Whether you work from home full-time or you just need a place to focus when your bring work home with you, home office organization will make getting your job done easier. Your work environment can affect productivity. If you have ever tried to work with screaming kids and a blaring TV in the background, you probably know how true this is.
Noise, clutter and other factors can increase the amount of time it takes to complete your work or reduce the quality of the completed project. An article in Forbes magazine cites Harvard Business study, which showed that individuals have a harder time concentrating and performing in noisy environments. Privacy is always best, particularly for a home office.
One reason work-at-home employees are encouraged to create an office space is to reduce other distractions, like the dishes in the sink or the basket of laundry waiting to be folded. Clutter is distracting. A Princeton University study found that clutter distracts in the form of “multiple stimuli” fighting for your limited attention. Make your workspace more efficient by cutting clutter and using a few of these tips to streamline the space.
Go through what you have
Before you can do anything else, you need to sort through what you have in your office. Did you know that the average person takes 10 minutes to find one document? That is because most people misfile, mislabel or misplace most of their paper documents.
Take a few hours one weekend and gut your home office. Go through old papers and shred or junk stuff you do not need. Then group everything you have by “like objects” (All financial papers together, all office supplies together, all CDs or other tools together). This lets you visually assess what you have so that you can plan your storage/display needs better.
This step will likely make a major dent in your organizational problems. A few more tricks should put your office in top-shape quickly. Here are a few ways you can organize your home office for success:
Make use of the entire room
• If you have a closet in your office, maximize this space by adding extra shelving and/or hanging organizers to keep extra supplies and files organized and out of sight. One of the best benefits about a closet is that it allows you to shut the door and block out distractions.
• If you do not have a closet, make your own storage center with tall open shelves and matching baskets or bins. You can still keep your supplies organized and mostly out of sight. With a variety of shelf styles (from tall freestanding, to shorter bench styles) you can find something that will work in your space.
• Make use of ignored space by building up. Make your entire room work for you by using more empty space. Tall shelving is a great example of maximizing empty space. Go floor to ceiling (and use mirrors on the back to make the space feel bigger). You could also hang storage racks from the ceiling or raise shelves on cinder blocks to create more space underneath.
• Hang baskets from the back of the door for even more storage.
Be tech Savvy
You may think that getting with the times and investing in some new technology may have little to do with staying organized. Au Contraire. Here are a few ways being tech savvy can help with home office organization.
• Go wireless. Wireless internet and a wireless printer eliminate the need to deal with annoying wires in your space and allow you to hide the router and printer out of sight.
• Thin is in. Smaller computers and more compact printers/scanners/fax machines make it much easier to keep your office space tidy. Go paperless to eliminate the need for a printer, scanner and fax machine and save extra floor space.
• Go electronic. Nix the rolodex and sticky-notes by using electronic versions instead.
Get the Right Tools
One of the best ways to stay organized is to know your weaknesses and buy items that will help offset the things that are likely to get your office space out of whack. A few helpful tools you might consider include:
• Electronic scheduler: Install an electronic calendar or planner on your computer. Many models will allow you to set up reminders as well. This can eliminate a lot of paper clutter from your desktop and help you stay on track. Another alternative is desktop sticky notes, which look exactly like sticky notes, but are on your computer. This much more eco-friendly option lets you keep your reminders in sight without cluttering up workspace.
• File supplies: Paper clutter is the stuff that nightmares are made of. You can eliminate most of your paper clutter and make it easier to find what you need, when you need it, with a better system.
• Invest in a good filing cabinet and colored hanging files. Then assign a color to each category. You may consider keeping one drawer for business files and one drawer for personal files. Keep track of your color code so it is easier to file and find paperwork as needed. You may want to label the outside of each drawer (especially for taller cabinets) to make retrieval even faster.
• Keep an electronic version of important documents stored in the cloud or on an external hard drive offsite. A computer virus or fire could make work very difficult for you. Prepare ahead so you can avoid any mishaps.
• Buy furniture with wheels. You can push a wheeled filing cabinet or printer desk under a table or into a closet when you do not need to access it.
One of the best ways to keep your home office organized is to spend a few minutes every night tidying your office space. Refile papers, put away office tools and clear off clutter. Wipe down your desktop, computer screen and keyboard once a week. Empty the trash one night and vacuum the space another night. Staying organized is much easier than having to reorganize!