Certainly organizing any household can be difficult, but when your home is also your office, the challenge can be overwhelming. Statistics show there are more than 25 million income-generating home offices in the U.S., and the number is growing.
As someone who has worked from a home office for over 20 years and a mother with five grown children, I’ve undoubtedly made every mistake possible. The joy and flexibility of working at home can quickly turn your house into a prison unless you take some preventive measures. Consider these tips to make living and working at home less stressful and more productive:
1. Position your office location carefully. If at all possible, separate your workplace from your living space, so you can physically leave your work. If you’re working at home in order to take care of children, consider hiring childcare while you work – studies show your work productivity (and potential for profit) will increase, and so will the quality of life for your children.
2. Continually eliminate clutter. For years I have fought the myth that being organized means being a neatnik. When you remove the old batteries, loose change, dried-up pens, keys to unknown places, expired coupons, and postage stamps of strange denominations from the kitchen junk drawer, what you have left is useful. If there’s a paperclip mixed in with the keys, it doesn’t really matter. You can organize it more – and it will be easier to keep organized if you do, but it isn’t a necessity. Clutter is frequently excess, and excess cannot be organized!
3. Choose a calendar system that works for you. If you’re working at home, chances are it’s difficult to tell when business ends and home begins – so you’ll probably want a calendar or planner system that encompasses both your personal and professional life. In addition, create a method for sharing information that all the family needs to know. It may be something as simple as a calendar on the refrigerator with a different color pen for each member of the family.
4. Develop a system for meals to suit your style. The need to eat can create chaos or increase quality of life, depending upon how you approach it. I used to think that because I was a professional organizing consultant, I should have all my meals for the week planned by Sunday night. I soon discovered that even though my meal plan said it was spaghetti night, I wasn’t in the mood. Now, I keep lots of staples on hand so I can create something delightful with the perishables I bought over the weekend.
5. Create separate filing systems for your personal life and professional life. Research shows that the average person spends 150 hours per year looking for misplaced information. And, certainly nothing creates a family crisis faster than a 15-year- old who needs a copy of his birth certificate to get into driver’s Ed training, and you can’t find it! If it fits in a file, put it there – and keep a list of your files, called a File Index – so you, or someone else, can find it when needed. (Kiplinger’s Taming the Paper Tiger software creates the index automatically, and allows you to find anything you file or store in five seconds or less.
6. Get enough sleep. According to sleep experts, in order to be fully productive, you need to spend one-third of your life in bed. Many of us say, “I don’t have time to sleep” – but research shows we can’t afford to continually deprive ourselves and others who suffer because of our sleep deprivation. Sleep provides power to energize the body and the mind. Dr. James B. Maas, author of Power Sleep says that if you fall asleep immediately when your head hits the pillow or need an alarm clock to wake up, you need more sleep! (And you may solve a problem while you’re doing it!)
7. Eliminate perfectionism. Someone once told me “A perfectionist is someone who takes great pains and gives them to everyone else.” If you want to make yourself and the others around you miserable, insist on perfectionism. I have always found it fascinating that the most disorganized people in the world frequently have pockets of perfectionism – spices in alphabetical order in a cupboard over a counter where there’s no room to cook. Productivity is about progress, not perfectionism!
If you’re working at home, or thinking about it, remember that “home is where the heart is” – and it can be a great place to make a living too!
© Barbara Hemphill is the author of Kiplinger’s Taming the Paper Tiger at Work and Taming the Paper Tiger at Home and co-author of Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever. The mission of Hemphill Productivity Institute is to help individuals and organizations create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. We do this by organizing space, information, and time. We can be reached at 800-427-0237 or at www.ProductiveEnvironment.com