Your Guide to Home Office Organization

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Your home office is the hub of productivity and efficiency for your small business. At least it should be. Often times, small business owners aren’t sure how to organize, or where to begin organizing, their home office. This can limit their ability to get things done and cause a long term lapse in their productivity. With the end of the year fast approaching, there is no better time to get your home office organized for a successful 2019. Here are key organizational steps to hone the efficiency of your home office and help you best manage your time.

Dedicate Your Space
People are most productive when functioning in a workspace aligned with the tasks at hand. It’s unlikely you’ll do anything but exercise in a spin class – the darkness, loud music, and room of other cyclists reflect what you’re there to do. Does this apply to your home office? A key to getting organized for 2019 is rededicating the space. Do this through a simple inventory. Sit down with a warm beverage, pad of paper and your favorite pen. Create three columns and in the first, list everything you want to use your home office for: handling family finances, working remotely, a creative endeavor. In the second, write down what that space would ideally include.

By taking time away from the space to visualize it, you’ll establish a mental picture of the office that works best for you. Next, head into your office to take inventory. Notice everything from your list that appears and leave it. Items that are not on your list, or do not align with the purpose of your home office, should immediately be removed and placed in a room that better serves their purpose. Notice things that are missing? Make a list in the third column. By streamlining what is in your home office, you’re one step closer to a better, more organized 2019.

File and Purge
Whether you use folders in a filing cabinet, computer storage, or a combination, set aside time to go through everything so that you can file and purge. While doing this, make sure everything has a place. For computer files, look for things that are just hanging around on your desktop or in a section with other folders and ensure there are no loose files – everything should be in a specific place. With physical files do the same – a car receipt should be in a file with other car-related paperwork and saved to a corresponding efile through programs like Neat. It sounds simple, but you’d be amazed how many unrelated things get jumbled together, making them impossible to find when needed.

Some documents should never be discarded. A good rule of thumb to follow is that state and federal agency issued papers, licenses, and deeds never get purged. Another rule of thumb? If it’s hard to replace, don’t get rid of it. Marriage licenses, birth and death certificates, pension documents, mortgage, and other major financial documents also go in the forever file. Last, if you do not have one already, it’s a good idea to place those precious documents in a discreet, secure fireproof safe and have a backup file saved on a cloud network.

Some documents can be discarded after time. While opinions vary, here are the common timelines for keeping paperwork.

  • Receipts and warranties should be kept until you no longer have the related item.
  • Tax records and related paperwork should be kept for seven (7) years.
  • Pay stubs and bank statements should be kept for a year.
  • Anything related to the purchase, sale, or improvement of property should be kept for seven (7) years after the sale of the property.
  • Medical bills and receipts should be kept for two (2) years after the completion of payment.

Securely shred the following documents when the new one arrives: social security, annual insurance policy, and retirement plan statements. Don’t have a shredder? Take your papers to the nearest Kinko’s or other public shredding event to make use of theirs.

The Three Piles That Will Quickly Streamline Your Office
There are plenty of ideas for how to declutter and streamline. A favorite of ours is the three piles. When you start getting your home office ready for 2019, create three piles:

Toss – Like the name says, this is the pile of things to throw out. From bags to dead pens, receipts you don’t need to three-month-old to do lists – get rid of them.

Donate/Give – Did you buy a type of pen and then decide you didn’t like them? Do you have extra notebooks or Post-It’s that you don’t need because you’ve gone paperless? Unused, gently used, extra items, gifts that didn’t fit your lifestyle (you really don’t know why you were gifted a kitten calendar but didn’t have the heart to throw it out?) — these should all be donated or given away to others. Bringing a box of office supplies to your office, a local business, or a school will make others very happy.

Keep – For all those things that belong but maybe aren’t in the right place, or for which you haven’t found the right place, it’s time to make a “keep” pile and then work on finding perfect spaces for them.

Brainstorm Routines
One you have created or updated your organized workspace, its time develop the habits necessary to keep it that way. Think of the routines that would have made 2018 more productive and create a list. Habits have to be formed and often require reworking, but coming up with routines to try, and implementing them starting now, will allow you to decide what to implement in 2019. Here are some ideas for good routines:

Never Leave Your Desk Messy

A simple routine that will revolutionize your productivity if you’ve not already started doing it? Never leave your home office for the day with a messy desk. At the end of each day or evening put everything away, toss what can be tossed, file any papers or computer files, and leave your desk so that the next day you’re starting from a clean slate.

Use a Monthly Calendar to Track Long Term Projects
Whether it’s in a book, on a blotter, or up on the wall, a monthly calendar will help you see the progress you’re making on projects at a glance. Start simply with your goal to organize your home office for 2019 and track how you’re doing. Check in with yourself every other day and note your progress.

Avoid Shopping
Buying a tennis racket won’t make you play well if you’ve never played and as tempting as it is, buying new organizational tools like furniture, planners, wall calendars, and software won’t make you any more organized. Instead, focus on changing habits and building strong routines.

Bring in the Pros
You’ve laid the foundation and started exploring what may work for you, but a professional organizer will bring your home office, productivity, and time management to the next level. A member of the In Order To Succeed team will assess your style and habits to discover the best systems, routines, and tools for your office. Our professional organizers can purchase, install, and work with you to set up the best organizing system to meet your goals and make 2019 your most productive yet. Drop us a line today!

By: Denise Caron-Quinn

The SmallBizRising Blog is designed to be an educational content hub pulling information, best practices and practical advice for the small business owner and features topics including accountingmarketingtechnology and more.  Be sure to subscribe to stay up to date with new content as it is posted.  The blog was created by The Neat Company and receives contributed content from a group of contributing companies that provide technology, services and solutions to small businesses.

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