Whether you’re just starting a business or looking to save money by working from home, you need an organized home office in order to be successful. Use the tools and techniques listed below to ensure that you are productive when working from home.
1. A Room Divider
When you’re working from the comfort of your own home, you need a way to divide your home life and your office space. If possible, set up your office in a separate room with a door that you can close to block out distractions. Consider setting up your workspace in a spare bedroom, rarely used formal dining room, finished basement, or even a repurposed storage shed. If you don’t have a separate room, think about using a privacy screen, a bookcase, or another piece of vertical furniture to make a visual distinction between your living space and your work space. Another practical option is a computer armoire that can be closed up when you’re done working for the day.
2. Supply Storage
Once you figure out where you’re going to set up your office, you need a place to store all of your necessary business supplies. Clear out a nearby closet and use it to hold provisions like printer paper, business cards, and products for clients. If this isn’t an option, look into installing shelves near your desk, purchasing a bookcase with adjustable shelves, or buying a cart on wheels that can be put away at the end of your work day. If you have to store your supplies out in the open, use decorative baskets or storage bins to keep materials close at hand and pleasing to the eye.
3. File Folders
Keep all of your important paperwork organized and easy to find with multi-colored file folders. Designate different colors for different areas of your business: for example, green for business expenses, red for customer invoices, and yellow for tax documents. Store folders in a separate file cabinet or in stand-alone file crates so you can easily locate your records. Then, come up with a filing system that works for you and your business; you may choose to arrange files alphabetically, chronologically, or by category. You also may want to set up a storage system for older files, such as clear plastic bins labeled by year.
4. Electronic Storage
Since most of your business will be conducted on your computer, make sure that your electronic files are also organized. Just as with paper files, you can use folders to categorize electronic documents on your computer desktop. Depending on your email service, you can also create folders or color-coded labels in your inbox to quickly identify and manage emails from different senders. Invest in flash drives or an external hard drive to back up and store older electronic files and free up memory on your computer.
5. Message Board
Even in today’s high-tech world, a simple way to stay organized is with a highly visible message board. You can use corkboards, chalkboards, whiteboards, or magnetic surfaces to display important contact numbers, reminders, and to-do lists. If you have a large office space, you can even use chalkboard or whiteboard paint to turn an entire wall into a writing surface.
Other key organizational tools include a basic calendar and a large clock to help you stay on task and manage your time. Although your schedule is more flexible when you work from home, make sure that you set up “work hours” to ensure that you complete your tasks in a timely fashion.
Keep in mind that it takes effort to stay organized, so set aside time to regularly clean up your workspace, order supplies, and sort your paperwork. When your home office is neat and clean, you’ll spend less time trying to find that important document and more time getting down to business.
Stephanie Marbukh is a freelance blogger who writes about topics ranging from small business advice to SEO strategies.