Archive for Home Office Organization

Are you Comfortable in your Home Office?

You want to be comfortable when you are working at home, but not so comfortable that you are falling asleep.  You want to make sure you have a comfortable chair, good lighting, and a productive environment to work in.  Having a comfortable space to work will help to make you more productive and help you to enjoy your solpreneurship even more.

A comfortable chair is so important when you are sitting in front of the computer or even having a detailed conversation with a customer.   If the chair you are sitting in isn’t comfortable, you want to put this at the top of your wish list.  You will be amazed at how much more you enjoy your office and your business when you have a comfortable chair in your home office.  I had a broken chair for several months and thought, it wasn’t all that bad and I got used to the game of trying to find a comfortable position each time I sat down.  Once I had replaced that chair and could now sit without a “process” I actually enjoyed my office more again.  I hadn’t realized how much it was bugging me until I replaced the chair, so yes it does make a difference.  I know that standing desks are very popular and if that is the way you prefer to work, you still need a comfortable work station set up too.

Lighting can be very tricky to get right.  A common issue for a lot of home based business owner is that we tend to have created our home office in whatever space was available at the time and very often this is in the basement or a corner of a bedroom.  These spaces are all too often dark holes, places that light can’t reach.  If this is the case for you, make sure you take make an extra effort to make sure that you truly have adequate lighting for what you are doing.  Personally, I prefer to work in bright light.  I have and overhead light and also a desk lamp, though in all honesty, I just changed to a new desk lamp and I’m not sure I like the way I have to face the light, so I may be changing again real soon here.

And don’t forget about what is happening around you.  Is your office a corner of living room where all the noise of the house gathers?  Do you have to wait for specific times of the day to be productive?  The environment that you work in can make such a difference.  I prefer to work in quiet, so I can hear the thoughts in my brain, so I don’t work much when my husband is home and awake, he just comes with noise, and I know that.  Some people love to work with music playing in the backround, if so then make sure your workspace allows you to hear the music easily.

Making sure you are comfortable while you are working will make you more productive and happier with your business overall.  While it may not be possible to get your home office set up just the way you want it today, make sure to have a plan to get the most comfort possible out of your space.

Set Office Hours For Your Business

So how does this get your home office organized?  Trust me, it makes a difference.

This is actually one of the hardest task for new solopreneurs.  You started this business so that you could have freedom and now I’m trying to clip your wings by making you commit to office hours.  Say it isn’t so.  

You don’t have to punch a time clock, but you do need to learn when and how you work best and make sure you are working at those times and under those conditions.  For me, I know that I’m a better writer in the morning, so I make sure that I get that done early.  Now, can I write in the afternoon and evening, of course, but it flows easier in the morning before my mind gets cluttered with thought of the day.  Coaching, I’m better in the late afternoon, early evening, so I schedule me clients accordingly.  Does this mean that if I have a client that can only meet in the mornings I don’t accept them as a client, not usually, we make adjustments.  

Okay, so I have writing hours in the morning and coaching hours in the afternoon.  Those are my set office hours, but that is not all the time I spend on my business.  I want you to be flexible with these blocks, but also protect this time you have set for office hours.  This right here will be the hardest thing for you initially, so don’t skip this step.  This is my most often ignored piece of advice, and it may be my best tip.

Now your office hours can also have an effect on your physical working space.  In the example above, I like to write in the morning, so I don’t want my desk placed where the sun is going to come blazing into my eyeballs while I’m trying to inspire to others.  This is how office hours have an impact on your home office organization.  

Another note about office hours while we are talking about this subject, other people will not respect your time working at home if you don’t.  For some reason, if you work from home people seem to assume you have all the free time in the world, but if you don’t actually get work done, then you don’t get paid.  When you have set office hours and you keep to that schedule then you will also teach others in your life to respect your working time too.  

Now if you struggle with time management, a great resource is Time Management Strategies for Entrepreneurs:  How to Manage Your Time and Increase Your Bottom Line.  There are lots of wonderful lessons in the book that will get your time organized quickly.

Draw a Diagram of Your Ideal Home Office

Now if you are artistically challenged like I am the idea of drawing anything strikes fear in your heart, don’t fear, this is very easy.

I want you to dream big here, this should be the home office that allows you to be the most productive version of yourself.  Put down on paper all the elements you want included in your ideal home office.  Don’t limit yourself by money or even by your actual physical space, that will come later.  The reason I want you to put down all everything you want now is so that you don’t start editing yourself before you even get started.  

