A key question that work at home entrepreneurs must answer is how they can be more productive at home. Because without productivity, your home business can’t survive…much less thrive.
Are you as productive as you could be? And if not, what can you do about it?
The ability to get your home office organized is essential if you’re to function at maximum efficiency and strive for increased productivity. If you can’t find a comfortable place to sit, or you can’t find that file you’re looking for, then it’s time to organize.
I know there are some folks who claim that they know where everything is and that any attempt to clean up and organize will simply mess up their system. They claim that despite the apparent mess, they know exactly where things are in those piles. And maybe they do. But it’s a pretty good bet that they’re spending a good amount of time looking for something they know is “right here” because the can’t quite put their hands on it.
This, my friends, is not what it means to be organized!
When your home office is organized it means that you don’t spend more than just a minute or two retrieving something you need. It means you can find files when you need them because you know exactly where they are – they have a place to “live.” Getting organized is the most important thing you can do to be more productive when you work from home.
The following suggestions work for you home office just as they would for you office at a traditional workplace. You need a place for everything you work with and to get into the routine of putting everything where it belongs. In effect, you’re giving things a place to “live” within the home office. Once you know where things live, keeping your home office organized and tidy becomes much easier.
But if your home office is filled with clutter and mess, you can’t function efficiently, and you won’t be productive. When that’s the case, you may need to tackle the mess by dividing the task into individual areas.
First, be sure to have the supplies you need to get your home office organized. I’d suggest starting with your files so make sure you’ve got plenty of file folders on hand. I also suggest that using a color coded system makes retrieval easier.
Now whether you want to use a traditional filing cabinet or something else is up to you. Your files could live in a wicker basket, a portable plastic file box, or whatever other container you like – it’s you choice depending on the number of files you’ll actually need. The only real key is that it’s easily assessible and that it hold all the files you need so you don’t end up having files stored in different locations (because it’s NOT productive to have to go hunt things down in another location).
Depending on the type of business you run, you might dedicate particular colors either to certain types of activities, or to different customers. Personally, I use green folders for everything financial and use other colors for different types of projects. I also keep a file for pending items, one for ideas, and one for things to read.
When you start organizing your papers into files a good rule of thumb is that if you haven’t needed or referred to something within the last six months, it’s probably safe to get rid of it. However, this does not apply to financial records you’d need for tax purposes or other legal matters. For files that need to be stored but that aren’t referenced frequently, you may want to designate a place to keep these that is not in your immediate work zone. Your immediate work zone is what’s considered prime real estate and this area is for things that you’re using daily (or at least very regularly).
While you’re getting organized, try not to handle each piece of paper or file more than once. It’s tempting to get bogged down and waste time reading everything you come across. Don’t do this! If you do, you’ll never get finished with the immediate project. Your goal for right now is to get any mess cleaned up, get rid of clutter, and get your home office organized. Other things can wait till later.
Once the top of your desk is clear and everything is in its place, start with the drawers. Clean desk drawers provide more storage space. Keep your filing system simple. Don’t make it so complicated that it’s hard to retrieve an item. If you’re afraid you might lose track of an article, store it in a clear container or label it in bold letters.
Keep only the essential items on your desk top such as a phone, calculator, computer, and office supplies you need daily such as tape, pens and paper clips. Okay, go ahead and make a space for a family photo or your significant other.
You tend to get much more accomplished if the environment is user friendly. Other personal items however, should not be in plain view or on your desk. Designate a separate drawer for personals and keep them to a minimum.
Create a to-do list and keep it where you see it constantly. If you forget to do something don’t use the excuse that you didn’t check your to-do list or your calendar. Keep your appointment calendar up to date and check it often. The top of your desk should have only one project at a time to keep you focused.
Reward yourself once you’ve completed your organization. Now, keep it that way. When a project is finished, put it away. Straighten your desk and work area at the end of each day so you meet the new day with a clean desk and a clear mind.