate firm in downtown Seattle. My job was literally to stay behind the desk and answer phones/green guests. I couldn’t even go to the bathroomwithout having someone come to cover for me. In other words? Not a work-from home gig, but between the 2-hour commute and constant pressure to be “on,” man did I dream about it!

My second job was a bit more work-from-home friendly. In theory. I was a on a web-team for a wireless company. Let me put it this way: my job was managing THE INTERNET for a CELL PHONE company. Literally, 99.9% of my job could have been done with a laptop and a cell phone. Some of my bosses understood this and were supportive of my requests to do my job the way I worked best. Others bosses valued my presence in the office over my productivity.

After six years of being asked to sit in a cubicle to do a job I could have done from home in the less than the time it took me to drive to work, I couldn’t take it anymore. I quit. Without another job lined up.

Two days after that, knee-deep in resume updating, my husband got a job offer to NYC, and it was the impetus I needed to realized that the life I wanted was one where I got to work for myself, whenever, wherever I want.

I wanted to be the boss. My own boss.

(I’m pretty sure I have issues with authority, but whatever).

Many years, and many many books later, I’ve achieved the dream. I work from home. Or a remote office. Or Starbucks. Or my neighborhood bar.

And you know what? It’s everything I dreamed of. Better. Granted, I get up at 5am and dress for work in “real clothes” and makeup almost every day even if I didn’t leave the house. But I could get up at noon. And I could work in my pajamas. And that’s a very heady feeling!

However. Lest you think it’s all sunshine and roses, I’ve got a warning for all of you dreaming as I did about the work-from-home scenario …

Being your own boss, means … you’ve got to be your own boss.

You’ve got to be the one watching the clock. You’ve got to be the one getting it done. You’ve got to be accountable to yourself.

It’s not always easy, but it is possible. Here are 5 tools/tricks I’ve learned over the years to ensure that I get the sot out of each work day and go to sleep each night feeling proud and accomplished.

Here are my top 5 work work-from-home essentials to get you started

(1) A time-tracker

The number one trick to being effective at managing your time, is knowing how you spend it. It sounds obvious, but it’s really easy (and common!) for hours to slip by, and then you look up, and it’s noon, and you haven’t gotten a single thing off your to-do list completed yet. Find some way to write down what you do for every single hour of your day. It can be an elaborate app/service (Google time tracking app and you’ll get a million hits), or it can be as simple as writing down each hour on a piece of paper and scribbling a couple words about what you intend to do during the time and what you actually did. I personally prefer a paper planner. I’m a Bullet Journal girl these days, but if you’re looking for a fabulous planner that has a daily schedule built in alongside your to-do list, check out KitLife or Day Designer.

(2) A timer

Tracking how you spend each hour will only be useful if you know what hour you’re actually in! I’m partial to this cube timer. Starting at six am, I flip over the 60-minute timer, and repeat every hour on the hour until 4-6pm (depending when I call it a day). I find that the quick “flip it over” form factor of this one means that I never forget to reset it, but you could certainly use an egg timer, your oven timer, your phone timer, etc. 

(3) A desk you love

Working from home means a lot of time … at home. While you may not have the luxury of a separate home office (I don’t!), do your best to separate your work/living space. Train your brain to associate one part of your home with “work space” and another with “off time.” The more you love your work space, the more you’ll enjoy showing up for work each day. I love this one from CB2. It’s big enough to be useful, not so big that it dominates the room. And though the wheels might seem dorky, it makes for quick/easy room rearrangement!

(4) Dropbox (or a similar cloud-based service) 

This may not be as crucial if you’re working from home as an employee of a large enterprise with provided tech, but if you’re self-employed, you won’t have the luxury of a company’s IT system/network behind you. Please, please don’t be one of those silly people that relies exclusively on your computer’s hard drive. Even the best, most expensive computers can hiccup. Or have accidents. Or run-ins with a glass of water. And if you’re self-employed, there’ll be no one to bail you out! Back-up every document, every file, no matter how minor to the cloud by default. I store everything directly to Dropbox, and sometimes to iCloud as well. My computer could go up in smoke right now, and I would lose a single thing beside the computer itself. Don't back-up once a week. Not “tomorrow.” NOW. Always, right now. There’s no excuse. (If you’re an author reading this, I’m also talking to you!) 

(5) At least one “luxury” item that brings you joy

It’s not easy to bring your best hustle day in and day out. Make sure you stay excited! Some days will have busy work, hard work, work you don’t want to do. Surrounding yourself with something that excited you will help get you through the rough days. It could be a fabulous rose gold MacBook. A sexy fountain pen. A high-quality notebook. Noise-cancelling headphones to listen to your music while muddling through that spreadsheet. Fresh flowers. A Kate Spade desk accessory. Invest in something that reminds you of how good you’ve got it 😃

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

— Theodore Roosevelt

Author CareerLauren Layne