These days, most of us have an office or a dedicated workspace in our homes. Many people work from home, and those who don’t use their home office space to pay bills and take care of other personal business. No matter what you use your office for, documents, bills, and other items can start to build up and become cumbersome and disorganized, and a messy environment is not always conducive to productivity. And we have all, at some point, had that hair pulling moment when we can’t find a certain document, and wasted precious time on the hunt.
Investing some time into organizing your home office can save you time (and hair) in the long run. It may seem like an overwhelming task to tackle, but if you create a plan that incorporates five basic steps, you can transform your office into a more productive and more attractive space.
Commit to Going (Mostly) Paperless
It’s a digital age, so take advantage of it and remove as much paper from your life as you can. Invest in a scanner of some kind, if you don’t have one already, so that you can store documents and bills electronically. You may have some things that you want or need to keep on paper, but chances are that most of your paper documents can be eliminated by saving them on your computer instead of in a drawer. You can stop the incoming paper flow too, by having bank statements, bills, and other correspondence delivered to you by email.
If you commit to going paperless, also commit to keeping your documents organized on your computer in labeled folders. You don’t want your disorganized physical space to become a disorganized digital space. And don’t forget to back up your files! Store them on an external drive so that you don’t lose everything if something happens to your computer.
Send Things Packing
If you have records that you have to keep on paper, but you don’t need to use them regularly, get them out. Why take up space in a functional area? Put them in your basement or storage area. Your workspace should be for work, not storage. Organize them before you put them away, though, so that if you need to access them, you can find them quickly and easily.
Labels and Office Supplies
Head to the store and buy some tools to help you put everything in a designated place and make things easy to find. Get labels, drawer organizers, file trays, pen holders, and anything else you might need. You don’t have to do this all at once – as you continue your home office organization project, you might find that you don’t need as many supplies as you thought because you’ve eliminated so many items.
Work on One Space at a Time
Rome wasn’t built in a day… a cliché, yes, but true. Don’t look at the whole space and drive yourself crazy thinking about the hours that it will take, and all the paper that you will be shredding or throwing away. Commit to working on one space a day or a week and start with your workspace – clear the desktop. Doing just that one thing will already make you feel better and more productive. Then tackle the rest drawer by drawer, area by area, and in each area, do the following:
Throw everything away that you don’t need.
Organize what’s left.
Make a list of any supplies you might need for that space.
And whether you decide on a daily, weekly, or other interval plan, put the tasks on your calendar. “Organize drawer 1”, and so on. It will be a reminder, and a push to get you started. Commit to making the task non-negotiable, and if you can’t get to it on your designated day, move it to the next day on your calendar.
Streamline Your Space
Once all the small things are organized, think bigger. What furniture do you have in your space? If you’ve completed all the other steps to organize your home office, you probably have empty drawers, so do you need that file cabinet? What about that bulky desk? You might want to consider a smaller desk, and perhaps a space saving stand-up desk converter. A desk riser will not only give you more open space, but can also improve your posture and reduce the back pain that comes from sitting hunched over. There is even some evidence that standing desks provide other health benefits and increase productivity.
Once you’ve made your furniture choices, consider the layout. Is it set up so that what you need most is easily accessible? Does the space flow?
Just Do It
Make the commitment to organize your home office by minimizing “stuff”, making everything easy to find, and keeping your space – especially your workspace – clear of clutter. Write a realistic plan for the project that doesn’t overwhelm you, refer to your plan daily, and do it! It will take time, but when it’s done, you will have a home office that you feel good about, and that helps you to be as productive as you can be.