Feel like you are late to the home office game? Here’s how to organize a home office, whether you are digging out a cluttered, overwhelming and dysfunctional mess, or setting up a space to work for the first time…even though there isn’t an inch to spare in your apartment or house.
Everyone should have a home office, even if you don’t have a dedicated room that the architect labeled “home office.” You can carve out a nook, convert a closet, or just set up a corner to function as your home office. Even if it’s just a corner of your bedroom or a kitchen cabinet that holds all of your office supplies and a charging station, once you set up a workspace, you are much more likely to get and stay organized at work. Being organized can mean the difference between meeting your work goals and feeling flustered all the time.
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Forget what you’ve seen on Pinterest, Instagram, and magazines. Your home office probably won’t look anything like those highly-styled, staged, perfect rooms, at least not at first. In the design world, we have a saying: form follows function. That means that you have to make your home office function well for you, and then you can change how it looks (form). Designing an office that is pretty but doesn’t work for you is one way to end up working back at the kitchen table and feeling scattered all over again.
I’ve compiled a list of essential elements of a home office which you can download for free at Https://HomeOffice.HeartWorkOrg.com. Essentials like furniture, electronics, and filing space are there, but home office are well, homey, so there are essentials like a space for your furry friend, too. Have fun with creating the office you’ll spend as much as a third of your day in. Did I miss an element that you consider essential? Please let me know in the comments below.
Why You’ve Resisted Organizing Your Home Office Up Until Now
Most of my clients resist setting up a home office for one of three reasons:
- They don’t want their home to feel like a corporate office.
- They don’t believe they really need or deserve a home office.
- They don’t think they can afford the space or supplies needed for a nice home office.
By not setting up a home office, electronics, papers, and office staples end up making a mess in their home anyway. When you give yourself permission to set up a home office that reflects your personal style, and looks as lovely as the rest of your home, you feel better, can stay more organized physically, and can get your thoughts together, too.
The Four Things to Organize in your Home Office
To get organized, you need to address all four parts of home office management:
- The physical space, including the furniture, electronic devices, and household clutter
- Paper management systems
- Digital file and information management
- Productivity habits and strategies
How to Organize a Home Office
The Basics of a Home Office:
Establish an office workspace that is at least as comfortable as what you would have in any corporate office. For most people, that means upgrading from the kitchen table to a real desk and office chair. Working from a sofa or bed isn’t going to cut it for long, and establishes bad habits that will be hard to break back in a corporate office.
The System for a Home Office:
If you are reclaiming an abandoned home office, or carving space out of a disorganized corner, use the SORT and Succeed system to organize the whole space in just five simple steps. Not only will you get organized, but you get rewarded, too! SORT and Succeed helps you get started and also feel finished.
Your Routine in your Home Office:
Start your day by checking an electronic calendar. Capture tasks on an electronic task list to avoid getting distracted. Save contacts in an electronic address/contacts program. If possible, integrate these all so they work together and save time. Microsoft Outlook, Google Workspace, and Apple all have suites that help you efficiently move through your day using email, a calendar, project/task management, and contacts so you always have what you need at your fingertips.
The Annoying Part of a Home Office:
Learn to manage your passwords, either by writing them down at your desk, capturing them in a spreadsheet, or using a password manager to create and save strong passwords. Poor password management and frequent resets are a huge time waster. You might have heard that you shouldn’t write down your passwords, but most of us just don’t have big enough brains to remember the hundreds of passwords needed everyday. You can buy a simple password organizer from me here, or make your own with a blank notebook that you keep at your home office desk.
The Biggest Myth About a Home Office:
Home offices aren’t always paperless, but you can create and keep less paper. Learn to scan using your all-in-one printer or your smartphone, if you don’t have a dedicated scanner. Avoid printing out paper unnecessarily. Develop and use a paper filing system. (We use www.FreedomFiler.com (affiliate link) with our clients.) Shred often, and recycle immediately when possible. Don’t put paper down; put it away.
The Unavoidable Aspect of Working From Your Home Office Now:
The pandemic has made video a part of our lives for good. Don’t stress about being on camera. Prepare a camera-ready background (in real life) or choose your favorite virtual background for video calls and presentations. Tweak your lighting for different times of the day, and upgrade your sound or microphone if needed. Not everyone loves being on camera, and Zoom fatigue is real. Lower your stress by having a camera-ready environment, but also give yourself the option to take a call off-camera when it’s not absolutely essential that you be visible on screen.
These are concepts taken from my book, The Upbeat, Organized Home Office, available on Amazon.com, your local bookseller, and here for an autographed copy. If you are serious about setting up a home office space that works, check it out.