In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic changed how many people in the U.S. and abroad work. Within a few weeks in March, many people who used to go into an office to work were told they were to work from home until it was safe to come back to the office.
As the disease spread, it became clear that teleworking would become the norm.
You may have already worked from home, or you may have been a telecommuting newbie. Either way, we’re betting you either managed to convert one of your rooms into an office, or you found a nice corner to set up.
Just like in the company office, it’s important to keep your space organized. A clean space leads to a clear mind. When you see clutter around you, it tells your brain there’s a lot of work to be done, and it can lead to stress and a sense of being overwhelmed. A clear space lets you focus.
We suggest these steps for getting your home office space organized this year.
When it comes to organizing, the first thing to do is declutter, which is why we cover this topic so often. For your home office, it should be easier than for other parts of your home, focus on what you can remove from your working space.
Let’s assume that you want to keep most of what’s in there, including decorations, books, and so on. Start by moving those items to other parts of your home. If they distract from work, get them out of the way.
Papers pile up quickly. It’s easy to lose track of paperwork you need to deal with as well as stuff you can get rid of. So, go through your papers. Scan records you need to keep and get rid of the physical copies that you don’t.
Using Storage Boxes
These days we really don’t need to keep a lot of paperwork around. There are some original paper copies that you should keep, but as mentioned, you can scan most things.
Put the rest in folders and in a storage box. Document boxes work great for this. Plus, they look official.
If your work involves crafting, use a stationary box, which has many useful compartments, or a shelving or boxing system that works for what you do, and keep everything in its place while you’re not working on it.
Some things are best labeled. Of course, as this is your workspace, so long as you know what goes where and you stick to your system, you may not need to stick labels on things. However, document folders and boxes certainly should be labeled. This will make it easier to find what you need and not waste time.
It can be especially difficult to know which cord goes to which device. Because of this, it’s a good idea to label your cords.
For each cord, at each end, take a label, place the cord half-way across the stick side, and fold the label over. Then, write on the label what the cord goes to. If something gets unplugged or you run into another cord-related issue, it will be much easier to figure out how to remedy it.
Inbox, Outbox, and Processing
It’s a good idea to have three trays either on your desk, or suspended on the wall in front of it, for paper items. One will be your inbox, for new mail and other paperwork you’ve just received, one your processing box, for items you’re currently working on, and one your outbox, for outgoing mail and things you’ve dealt with.
Send out mail you’ve put in your outbox, and deal with the other paperwork in it by shredding and throwing out what you don’t need, and scanning and filing what you do.
Your Work Areas
Depending on your job, you may need one main spot where you work—at your keyboard and computer—or multiple spaces. You may also need a section of your desk for longhand writing.
If you’re a graphic artist, you may need a space to draw. Whatever you do, you know if you need specialized spaces. Make sure you have them, that they’re clean and uncluttered, and that the tools you need for the given task are there.
So many of us love our books, and you probably have a collection related to your job. If there’s room, keep a bookcase in your work area. It should have all the books related to your work lining the shelves.
After that, if there’s room, you may want to put some items that inspire you. Keep most of your other books on bookshelves elsewhere in your home. This is your work area, and needs to be reserved, mostly, for work-related items.
Your office needs to be physically organized, but it helps to be mentally organized as well. One thing that really helps with that is keeping a task, or work, journal. These are commonly called “daily planners,” and there are many out on the market. Creatives may consider The Hero’s Journal. This physical journal turns your goals into a quest. Others include PandaPlanner, and any number of journals from Bestself.co.
Declutter Your Computer
Since we’re on the topic of digital tools, let’s talk about your computer. We encourage you to organize this virtual space as well.
Start with your desktop and your taskbar. On each, make sure the apps you use for your job are there and easy to access.
Organize your work into folders. You may have one folder for pictures, and another for documents you’re working on. You can also split these up into different date ranges. For example, in your documents folder, you may have a subfolder for each month. It’s a good system if it works for you.
Throughout this article, we’ve recommended dedicating your workspace to work-related items only. Here’s the exception. To help you keep a positive attitude, you should include items that inspire you.
You may think immediately of inspirational posters, and if those work for you, by all means, put a couple of them up. However, we’re also talking about pictures of loved ones, awards you’ve won that make you feel proud, and decorations of things that interest you and help make your space feel special. You don’t want to overdo it and, again, clutter up your space, so be selective.
Finally, if you have many files and nowhere convenient to keep them, consider self storage. Per square foot, storage space rents for less than residential or business space. It provides extra room for you to keep personal and business items, including those records, inventory, off-season clothing, and so on.
We wish you a productive and prosperous 2021!