Ever spent an hour searching for an important document when you should have been working? Organization is key to staying productive. Whether you work at the kitchen table or you have a spacious home office, staying organized can be difficult. Fortunately, it’s not impossible.
Where to Start
One of the most overwhelming parts of getting organized is deciding where to start. It’s easy to close the door to a messy room and ignore it. That is, until you need to find something in there, then you waste time searching through the chaos. Set aside a few hours to get your workspace organized the first time. Doing it when you need to find something will backfire.
Start by clearly delineating a workspace within your home. You don’t need a fancy office, but any workspace should be free of items that aren’t work-related, like toys. Ideally, it should be in a low-traffic, distraction-free zone. This ensures items you don’t need for work will not take over your space. It will also help you stay on task.
Some organizing is unique to an individual’s business or work style. There’s such an art to it that professional organizers build their businesses helping people get their stuff straight. You can take these two broad steps to tame your office tornado.
● Declutter. This sounds simple, but it’s a whole process in itself. Decluttering means getting everything unnecessary out of your workspace, whether it’s outdated paperwork, kids toys, or the laundry basket. Also, decluttering things that distract you or complicate your workflow, like a tangle of wires behind the computer or stacks of books in your way.
● Put everything in its place. Choose convenient locations for items you need to access daily, like office supplies, printer paper, and reference books. Things you don’t use frequently can be put in containers, labeled, and stored out of sight or up high. Files should be kept in a file drawer or container and always labeled.
Keeping it Together
Once you’ve conquered your space and everything has it’s place, you must practice a few simple habits to keep it that way.
● Create and stick to business hours, including breaks. Set a timer. It’s tempting to work as much as possible from home, but keeping yourself on a schedule will make you more productive and your break time truly relaxing. This will also keep your workspace from being a space for meals, play time, and other non-work activities.
● Use a planner or to-do list. Google Calendar and Google Tasks are excellent, free to use, and are mobile accessible. Having a concrete list of items to accomplish each day is the best way to organize work goals and meet them.
● If you have important paperwork that needs to be saved, file it immediately, so it’s not hanging around your desk. Same for putting everything away in the space you assigned it while organizing. If you always put things where they belong, you’ll always know where to find them, quickly. This applies to digital documents and folders, too. Your virtual desktop should be as tidy as your physical one.
● Choose one hour per month or 15 minutes per week for decluttering. Make sure it is part of your schedule, then do it. Keeping up with the clutter will prevent you from having to lose work time dealing with a mess.
When you’ve cleared the clutter, found a place for every last paper and pencil, and scheduled time to keep your home office organized in the future, you’ve mastered the art of staying organized while working from home.