Tips to create a home office space that makes the most of your time.
But then … something happens. Your Netflix queue beckons. You can’t unsee that pile of dirty laundry. Your fluffy bed seduces you into taking a two-hour siesta.
Now you’re behind and working weekends to catch up. You need help. You need an organized workspace. “It really allows you to focus on what’s important,” says Calabasas, Calif.-based organizer Lori Gersh.
Here’s how to fix your home work space to pump up your productivity:
1. Purge First
Sure, shopping for organizers is fun. They don’t call it “retail therapy” for nothing. But to create a system primed for maximum output, you first should soldier through the task of ditching paperwork and office supplies that clutter rather than help, and, most importantly, finding homes for all things unrelated to work (well, except for a sentimental photo or two — and plants; plants are good). Consider it boot camp to get your work life in shape.
Plus, the more open and organized your space is, the easier it’ll be to focus.
2. Create a Work Hub — Even if Space Is Minimal
A separate room with only one function — work — is ideal, but so is a beachfront address. Just because you don’t have a spare room doesn’t mean you can’t have an “office.” You can easily create one.
A small desk and storage ottoman for files and supplies may be all you need.
Or a small coat closet could be repurposed if you need something more substantial. Relocate the coats and jackets to hooks in your entry or move them to other closets, and convert that closet into a work nook with a built-in tabletop and floating shelves.
But if you work from a multi-purpose space like the kitchen table, or prefer to roam from table to couch, it’s a bit more of a challenge — but still solvable.
Try a rolling cart loaded with your work supplies. “It helps you focus because you have things right where you need them,” says New York City organizer Stephanie Shalofsky. (There’s a ton of sizes and configurations to choose from, and most are less than $100.) Then simply roll it out of sight when company comes.
3. Use Vertical Space to Organize
It’s surprising how often wall space is overlooked as an organizing solution. When everything you need is right there on your wall and easy to find, your productivity jumps.
Buy ready-to-hang cubbies, or create your own system, and hang them just as you would a collection of pictures. Some other ideas:
- Use a pegboard to store supplies such as scissors, calendars, and notes.
- Stow files in magazine holders mounted to the walls.
- Hang a shoe organizer with clear sleeves to keep supplies such as pens in plain sight (this will work on a rolling cart, too, if you cut it to fit).
4. Separate Household Files From Work Files
If you do business and household duties from the same space, you need separate systems to help you stay focused, Shalofsky says. This is super easy to do. You just need to commit to do it:
- Keep two different calendars and to-do lists.
- Use different drawers, cabinets, shelves, or file bins.
Then keep those household files out of sight when you’re working. Just like seeing a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, seeing bills waiting to be paid can entice your mind to wander.
5. Turn Away From Temptation
For most home-based workers, the comfort of home is the prime saboteur of productivity. Is your workspace in sight of distractions, such as your TV, or the dining room you still haven’t finished painting? “If it doesn’t have to do with your business, it will clog up your space and your head,” Gersh says.
If you have to work from the kitchen table, choose a seat facing a wall or window rather than the sink or stove.
If there’s no place to set up shop other than next to the TV, sit with your back toward it. If that’s not possible, think about hiding your TV, literally. You can disguise it behind a painting or mirror. That creates a barrier, forcing you to actively choose watching TV over doing business.
Or, if space permits, position a freestanding bookshelf or screen between your work space and household distractions.
Here’s a nice little bonus: These tactics also have the added benefit of putting your work out of sight when you’re ready to relax at home.
6. Set Boundaries on Browsing
OK, this is a challenge even people stuck in the office face: A little bit of Facebook browsing here and a few minutes of online shopping there is all too tempting. But it’s even worse when you work from home because your boss can’t see you.
But it’s your home. Your castle. Where you ARE the boss.
With that mindset, think about creating some accountability for yourself. Here are a couple of ideas:
1. Create a different browser profile for work use, so your favorite bookmarks aren’t beckoning during office hours.
You just might boost your productivity enough to take Friday afternoon off. So maybe you’ll get to finish painting the dining room after all, and still have the weekend off to enjoy it. How sweet is that?
7. Tidy Up Before Clocking Out
When you work from home, there’s no cleaning crew to spruce up your space after hours, and no peer pressure to maintain a somewhat-orderly space. So although it’s tempting to let it be, take just a few moments to toss unnecessary paperwork, remove trash, and make sure your work space is ready for work in the a.m. By clearing the way today, you’ll hit the ground running tomorrow.
Congratulations. You’re now living the work-at-home dream!