The second Tuesday of March is “Organize Your Home Office Day.” Working from home is a growing trend. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us the percentage of people who do some or all their work from home grew from 19 percent in 2003 to 24 percent in 2015. But for everyone, running a home is at least a part-time business in and of itself. There is paperwork, computer time and other administrative tasks. Having a place to do it well makes the experience easier and more enjoyable.
A place to call your own
A home office doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does need to be your own. Clearing a corner of the kitchen table is a lousy arrangement. So is sharing a small desk with someone else. Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like your own desk. You can put your own “stuff” there and know it’s not going to be rearranged by someone else.
If you have a dedicated room to use as an office, great. If not, a corner of a bedroom works. An area in a finished basement does as well. This idea doesn’t apply only to adults. Children from around third grade and up enjoy having a dedicated work space. Make sure the place you select has electrical outlets to accommodate a computer and a lamp. Good lighting is a must!
The most necessary component of the home office is a desk. If your budget is tight, any flat surface will do. During my early post-college days, the desk in my apartment was a second-hand card table. If you opt for a traditional desk, make sure the drawers work.
The computer is an essential part of our lives. Therefore, I recommend fashioning an L-shaped desk. Swivel 90 degrees and you are facing the computer. Swivel 90 degrees back and you have a clear space. Something as simple as a short folding table would be fine for the return. Let it house the computer, printer and phone while the desk stays clear.
A good workflow
Your home office shouldn’t look like you’re conducting a paper drive. Start by creating your Tickler File. It can live in a desk file drawer. If the desk is more the card-table variety, the Tickler File can live in a milk crate on the floor. You can read about the kinds of things I keep in mine in this post: http://bit.ly/frankbuck51. With 31 folders numbered 1 through 31, paperwork needed on a future date goes in the appropriate file.
If your desk is a mess, this article will help you clean it out and clean it up: http://bit.ly/frankbuck57.
Now that the Tickler File is in place, get an “inbox.” It can be mahogany and sport a fancy top. During my college days, I used a shoe box. Regardless of its physical appearance, it serves as the one drop spot for anything incoming: today’s mail, papers from school to sign, worksheets to be completed. If you don’t designate one place to throw the incoming, your entire house quickly becomes one giant drop spot.
Third, you need a filing cabinet. When the papers are handled but need to be filed for future reference, you’re going to need a place to put it. You may think you’ll never fill a whole filing cabinet. You will. Trust me on this one.
Your own supplies
Sharing a tape dispenser with the whole family may seem like a wise, cost-cutting measure. It’s not. Having to go on a safari throughout the house to find the shared roll of tape wastes time. Have what you need at hand.
Outfit your home office with these items: stapler, tape dispenser, three-hole punch, labeler, calculator, ruler, letter opener, scissors, pens, pencils, crayons (for students), paper clips, rubber bands, stamps, memo pad, envelopes and sticky notes. But don’t go overboard on the supplies. Just because a pad of sticky notes is good doesn’t mean 14 of them is better. House surplus office supplies in a cabinet where all family members can get to them. Don’t turn your desk into a stock room.
Far too much stress comes from clutter. Take this opportunity to regain a sense of control and peace of mind.
Frank Buck is the author of Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders. “Global Gurus Top 30” named him #1 in the Time Management category for 2019. Dr. Buck speaks throughout the United States and internationally about organization and time management. You can reach him through his website: FrankBuck.org. Follow him on Twitter @DrFrankBuck.