Being a small business owner has its advantages. One of my favorite things is having a home office. I’ve had a home office for many years now and have learned a few things along the way about how to stay organized, and use it best for my benefit. Being organized will keep your business running smoothly, and your attention where it needs to be – on creating a dynamic and profitable business.
Here are a few of my most important guidelines when it comes to setting up your own space.
- Systems, systems, systems! (Did I mention systems?) The more orderly your way of doing things, the freer you will be to take care of what’s most important. For example, client intake: what do you do when a potential client contacts you? Do you make an appointment and just see where it goes? Or do you have an orderly way of responding that you can rely on each time to present you and your business in the best light? How you show up for this initial contact can be the difference between getting hired or being passed over. A professional scheduling system, a confirmation email, and a follow up thank you is one example of a standard you (or an assistant) can easily implement on an ongoing basis that eliminates just “winging it.”
- Save a tree. Use technology to your advantage and store files and documents on your computer or online whenever possible. Scan receipts and information into an online file. It’s easier on the environment and will save you filing time and space. Speaking of filing time, stay on top of what paperwork you do have – have a regular time to sort through and discard papers and such, so that you don’t end up with piles everywhere. Nothing’s more distracting.
- Use a timer. Having an office at home can come with built-in distractions – phone calls, laundry, pets, you name it. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned is using a timer to focus on projects for a set period of time. I usually set it for 30-45 minutes when I’m working on a project and I don’t get up until it goes off. It helps me to not only stay focused but also to track my time. A simple kitchen timer is all you need.
- Discard what you no longer need. One of the best ways to stay organized is to get rid of what’s no longer relevant. The more you have (files, outdated articles and resources, knickknacks) the more you have to keep in order, and the more cluttered your space is likely to become. Make it a habit to go through your office regularly and dispose of whatever you no longer use or need. This will also free up space for more up-to-date resources or – even! – free, uncluttered space.
- Create a pleasing environment. This is a really important one for me. I spend a lot of time in my office and so I like to surround myself with pictures of family and friends, inspiring words, and meaningful remembrances. I also like to keep a diffuser going with a calming essential oil such as lavender or another fragrant blend, creating a soothing and pleasing environment.
Like most things in life, getting and keeping my home office in order is a work in progress. I’m constantly revising and trying to find better ways of keeping things in order. If you work from home and have systems that you’ve put in place that work for you, I would love to hear about them.