I’ve met thousands of home office professionals through consultations and seminars and many people tell me they can get organized, they just can’t stay organized. Getting organized is easy for some people, while others struggle to set up files, plan each day and find what they need when they need it. These tips will help you save time and improve your productivity.
1. Take a close look at your home office and take out anything that you don’t use for business. Even if you’re using part of a guest bedroom or your bedroom as an office, make sure that everything in your home office space is business-related.
2. Take control over your day by using a to-do list each day or at least weekly. There are several planning options including papers-based systems and handhelds. Decide which system will fit your needs then try it out. If a planning system doesn’t work for you, switch to something else.
3. Choose an office arrangement that fits your work style and lets you reach everything you need in seconds. When I set up my latest home office, the first place I put my desk with a return didn’t feel right. It faced the door which kept me from having my back to the door, but I had to close my blinds to avoid any glare on my screen. I didn’t like not being able to look out the window when I worked so I moved my desk again and now my office looks completely different.
4. Resist the urge to write down phone messages on the nearest scrap of paper. Instead, use a spiral notebook, a phone log, or even a section within your daily planner (if you use a paper-based system). When you’re ready to return a phone call, you’ll know exactly where to find the number.
5. Keep papers-in-progress stored vertically in files rather than horizontally in piles. Use a desktop file holder, preferably one with hanging folders and manila (interior) folders inside. That lets you set up a main category with subcategories inside.
6. Forget the saying “Handle paper once.” Instead, do something to move each piece of paper forward. Either take action on it, file it, pass it on to someone else, make a note on your to-do list of any action you need to take before you file the piece of paper, or recycle it.
7. Fight the urge to stash supplies wherever they will fit. Instead, designate a specific place to store your extra supplies, stationery and products. Store items logically within a closet, shelves or drawers within your office and group them by item. This leaves you with only one place to look for one type of item.
8. At the end of each day, take a few minutes to file loose papers on your desk, put away supplies, and plan for the next day. You’ll save valuable time the next morning and you’ll start the next day on the right track.
Lisa is one of the nation’s leading home office experts and the founder of HomeOfficeLife.com, a firm that advises corporations and individuals on all aspects of working from home. She also writes the blog, Working Naked (www.workingnaked.net).
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