With Flying Solo’s Understanding Micro Business 2010-2011 survey revealing that more than two-thirds of soloists work from a home office, it’s time to make sure yours functions like a slick, well-oiled machine.
If getting to your desk currently involves climbing over piles of paper or boxes of stored ‘stuff’ that doesn’t fit elsewhere in the house, this article is especially for you. From paying bills to keeping track of client files and staying on top of outstanding invoices, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much more efficiently your business runs after you get your home office organised according to these simple principles.
Identify the purpose of the space
The purpose of your home office may seem obvious. You work in it.
But what does that actually involve? What do you do in there?
The reality is that to function effectively, your office space should really be dedicated to only a few functions. Two or three purposes may be achievable: running your business, dealing with personal admin, perhaps even curling up in a comfy chair to read if you have the space.
But if you also want your office to be a place for the kids to do their homework, the old photo albums to be stored and the cat to be groomed, you’ll start to find efficiency becoming compromised.
Something’s got to give. If you’re running a business from this space, you need it to be both functional and comfortable.
Commit to the primary purpose of the home office being for the efficient running of your business, and then you’ll be able to set it up in the way that serves you best.
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Establish different zones for different activities
As a minimum, set up dedicated spaces for the following:
- Entry point: Don’t toss unopened mail onto the desk never be found again! Have one collection point for everything entering your office. Then schedule time to sort through and attend to it.
- Exit point: You also need a collection point for anything that needs to leave the office. Whether it’s letters to post or items that belong elsewhere in the house, keep them together until you get a chance to distribute them. TIP: Only use the exit point for items that are ready to go. Don’t put unaddressed letters there. The idea is for it to be a quick collection point where you can grab things as you walk out the door, knowing they’re ready to go where they need to.
- Action zone: This is where you complete tasks. A clear desktop or separate bench is a must.
- Filing zone: Records you refer to regularly should be kept close at hand. Others (like last year’s tax records) can be stored further away, maybe even in a different room.
Be ruthless with your filing
I could write a whole book on the filing zone, and will share some more tips on this aspect of office organisation in a future article. Until then, consider the scary statistic that 80% of all paper kept in filing cabinets is never referred to again, and before filing anything away, ask yourself ‘Do I really need to keep this piece of paper?’
On the other hand, many people are guilty of not filing their bills in a consistent and logical place, and nearly a quarter of all adults report paying bills late and incurring late fees because they’ve lost bills. Over time, that can become a needlessly expensive habit!
What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to getting your home office organised?
Reference: Statistics sourced from the National Association of Professional Organisers.