Archive for Home Office Organization

Clarity for Your Business Goals and Organization

If you lack clarity about your business, you are likely to be stumbling along rather than growing your business as you had planned.  Getting clarity about your business and your business goals will help you to get your business organized.

These are some clear signs that your business is not working.

  • You have lost track of what you own (domain names and products you’ve bought being the biggest offenders)
  • You don’t have time to update things that need to be updated
  • You don’t have time to take courses you invested in—or even attend webinars you signed up for
  • You don’t have time to plan for tomorrow because you ended up working late and running on empty
  • Your outsourcing is disorganized and you lose contractors through not being ready for them and wasting their time
  • You are so busy dealing with the day-to-day that you have lost sight of goals for the future (which have become fuzzy and vague)

Heck, if you aren’t able to get organized maybe you have not even been able to outsource anything so far.

But losing track of what you own, scrambling to catch up, losing sight of your goals to the point where you are no longer actively moving towards them every day and don’t even realize it… all these are common problems for solopreneurs—often because of the high level of reactivity that solopreneurs are unfortunately subject to.  

In an traditional job, one is expected to devote every waking minute of the workday to the job at hand. You are expected to limit personal calls and contacts on company time.  But when you work at home, everyone expects you to be “flexible.” They expect you to be wife, mom, sister, daughter and friend—first.

Even if you set your boundaries, there are always emergencies (and those who don’t respect those boundaries).  Often times part of the problem is they don’t really understand what you do.  And trying to explain it yet again feels like you are banging your head against a brick wall.

That is why it is crucial to make sure your business is not just organized but that your organizational system is easy to maintain no matter what life throws at you.

 

The good news is… you can organize your business.

One of the most important attributes you need to have as a solopreneur is clarity. You need to be able to assess your entire business model—what its mission is, where it is right now, where you’re heading—with a single thought.

To achieve clarity, you need to do four things:

  • Decide on or reconfirm your true business focus and goal
  • Take inventory of where your business is at right now
  • Purge any unnecessary distractions
  • Set up an organized, clear routine

Do these effectively, and it won’t be all about staying organized (which can cost you money if you are always in this mode): It will be all about moving forward, taking action and growing your business—without even having to think about it.

To help you gain clarity, here is downloadable worksheet to help you: Clarity Goals Worksheet

I’m Lori Winslow, the Organized Solopreneur.  I help solopreneurs get their business and their life organized.  To get started, pick up a copy of my Top 10 Ways to Get Your Solopreneur Business Organized.

 

 

 

Purging is the Place to Start

I love how graphic the word purging sounds.  And I love how good I feel when I have purged my office, and my home of items that are no longer serving me.  Getting rid of stuff can be as liberating as losing weight.  That is why I always suggest, or even insist that purging your home office is the first step to getting your business organized.

One of the reasons I love books like The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo is that it helps us to allow ourselves to let go of stuff.

I feel that our Western culture places too high a value on stuff, that we need to put more of an emphasis on our life experiences rather than accumulating more stuff.  But lets be honest – not all “stuff” is bad.  We like to have stuff like clean clothes, and for us to have those clean clothes, we need to have a place to keep the clothes, like our closet or dresser and a place to clean our clothes, either in our own washing machine or at the local laundrymat (do they still have those?), these all require a bit of stuff for the stuff – so not all “stuff” is bad.

Back to your business, what is in your physical space that doesn’t need to be there.  What is broken?  What really belongs in another room of the house?  Is there items that are still in good shape, but aren’t useful to you anymore, you can donate those items to a local charity.  Purging is a great place to start because often times it is obvious what you can get rid of, and you can see a visible difference right away.

Now, the next place to purge items is your computer desktop.  Icons, icons, icons, is that all you see when you open your home screen?  Now what do you really use, and what can be put into a folder of like items?  Get rid of stuff that is old.  Do you have ebooks from 2013 taking up space on your desktop?  These are the first items to go.

This should also be an ongoing project.  I like to set aside some time about 1 hour every month, to see if there are items that need to be purged from my office.  This will help you to keep the clutter from building back up, once you have had your own purging.

I’m Lori Winslow, the Organized Solopreneur.  I help solopreneurs get their business and their life organized.  To get started, pick up a copy of my Top 10 Ways to Get Your Solopreneur Business Organized.

The Secret to Successful Organization (And Lots of Other Stuff Too)

I know that you want to be successful in your organizing goals.  Perhaps you have gotten organized in the past only to fall right back into old habits, or you get started organizing, but don’t get very far at all and just abandon the project all together.

Part of the problem may have been that you didn’t have an end goal in sight.  You have to know what you want to do before you can successfully get organized.  I know you want to get organizeed, but you are dabbling, and you aren’t really clear on your next steps along the way.

The world’s most successful people know exactly what they’re doing and where they’re going. They have a clear plan of action and will stop at nothing to make success happen.

If you want to be successful at getting your business orgainzed (and other areas of your life too), you will have to do the same. You will have to have a plan, stick to the plan, and know when you need to be flexible and make the necessary changes.

In addition to knowing what you want to do, you need to know why you’re doing it.  A strong why is a foundation for success.  It keeps you going when you’re tired, when you’re frustrated, when you’re wondering if it’s all worth it, because your why is always the reminder that keeps you moving forward.

What are you doing to get your business organized right now? Are you thinking about what needs to be done?  Are you taking daily action? Maybe you feel like you’re stuck, treading water, but not really getting anywhere.  Maybe you are completely lost — you have bought various products and trainingings that promise to teach you how to get organized, but it hasn’t happened for you yet.

