Arrange Life & Work for Productivity & Fun
Balancing work and play lies at the foundation of a successful career working from home. There are some significant hurdles to overcome in getting there: establishing workable routines that involve your kids, arranging child care when needed, establishing ground rules, and more. We offered useful tips for solving barriers to a successful home business with kids recently, so be sure to check that out after reading through this article.
Beyond managing those less tangible (but still very real) barriers, you can make improvements to how your home office is arranged to accomplish two major aims: improve productivity, and increase your enjoyment of the space. After all, if your home office is all work and no play you won’t want to spend much time there.
Reduce the Chaos: Manage the Paper Storm
You can easily allow papers to pile up within the home. It starts with one, then five minutes later you’re covered in bandages and stinging from a thousand paper cuts. The clutter can easily take over the space, reducing your access to more important documents.
Purge the space systematically using a 4-phase system:
- Shred or discard what isn’t relevant
- Filing valuable documents
- Work on actionable documents until they’re safe to discard or file for safekeeping
Work a purge project into a weekly routine, as paperwork has a way of stacking back up rapidly.
Color Code Your Workflow
A truly functional office space thrives on good administration. Keep organized and improve the visibility of your most important work files through color coding. It’s really not too different from organizing the various other rooms of your house.
We recommend a 5-color system to cover your bases:
- Financial – Green
- House – Blue
- Insurance – Yellow
- Medical – Red
- Personal – Orange
Manage the Mail Mischief
Bonus points if you set up a similar system to the one above for your mail (ingoing and outgoing). Some simple categories to get you started include mail ready to file away, bills incoming / bill payments outgoing, as well as sorting for individual family members.
When the mail arrives, get it into sorting right away. This can dramatically reduce build-up of your paper clutter along with allowing you to take action on items in a more sensible fashion. Once or twice weekly go through the mail to ensure you’re not missing any time-sensitive activities, or to re-prioritize items.
A Home Base for Your Printing
Even compact printers can take up a great deal of space when you account for paper supplies and feed trays, but let’s face it: your home office likely has a Sherman tank of an all-in-one printer. It may be tempting to have this positioned within arm’s reach, but your printer’s “zone” of supplies and activity may impose itself on your work surface. Try setting up your printer and its supplies slightly out of the way of YOUR work space; if the printer is also being used by other family members, it is helpful to place it closer to the entrance of the office for everyone’s easy access. A wireless printer could potentially even be placed within a home office cabinet to further remove it from thoroughfares.
Store, Sort, Start Celebrating
Having a drawer and cabinet system for all of your office supplies is just the right way to go. You may like having some commonly used tools like a stapler on your desktop surface, but putting these things back in their home at the end of the day allows you to begin afresh each morning. Decluttering can improve your happiness and contentment.
Label Everything. Label the Cat!
Okay, don’t label the cat. But investing in a reliable label maker in order to label all of those drawers, cabinets, files, and record boxes can save you a ton of time in the long run. You may remember now what you’ve stored in a particular location, but give it a week after the last time you thought about it. Poof! It disappeared! The labeling also helps other family members, as they may not be as intimately familiar with your filing system.
Things are starting to come together, with cabinet and drawer storage, the printer “zone”, and labels galore. It’s time to consider discrete regions of the office for different storage and access purposes. Keeping like items with like can streamline your time and reduce wasted effort trying to get things done. A small example of this in action: Keep your stamps with your mail sorting center rather than some miscellaneous drawer.
Common categories for home office supply distribution:
- Budgeting items such as calculator, calendar of bills, checks, etc
- Writing implements–pens, pencils, markers large and small
- Adhesives: Sticky tabs, sticky notes, plain old stickers. You get the sticky. Er, picture.
- Label maker and label tape
- Various tools such as your stapler, staple remover, 3-hole punch, etc
Making Use of Wall Space
Taking advantage of all the vertical space is an overlooked strategy in optimizing home office space. Maximize the value of your office by utilizing hanging file systems, whiteboards, shelves, cabinets, and calendars. You’ll open up significant floor space for mobility and comfort.
Organize Books & Resources
No matter your occupation or pursuits, it’s unlikely you haven’t accrued a small library of relevant resources (or even like to be surrounded by your personal literary choices). For a stunning aesthetic boost to the area, try arranging the books by color!
Color Coding… Always Color Coding
Your books will never be more comfortable than when they’re rubbing shoulders with color-coded binders. If you have a significant amount of shelving space relative to drawers or cabinets, this is an excellent way to store your most valuable documents.
Great binder categories to consider:
- House – Home-related info regarding maintenance, remodeling, pests, security, what have you
- Manuals/Instructions – Sub-categorize sections and store all instructions for appliances or software here
- Automotive – Everything related to your auto bills, registration, insurance, etc
- Pets – Medical records, vaccinations, etc
- Medical – Having all of your family’s medical records in one location can be a literal lifesaver. But it’s also simply convenient when going to a new doctor or specialist.
- Personal – Everything that doesn’t fit into previous categories can be put here
Once you’re done organizing your home office, you can start cleaning out your garage! How exciting.