For example, if you said I have $100 to spend to get my office organized, how should I spend that money to improve my home office.  Now you have a limit to how much you can spend, so your brain is going to think about solutions that are under $100, but if you just let your mind wander without the limits, you will be surprised what you may come up with.  

I will be honest, when we moved last year, my new office space was smaller than in our previous home, so I had to make some compromises and have already had a major rearrangement of furniture, but I made the space work for me.  But I knew in my heart that I really needed a better space to process the books that I sell on Amazon.  Recently, we made some changes in the our home and I now have a space near my office to process my books.  The point is that I figured out how to make due with what I had, but I also knew that I wanted something different, and when the opportunity presented itself, I was ready.  

Having created that ideal plan on paper will give you the ability to see what you need to take care of right away and what can wait.  

So now about that actual diagram.  As I mentioned, I’m not an artist.  When I have a picture in my head and attempt to translate that to paper, I don’t even recognize what it is supposed to be, so I keep my diagrams very simple.  I draw squares and label what the item is supposed to be, and put the square where I want the item.  My squares are not even to proper scale, I have some small items that have squares larger than my actual desk square.  This is not art class and you aren’t being judged on the artistic merit of your drawing.  Another great option here is to use sticky notes.  Write everything down on stickies and then you can easily move them around your “room” as you plan out your space.

Okay, so now you have a good exercise for your mind and you don’t have to become an artist to have a productively laid out home office.  Share your results and/or struggles in the comments below.

Identify Your Home Office Problem Areas

Sounds simple right?  But the truth is we get used to what we get used to.  

I will share an example from my own life.  My last office chair was often used for another seat at the table during family game night.  It ended up being broken, but still usable.  It was like balancing on a top – using the seat of the chair – so I told myself it was like sitting on a Pilates ball, it will work my core.  Haha.  Let just say it was not easy to get comfortable in that chair, so I intended to replace it right away.  I was actually at a Staples store and they didn’t have the chair I wanted, so I just kept using the chair – for almost 9 months.  I had gotten used to the process of finding the “best” spot to balance the seat for maximum comfort, it no longer seemed as uncomfortable, it was just part of my day.  So how many broken chairs are you sitting on?

Take a good, honest look at what you don’t like in your home office and why.  Now, in the example of my broken chair, it was obvious why I didn’t like it – I prefer comfort, but not everything is so crystal clear.  My problem can often be to get started.  Once I get going, I’m good, but if I let myself, I can be an excellent procrastinator.  Instead of writing my blog post, I can clean my bathroom, do a load of laundry, take the dog for a walk, rearrange furniture, you get the idea.  And I tell myself it’s okay because I’m getting stuff done.  

So the problems can be physical or mental struggles as well.  Sadly, our culture has helped to become great identifier of problems, but not very good at solutions.  I want you to be able to get rid of those problem areas for good, so dig a little deeper, don’t just write down the obvious, be  honest with yourself.  You are your own worst critic, so use that critical voice and let it run free, but for every problem there has to be a why or a solution.  Even if you can’t come up with a solution, if you identify the problem with a why, the answer will come, whether from within yourself or from an outside source, and you will know it when you see it. Because you had identified the problem and why it was a problem, the solution will be easier to identify.  

So this is all still part of the planning process, don’t get discouraged, you’re changing your mind just by doing this exercise, and this will have longer term benefits than if you had just bought a new filing system.  Don’t get me wrong, you may need a new filing system, but until you can see the big picture, you can’t create a lasting result.  Try to have fun with all your problems, they can be silly problems too – like I don’t like that my office window allows me to see my dog do his business, but I do love my large window that looks out into my backyard.  This a a problem I have no immediate solution for, but I have identified the problem, so eventually a solution will come.

Oh and by the way, I did get me an awesome new office chair that is so comfortable – I’d love to know if there are any problem areas I can help you with – just leave a comment below.

Schedule the Time to Get Organized

This is really your first organizing test.  To make the time to get organized takes a bit of organization and more than a bit of commitment.  

Now, before you add the time to your calendar, I want you to think about the size of the project you’re committing to and how you work best.  If you have years worth of paper to go through, you may not be able to do it all in a day, especially if you insist on going through every single one, so you may need multiple days.  If you need to move furniture, you may need assistance, so make sure to schedule time when you will have help, not an afternoon when you are home alone.  And if you know you will get bored after 1 hour of sorting through stuff, then schedule several appointments with yourself to get the job done.  And really don’t force yourself to sit at a task for 8 hours when you know your mind quit at 1 hour, that is a real waste of your time.

