Without the structure of an office outside of our homes, it is easy to scatter anything work related all over the house. We still need to complete our work in a timely and efficient manner. After all, the less time we spend working, the more time we have with our family. An organized home office will make for a faster and more pleasant workday. Here are a few ideas to get you and your home office organized.
1) Do you have a home office?
You don’t necessarily need an entire room, but you should have a well-defined space to contain all your office essentials and files.
A desk in your bedroom that will hold your files, paper, pens, calculator and of course computer will do fine, especially in the beginning.
If your “office” consists of the dining room table, some of the drawers in your kitchen, a file cabinet in the basement and the computer in the bedroom, you may want to think about organizing everything in one spot.
Are you spending a lot of time searching for a particular document, running from room to room to find it? Consider moving all your files and papers to one central location, preferably close to the computer if that’s where you are doing the bulk of your work.
2) Keep your personal files and papers separate from your business things.
You will eventually have enough paperwork to deal with without having your personal bills, magazines and the kids’ after-school schedule mixed in there. Create a separate spot for those somewhere outside of your home office space.
3) Create a file system that works for you.
Remember, you may be working for someone else, but when it comes to your home office, you are your own boss.
Think about how you look for a particular file or piece of paper. What will be the easiest way for you to find it? Then create a file system that works for you. Don’t worry, if you don’t get it right the first time, you can always resort and try again. Sooner or later you will come up with a system that is “just right” for you.
4) Take a good look at your work area.
Do you have piles of papers, files, mail, floppy discs and CDs lying around? Do you notice anything else piling up? Set aside a few hours and put everything away. Use your new file system and find “homes” for anything else.
5) Stay organized.
Now that you have your office organized, set aside a few minutes at the end of your workday to keep it that way. Try to “leave work” for the day with a clean, empty desk. You will appreciate it the next morning. This will also prevent you from ever coming across a huge pile of papers again.
6) Add a personal touch to your office.
Bring in some pictures of the kids; add some pretty plants, inspirational quotes, or anything else you can think of that will make your office a pleasant place to work in. In addition to getting and keeping you in a good mood whenever you step in your office, you are more likely to keep it clean and organized if it is a place you treasure. So splurge a little on some special office decor.
7) Keep your computer organized.
Let’s talk about the files on your computer. You can waist just as much time searching for an online document as for a piece of paper. If your computer is used for work as well as for personal use, create a work folder and use subfolders for particular employers, projects etc.
Again, come up with a file system that works for you and keep your work files separate from your personal files. This is particularly important if other family members access the computer as well. If that’s the case, and you are using Windows XP, I strongly recommend setting up a separate user account just for work and password protecting it. This will prevent other family members from accidentally changing or deleting your work files.
8) Organizing email.
In addition to your regular files, you also want to keep your emails organized. Let’s be honest, we have all wasted time searching for a particular email that contained some vital information we needed fast. Setting up folders for different clients and projects has worked well for me, but again find a system that works for you and stick with it. Sort the email as soon as you read it. It only takes a second or two to drop it in the appropriate folder, but will save you a lot of time if you have to find it later.
9) Take time to stay organized.
Now that you have a good filing system (both physical and digital) in place, set aside a little time every few months (or weeks if appropriate) to purge your files. We can quickly accumulate a lot of documents both in our file cabinet and on our hard drive that we no longer need. At the very least, try to purge your files twice a year.
10) Focus on personal organization.
Now that your office is organized, you may also want to take a look at organizing your time. Again, come up with a system that works well for you.
I encourage you to start with a few of these ideas to get your office and yourself more organized. You will be surprised by how much time you will save not searching for files, papers or the stapler. Before long, you won’t know how you ever functioned without an organized home office.