The Home Office

One of the keys to working at home is getting in touch with your own personal working style and learning to accommodate it. If you’re easily distracted, for example, you’ll need to create a workspace that keeps distractions to a minimum. If you know that you need absolute and total quiet in order to concentrate, you’ll need to create a space that is as far removed as possible from the comings and goings of your family, pets and even your neighbors. Acknowledging your bad work habits and accentuating your good ones is essential before you set up your office. Whether you’re the type of person that likes to flit from project to project or you’re one of those who likes to tackle one at a time, you can design a space that actually will help you become more effective and make your office more functional.

It’s much easier to embrace your style than it is to pretend to be someone you’re not. Don’t model yourself after an associate, your spouse, or anyone else. Everyone works, organizes, and functions differently, so what works for one person might not work for another. Understand your natural work style, and you’ll feel comfortable and can be productive.

The best home office setup for controlling the tendency to keep anything and everything is one that won’t allow you to do so. How can you accomplish this? Opt for the setup with the bare minimum of surfaces on which to put things. Nothing attracts the collector’s clutter better than a clean, unused surface. Think about what you do during the day. How much room do you need to spread out? Will a computer workstation and small table suffice for work surfaces in your home office? Perhaps another small table itself is adequate to hold your phone, fax, or other necessary piece of equipment.

Drawers can pose another problem for collectors. The more drawers you have, the more places to store unnecessary items. A few drawers never hurt anyone and add to the functionality of a desk or computer workstation, but limit the number of drawers in your office to four. Likewise, be wary of decorative hideaway storage units that can hide clutter for you. You might be tempted to stuff papers in here without dealing with them.

Of course, paper is not the only culprit. Take a look at your office and think about what’s where. Do you use everything you see everyday? Look at each thing you’re holding on to. Ask yourself if it serves a purpose. And if it does, how often is it called upon? If you don’t use it at all, get rid of it. If you don’t use it that often, mark it as one of those pieces you can tuck away in a closet or storage unit.

Do yourself a favour and establish a system for going through papers once a week — but not less than every two weeks.

A similar approach can make your files more manageable. At the end of each project, weed out all the extraneous correspondence and paperwork from the project file, and move them into a separate archive. Box up old files every few months or years — depending on the number of files — and set up an archive in the back of a closet. Most importantly, put a moratorium on archived files — say three years — and make it a point to purge your archive on an annual basis. Make sure you store the boxes on pallets or shelves to avoid potential water damage.

Instead of covering your office walls with framed photographs, paintings, or memorabilia, convert one wall into a giant bulletin board by adding corkboard (with protective padding on the back to avoid damaging or staining the wall). You could use the board to hold anything from postcards to schedules, and have information at your fingertips instead of tucked away in a drawer — where you’ll probably forget it!

There are several ways to cut costs when you decorate a home office — some involve your time, such as do-it-yourself projects, and others involve planning and creativity.

Especially in a home office, function may be equally important as style. After all, it’s going to be a problem if a room looks good but the desk isn’t deep enough for the computer screen. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure you think about solutions from several angles, making sure the elements you add to the room will truly work well.

Use What You Have – Look around and see what you have already — maybe a bookcase that’s too big for your kid’s room. Or you might have an old chest, shelf, or file cabinet stuck in the garage that you can repaint and use. If you have two 2-drawer files, you could make a budget desk from a flat hollow-core door supported by file cabinets.

Find It Used – Pull out the phone book and look under “Used Furniture”, “Office Furniture”, and “Rental Furniture”.

A key element is a comfortable chair that’s good for you to sit in because people are spending a lot of time at the computer/desk.

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