It’s that time of year again when people start to get into the holiday spirit. You can feel it in the air, see it on social media and hear it through your co-workers’ conversations. With so much Christmas cheer around us, there is an undeniable urge to get ready for the holidays by sprucing up our homes and workplaces with some festive decorations. It is important to remember that this includes not just your living room or front entryway but also your home office!
As a full-time freelancer, you may think you can live with your disorganized and cluttered office, but this is actually one of the biggest productivity killers. After all, if you're spending more time looking for things than doing them, then it's time to change that!
The most important thing about cleaning your home office is that you need to do it regularly. If you make a conscious effort to keep the clutter at bay on an ongoing basis, then everything will come together nicely when you really need it.
Every year around this time, many of us gather our resolve to clean up the clutter at home. For some, that means tackling a bathroom or closet. For others, it might mean finally boxing up your son's old action figures.
If you're in the latter group, chances are good that much of what you decide to toss will be papers from your workstation—a mass of file folders and reports from past projects. We all hold onto them for a reason: You may need them in a meeting someday, or they could be part of an ongoing project with a co-worker who was out when you were going through things last.
But, by making sure your home office is neat and organized, you will save yourself some frustration later on when trying to find something specific. Here are ways to get started:
1. Start by Decluttering Your Desk
A cluttered desk can be highly disorienting and harmful to your productivity. Taking longer to locate a document, tool, or anything you require for a particular task affects you physically. It can also harm you mentally and even on an emotional level.
But the truth is that keeping every file you've ever touched doesn't necessarily mean you'll be able to find exactly what you need when you need it. And some employees are finding that filing papers in a digital system make not only easier searches but better organization methods as well.
Therefore, eliminating all instances of desktop clutter is a good place to start in your cleaning. Start by looking at all the paper on your desktop and drawers. Then group them into the following categories:
Discard or shred
Lay all the pieces of paper and folders into neat piles and move them away from your desk. Now, it's time to take stock of your stationery and other supplies. Look out for empty ink cartridges, pens, highlighters, glue sticks, or staple packs.
Keep what's of use for the coming year. Discard what won't be of much use. This step helps you develop an inventory of what needs to be procured in your next shopping trip.
Once you have gotten rid of everything you don't need, it's time to perform a deep cleanse of your desk. Use disinfectant wipes and foam cleaners to get rid of all the dirt and grime on surfaces. A can of compressed air works wonders on your keyboard and other nooks and crannies.
Use soft wipes and screen cleaning fluid to give new life to your monitor. Once your desk is neat, you can move on to dealing with the piles of paper and folders. Put the documents you need to keep and digitize piled neatly as you shred or put whatever you don't need in a recycling bin.
This is a strenuous process, so you can resolve to perform this purge every month to keep your desk clutter-free in the coming year.
2. Move to Your File Cabinets
It’s time to sort the files you kept from the previous step into your filing cabinet. Start by asking what needs duplication or scanning, as this can help you formulate a flexible filing system using the following conventions:
Dedicate a desk drawer or a section in your mobile filing cabinet for all the documents you need in your next meeting. This will help you prepare for your next presentation as it reduces the stress of putting all the documents you need together.
You can also use color-coordinated folders and a mesh desktop organizer to ensure the easy location of these documents at any time.
In most cases, you need to keep documents and other material relating to an accomplished project in an orderly manner for future reference. Here you can dedicate a section of your file cabinet to stow everything.
You can also arrange all the folders into a box that you can move to a floating shelf to save space in your storage cabinet or desk.
You probably have magazines, print documents, and other files that help you research frequent projects. It makes little sense if such materials are hard to access because you need to wade through clutter.
So, take some time to rummage through while deciding what to scan, store or discard. From there, you can store what you need to keep in a dedicated section of your storage space. Then you can shred or recycle the documents you don't need to keep after scanning them.
Waiting on Response (WOR) Section
A large part of our desktop clutter consists of items that await a response from you or other parties. However, they don't have to sit on your desk or spill over into other home office surfaces. Place such documents into a WOR folder.
Check this folder frequently for any follow-up actions or updates that you or other collaborators need to make.