I think the problem may be in your mindset, rather in the specific solution itself.  If you are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, it’s never going to fit.  So, what you’re doing right now may not be truly in alignment with who you are. You’re dabbling, clinging to the idea of the next great thing that comes along.  Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of wonderfully helpful solutions created everyday, but if you don’t have that end goal in sight, they won’t really be that helpful in the long run.

Now, I’m not saying that you have to change the core of who you are, just that you have to have the mindset, that you want to be organized and that nothing will stop you from reaching that goal.  Know that not everything you try is going to be the right fit, but it is easier to recognize this and move on when you have a clear goal and an open mindset.

And one of the big differences between those who are successful and those who aren’t is that they aren’t waiting for a product or a training to make them successful, they modify existing solutions to fit their purpose, or they create their own unique solution.  What an organized business looks like to you most likely won’t be the same as the coffee shop down the street, but isn’t that one of the main reasons you wanted to go into business for yourself?

A switch in mindset can have amazingly wonderful results for you.  Please share in the comments below when a shift in mindset has helped you move past a problem.

I’m Lori Winslow, the Organized Solopreneur.  I help solopreneurs get their business and their life organized.  To get started, pick up a copy of my Top 10 Ways to Get Your Solopreneur Business Organized.

Identifying Your Organizing Style

Getting organized is important.  

The first thing you need to do is figure out your general organizational style. Even as a disorganized person you have a general organizational style. Trust me. Knowing your own personal organizational style will help you avoid choosing methods that won’t work for you.

  • Neat Nelly — She puts everything away out of sight, however the term neat can be questioned. She feels neat because it’s all out of sight and out of mind.
  • Piles Polly — She puts everything out where everyone can see it, usually in piles all over the place. She cannot find anything when she needs it.
  • Basket Betty — She puts everything into baskets so that they look neat and out of sight, but they are anything but neat (and maybe not even out of sight).

Understanding your organizational style will help you move forward with creating a system of organization that works for you.

Working with your personality, instead of against it, will make becoming more organized a lot simpler. So, it doesn’t matter whether or not you pile everything up, stuff everything out of sight, or have lots of baskets and bins with all your work in them. You can work with your natural inclinations to create a plan and develop a system that works for you.

If you’re still not sure about your organizational style, think for a moment about what you do when you receive a monthly bill. Do you throw it on a “bill pile”, file it away, or throw it in a basket (or drawer)? Some people just prefer to be able to see everything because they’re afraid they’ll forget something. Other people feel more accomplished if it’s all out of sight (and out of mind), while others do a mixture of the two.

Which one are you?

My personal inclination is to be a Piles Polly.  I like everything where I can see it, so I don’t forget about it.  My husband on the other hand is a Neat Nelly, if it is out of sight it is cleaned up.  So we tend to compromise along the lines of Basket Betty, we have several “junk” drawers, but at least I get to keep the mail in a tabletop basket so I remember to pay the bills.

Now as you move forward with your office organizing plans you can know what works best for you.  Don’t get a desk with lots of drawers and very little desktop if you tend to be a Piles Polly or even a Basket Betty, you want a system that allows you to have items where they can be seen and easily accessed.  On the other hand if you are Neat Nelly, make sure to get a desk or workspace with plenty of drawers or storage, so that you can keep your items out of sight when you are not working with them.

Please let me know what style you most identify with in the comments below.

What’s Going On Behind You?

Have you given any thought to what appears behind you when you are recording videos or making Skype video calls?  These days, you need to be able to go live – and sometimes unexpectectedly.  All too often we are so worried about how we look – am I right ladies? – that we forget to think about how the room looks.  Some great options are to clean and tidy the space, get a folding screen that you use when making videos or even create a permanent backround/recording area.  Just make sure to think about what is behind you before you turn that camera on yourself.

The obvious is to make sure the space behind you within camera range be cleaned up so that you are not embarrassed by what is behind you.  Now if your subject matter is model airplanes and all you see behind you is model airplanes that is fine, if they are all piled up in heaps you may want to fix that, but the idea is that your customers will expect an expert in model airplanes to have model airplanes in his office.  Personally, I talk about being organized or getting organized all the time and right now my back drop includes a shelf of binder folders.  This makes sense for me and my audience, now the bottle of lotion I set down there as I started to write, will be gone when I leave the room too.

Now a nice folding screen can make a great instant backround.  If you have a large space you may want to do this even if the space behind you is neat as a pin.  You can find these a variety of folding screens at places like Amazon and Pier One Imports.  And if you are on a budget, you may be able to find one at a local garage sale or thrift store.  You can even use the screen to advertise your business if you want.  Make sure that what ever you choose is not too busy, you want a simple pattern or solid colors.  Another option is a white board as a screen, you can use it as a prop while talking or just have a message you want to share.  Again, the main idea is to be thinking about what is behind you when you are on camera.

Another option may be to have a specific recording “studio” or area that has a plain wall or minimal distractions.  We, myself included, often forget how mobile technology allows us to be.  We got used to working at the desk in the office and have often transferred that habit to our home based business, now we can change that habit.  Do you have a room that has a great place, that would look great on camera?  Then why can’t you make your video recordings there?   Have fun and get creative, you may have several wonderful spots that can be great for making your videos reflect your message, just remember to watch the light if you are recording near a window.

So, you have a great product to share with your customers, now you will be able to record videos that will look better that all those others that don’t take the time.  I know that you will not always be able to have the perfect back drop and you will just have to hit record on the fly sometimes, but the more you think about this, the more of a habit it will become.  

So share you best or worst video backround story in the comments below.

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.