How to Organize Your Home Office for Success

Whether you use your home office to run a full-time business or just as a quiet place to catch up on work outside of your normal workplace, you should have it set up so that you are able to function efficiently and effectively.

Home office organization is something we don't think much about until it's too late. You need a home office, so you create one. And over time, things stack up and layer around you until one day, when something gets in your way or disappears at the last minute, you suddenly realize that your home office organization is long overdue.

Here are a few tips for turning your home office into an attractive and efficient workspace.

Maintain a dedicated workspace
A dedicated workspace not only helps organization but it also may entitle you to use the home office deduction on your tax return. This workspace should be used for business purposes only. It is important that this space is defined as yours and not shared with other family members or used to store household items.

Make the best use of your workspace
Small spaces can be very efficient if used properly. Equipment such as computers, printers and filing cabinets can be stored under the desk to make more space.

You need to create your own uninterruptible space. Position your equipment by frequency of use. Items you use daily should be within easy reach, you should not leave your chair to get it. Items that you rarely use can be placed outside the work area.

Stay on top of the paperwork
Paperwork should be filed immediately instead of being left to sit on the desk. Set aside a daily routine to go through your inbox and organize items into action folders. Mail should be read and acted upon the first time it is received. It doesn’t mean that you must do everything at once, but you should review each item to decide what you’re going to do about it.

The same goes for emails. There is no need to read an email and decide to respond or delete it later. Read emails once and then either respond, save the email for future reference, or delete it. This will greatly increase productivity.

Reduce desktop clutter with action folders
Action folders enable you to clear your desk yet still keep reminders and current papers close at hand. Action folders are for current or pending activities and other miscellaneous things you must act on. Assign action folders by category such as: to pay, to file, waiting on reply, coupons and offers, to read, etc.

Keep your action folders within easy reach—ideally in a small desktop file holder that holds the file folders upright so the tabs are clearly visible. For added peace of mind, make a note in your calendar or scheduling software to remind you of important dates. This combats the "out of sight, out of mind" worry and lets you clear your desk without fearing you'll forget something important.

Invest in a good filing system
A good filing system is the best way to keep track of the paper you accumulate. If your filing system is set up properly, you'll never have to hunt for a report, bill or receipt. If you don’t already have one, invest in a good storage/shelving or drawer unit. This allows additional space for storage, books and other office needs.

Use coloured hanging files for clarity and recognition. For example, you could use blue for financial information, yellow for client files, red for marketing, etc. These, of course, come with labels you can either print out from your computer, or hand write. When storing your files:

  • Keep your personal files separate from your business files.
  • Keep a current listing of all of your important personal financial information/files where your family can access it when needed.
  • Consider paying your bills online to reduce additional paperwork.
  • Keep copies of all of those important tax receipts on your computer by using a digital scanner and store them on backup CD.

If you don’t need it, shred it!
Make a conscious effort to let go of papers that you no longer need. Shredding has recently become popular because of identity theft. Identity theft is a fast growing crime in Canada and in some cases you can be held at fault along with the thief. Shred any papers that contain personal information and that you no longer need.

A carefully designed home office that allows you to have a place for everything will bring you a sense of well-being and help you focus on your tasks and take control of your work life.

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