3. A Digital Purge
Scanning all your documents clears your physical storage space. But, it can bring more anarchy into your digital storage. This is because you probably also have pictures, videos, and other pieces of media clogging up your physical and cloud data storage.
A Physical and Cloud Drive Purge
Start by moving all the scanned files into an organized folder on your physical hard drive. You can archive what you don't need to access daily on your cloud drive. From there, move to purge your desktop and other folders on your computer.
An external hard drive comes in handy as storage space for what you may need later. Don’t overlook your download folder because it’s always bursting with things that are not useful. Patience is key here as this process could last a few hours or days.
An Email Sweep
Your social media, emailing, and other digital communication feeds can clutter your mind. So consider your current workload and ask yourself, "What can I eliminate from my digital life to improve my productivity?"
The answer to this question makes it easier to unsubscribe from sites that spam your mailbox with useless bits of communication. It may also be advisable to reconfigure your email filters to filter out such noise in the future.
A Social Media Cleanse
We are currently affected by FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) thanks to social media. This phenomenon often breeds negative emotions that drain you both emotionally and mentally. You can go through your Instagram, Facebook, and other social media sites to see what you can unfollow.
This move helps you reclaim your joy and enhance your workplace productivity. With that, you’ll waste less time and accomplish your tasks ahead of schedule in the coming year.
As you can see, you have more areas to clean if you do it at the end of the year. You can save loads of time by performing a digital purge every week or on a monthly or quarterly basis. So, take some time to schedule such tasks into your calendar or work journal for the coming year.
4. Ergonomics Review and Upgrade
Ergonomics plays a significant role in your comfort and productivity. Ergonomic office furniture comes as a second thought to most home office workers. However, you may be surprised how much space you can save while getting more work done in a shorter period.
Here are some ways the following ergonomic upgrades can impact your life:
1. A Height-Adjustable Desk
A lack of physical activity is the modern-day epidemic! Our sedentary office life fuels cases of diabetes, obesity, poor circulation, heart complications, and other lifestyle-related diseases. Taking breaks to walk around helps.
But using a height-adjustable desk ensures you can have some physical activity without missing a beat at work. This allows you to sit or stand at intervals. Such desks consume less space and also allow you to fit more things into your home office space.
2. An Ergonomic Office Chair
Ergonomic office chairs feature lumbar support, neck rests, and armrests that support your body. This reduces stiffness, aches, and chronic pains to trouble spots all over your body. Such chairs also feature loads of adjustment controls that help you adapt your seat into more comfortable positions.
3. A Monitor Mount
A monitor mount reduces the desktop space you require for a computer monitor. It does so by giving you more access to the area beneath your screen and the flexibility to arrange your desk however you like.
With that, you can position your screen at eye level, so you don't have to slouch or bend your neck while working. This move reduces neck & shoulder pain as well as eye strain.
4. Organize our Cables and Wires- A Cable Management System
Now, this might sound easy enough, but it can actually be a real pain in the neck. Poor cable management creates loads of virtual clutter that can distract you or even cause injuries. Reigning in all those errant cables isn't expensive, and it can give your home office a fresh look.
You can start by sorting and color coding all your cables using a cable management kit. Such a tool comes with zip ties and Velcro strips that hold everything neatly in place. You can also get a cable tray and a cable spine to reduce your reliance on extension cables.
Also, try buying storage boxes for all your cables and small appliances so that they're always stored correctly; or, shorten them so you won't have too much excess lying around if they aren't used very often anymore.
It's almost time for Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations to come out of the attic, and before you know it, you'll be heading back to work after New Year's. Why not save yourself some time during the holidays with a little home office clean-up now?
Performing an end-of-year home office clean-up provides a breath of fresh air into your workspace. However, it requires loads of time, effort, and consideration, which pays off significantly. For one, you eliminate significant physical, emotional, and mental baggage from your life.
And, you could get things done quicker as you don’t need to navigate through piles of clutter to access your work-essential tools or documents.
We hope these tips help you set up a foundation for a productive and comfortable home office in the coming year. This is especially true if you schedule frequent or regular clean-up initiatives. With that, your whole being can focus on the coming tasks as you rise to higher levels in your profession.