So now that you have put some thought into how much time you will realistically need and how best to schedule your time, you can are ready to make the commitment to your calendar.  

Don’t forget to check in with yourself and make adjustments as needed.  This is where people really get lost in the organizing process.  You make a plan and then you execute the plan – right?  Yes, and no.  So I want you to have a plan, but don’t be rigidly committed to the plan if it isn’t working for you, but don’t use this as an excuse, not to get organized.  Have I lost you yet?  Be committed to the time and the tasks, but if you find that 1 hour sessions really dip after 35 minutes, then maybe 2 30 minutes blocks of time during the day is better than one long hour session.  If you find that you moved your physical layout around and now the sun is in your eyes during your best working times, move the desk again.  

Don’t stick with a plan that isn’t working, but don’t abandon your goals either.  I know that once you start to see results it will help to motivate you to do even more.  Please share how you are doing with the scheduling time to get organized in the comments below.

Make a Decision to Get Organized

Getting organized is a great idea and I commend you for making the decision to get started, now I want to make sure you reach your organizing goals.

Since you have come to a website about organizing you realize that you have an area or areas that need improvement.  You already know that being unorganized is costing you time and money.  But did you know that if you don’t work on your mindset along with making the actual changes, you are very likely to end up with the same piles of clutter and maybe even more – you know like when you go on a crash diet and end up weighing even more than before you started the diet – your clutter will do the same thing.  

Your clutter is just a physical (and sometimes digital) sign that there is a problem.  So while you need to fix the problem, you first need to identify the problem.  Sometimes the answer is as simple as adding a [simple solution].  But if the problem is reoccuring or is reflective of other areas of your life you really need to look past the pile of papers and find out what is really underneath.

So now you know that making the decision to get organized is a great first step, but you also need to commit to looking for “deeper” solutions.  Spend some time paying attention to when you add to that pile of clutter, what sort of items are they?  Do they not have a permanent home?  Are you unsure if you need to keep an item or if you can just throw it away?  Has this pile of stuff just become a habitual dumping place?  Looking at our habits can be a great way to identify what needs to be changed.  One of my favorite books on the subject is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.   It may help you discover why you struggle with your current habits.

Another way to identify problem areas is to pay attention to your wishful thoughts. You know that little voice that says “I wish…”  as you go throughout your day.  For example, if every time you sit down at your desk and your think “I wish I had a more comfortable chair.” We all have these thoughts all the time and often dismiss them, but they provide us with so much information, don’ t just let them go anymore.  Now, I’m not suggesting that you will fulfill every single wish, I’m telling you to pay attention to the wishes, you will ultimately have to decide what “wishes” to fulfill and which ones remain with the fairy dust.  

So you need to pay attention to your habits and your thoughts and you will be so much better served when you actually get to the actual task of organizing.

How often do you shred?

Or should I ask, do you shred at all?

We deal with lots of private information all day long and while more and more of it is handled electronically, how do you deal sensitive paperwork?

I have a fantastic shredder that I picked up at a local yard sale.  It is heavy duty and does a great job, the only drawback is that it is not a cross cut shredder.  It is also an older model, so I have to be careful not to shred too much in a single session, it will just stop if it gets overworked.

My husband and one of his good friends also like to have bonfires outside burning fireand I am happy to let them use my already shredded paper or to be shredded paper to help get the blaze going.  Do you ever use burning as an alternative to shredding?

What do you shred?

I worry that I am shredding more than I need to and I could just throw away or recycle some of the items I spend my time shredding.  Anything that has my social security number is a no-brainer, and I like to make sure to shred anything that has my date of birth also, though I know that information is pretty easy to find.m

I try to also shred anything that has account numbers, better safe than sorry.

And client information.  Client notes and of course and financial information, though it is rare that I have direct access to financial information.  When I am working 1-on1 with a client, I am always taking notes, sometimes they are worth reviewing and sometimes they are random words and ideas that really weren’t all that significant afterall, but I do keep them for a period of time and it does help me as I prepare for each session.  The big question for me with client information is how long to hang on to it, or when to shred it?

So am I putting too much thought into shredding?  Do you struggle with any of these issues or other shredding related issues? I would love to hear your  thoughts in the comments below.