Five Ways to Turn To Do to To Done in your Home Office Today
By: Erin Trafford, DIY Passion Media
Every home has a few key hot zones; you know, the rooms in the house that are in constant use and seem nearly impossible to keep neat and tidy?
I’m talking about spaces like the front entry, kitchen and, yes, the home office.
Statistics suggest the rise of the ‘work from home’ freelancer is only going to continue, with nearly half of all digitally-based employees using a home office at least once per week.
And so, a large number of us are faced with finding organizing solutions for home offices that flow well with productivity and with everyday home life.
For example, in a home office we want to pay attention to things like aesthetics and ‘matching’ the flow of the overall home, efficiency and affordability are important and, to be honest, as a work-at-home-mom, I want a one stop shop for all my office needs.
Here are my top five tips for taking your home office from a cluttered mess to a hive of efficiency and organization, so you can get back to the business of being you.
This is like the ‘can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em’ category and every small business owner has to find a system that works for managing receipts. I’m not talking about the actual accounting spreadsheets you use (though if you’re looking for those, there are some great software apps available these days), but I am talking about a physical system for storing all those tiny pieces of folded paper that come in and out on a daily basis.
I literally dump receipts and papers into the tote as they come in until the last day of each month. That’s when I open the tote, scan all the receipts, log them in my software and file them into a monthly folder in that same tote.
One incredible product I found this year that’s kept this process even smoother are these half-size hanging file folders. I use them to store smaller receipts like parking stubs and bridge tolls and we also keep the family cheque book in one of them.
Once again, not talking about accounting accountable, but rather staying accountable to yourself. The work-at-home life is all about finding motivation and drive to produce solid work while also maintaining a decent balance and sometimes we need a good personalized system to keep up momentum.
There are loads of incredible day planners out there to keep meeting dates and deliverables sorted (if you’re the pen to paper kind of person), but there’s also the option to design and bind your own personalized accountability package.
For example, as a professional blogger and consultant, I use one that helps me plan out blog posts, SEO and keywords and also tracks ideas for related posts. I’m not going to find a planner like that on the shelf! So I drafted one up using some simple design software and have it printed out quarterly. I love using Staples Print & Marketing solutions for this! I just upload my PDF file and pick up my printing while running grocery errands. Easy-peasy.
If you’re finding the standard planners just aren’t cutting it for your creative brain, try designing one that will work for you and keep you more organized and accountable long term.
The Triangle Rule
Space is typically at a premium in home offices, right? So how do you know how big your desk should be? I like to use the triangle rule, or the rule of three.
Sit down at your workspace and identify the three items you literally touch the most often in any given work day.
For me, it’s my keyboard, my notebook and my phone.
Then find a desk that can accommodate all three of those things all at once and work outwards from that. Anything that isn’t one of your three items can be stored beyond your desk, either on a bookshelf, a storage tower or in desk drawers.
Kids & Pets
One key difference with the home-versus-traditional office is that we tend to not have extra ‘filing closets’ in our houses and so most of us have to find space for personal and household filing in our working offices too.
Enter the ‘kid binder’ system, otherwise known as the label it-pocket-it-put it away system.
Purchase a three-ring binder for each child in your house. You’ll probably want a 1.5” to 2.5” binder depending on their age.
Then buy a pack of pocket inserts for each binder and label them for all the categories in your child’s life; birth certificate/SIN card, school registration, report cards, extra curriculars (you may want to give each activity its own pocket depending on how active your kids are).
Then as each bill is paid, registration made and report card received, file it in the binder and put it on the shelf. Done. (Full admission: I also use this binder system for all three of my fur babies.)
Conferences and Big Ideas
Hopefully you have a chance to go to some professional networking events throughout the year or maybe even work in a cool co-working environment and meet some new people. When that happens, it’s always great to have a way to capture the moment and energy so you can revisit them down the line. I like to use a simple notebook-plus-folder system.
I tend to have three notebook-folders going at once: one set for daily meetings, one set for networking and conferences and another that is devoted to my largest project.
What all of this is getting at is that you’ve got to find a system that works for you. Putting in the time to create small, efficient systems in your home office will go a long way to reducing clutter and making your work-at-home environment more enjoyable and, possibly, more profitable.
Erin Trafford is the creative force behind the lifestyle blog DIY Passion. She started documenting her DIYs and small space living on the Internet in 2012 and her only reader at that point was her Mom. Now, she reaches hundreds of thousands of readers a month with her honest and #unstaged approach to life, home, organizing and parenthood. Erin is an award-winning broadcast journalist and lives in Nova Scotia with her husband and two-year old daughter. Check out her blog www.diypassion.com, or follow her on Facebook and Instagram.