Do you ever feel like your home office is being overrun by your home? Does someone leave keys on your desk? Does your iPad disappear for a quick game of Angry Birds, right when you were about to send an invoice? Managing a home office can be a tricky proposition. By following a few, simple strategies you can run your business productively and with less stress. Who doesn’t need that?
Think about your workspace. It doesn’t have to be a traditional office—you might set up shop on your kitchen table or on a desk in the basement. Regardless of the workspace you choose, you need to organize it so that you can do your best work and still balance your household and parenting responsibilities. We have a lot of them! Let’s jump in.
Create zones that completely separate “home” from “business”
Closing an office door might be a luxury you don’t have. If you don’t have the space (or you need to transition rapidly from work to dinner to school projects), you’ll have to create work zones.
Designate areas that are solely for home items or work items. This practice lessens the opportunity for losing items or wasting time searching for papers when it is time to get down to business. Need to manage school notices and invoices? Create two separate piles. Managing mobile devices? Make sure you have an area that makes your device “off limits” while it’s there. When you’re done, get your whole family on board. The organization only works so long as everyone contributes.
Invest in something you love
This strategy is less about putting things in their places and more about being motivated by what inspires you. Surrounding yourself with items you love—a book, a fragrant candle, or a favorite photo—sends a message that your workspace is valuable. When you create value, you strive to maintain that value. Your workspace should be unique to you, and should be honored as something other than a resting place for papers or library books.
Set up your supplies before you need them
Productivity demands organization: you can’t be expected to run to the kitchen to get scissors or rummage through the junk drawer to find a stapler. You need to set yourself up with the things that you need before you start to work. Sit down and make a list of office supplies you need or currently share with your household, and then stock your desk appropriately to prevent future problems. If all your supplies are on hand you won’t be upset when the last envelope was used to play “mailman.”
This strategy may surprise you. Your work will cross paths with your family—it’s inevitable, regardless of how many zones you create. You will be distracted or interrupted, and you’ll probably find a little sock under your desk at some point. Remind yourselves that these things will happen and choose to be grateful you’re not fighting a morning or evening commute.
All of these strategies can be used on an ongoing basis, and you can adjust them to meet the unique needs of your household. Here’s how I do it. In my personal workspace, I would love to set out a bowl of jellybeans and a vase of fresh flowers. When I sit down and evaluate my expectations, I know that both of those things would only cause problems with my climbing, curious, candy-loving two year old.
I also created a “home zone” that includes a craft box for my son. This box happens to contain some office supplies, largely because mine were used to create fishing lines one too many times (which is perfectly fine). By keeping these supplies in a designated zone, I know where they are when I need them, and my son can get crafty without bothering me in my workspace.
Get creative. Mix and match these strategies to set yourself—and your home—up for success.