From the September 1999 issue of Startups

1. Declutter your office. Start by:

  • sorting the information in your office
  • tossing what you don't need
  • setting up your office to help you find what you need, when you need it. Store similar items together.
  • committing to maintain your office to keep paperwork to a minimum and incoming information under control.

2. Declutter your computer. Sift through your contact lists, computer files and programs, and purge any unnecessary information or outdated programs. If you have a stack of business cards in your desk drawer, record the information in one place and toss the cards.

3. Set up a system for following up with clients. Whether you adopt a contact-management program or other follow-up system, keep your name on your clients' minds by staying in contact. Write a short, timely newsletter and send it monthly or bimonthly (either via snail mail or e-mail); create a "to send" file for articles of interest to forward to your clients; or present a mini-seminar for your clients and the media to attend.

4. File your family . . . their papers, that is. Set up an easy-to-use filing system for your kids' school papers, schedules and commitments. There's nothing wrong with keeping this information in your home office (filed separately from your business files), unless you're claiming the tax deduction on your home-office space. If you are claiming the deduction, keep a file cabinet in another room and file regularly.

5. Create a family calendar. To stay on top of things, it's important to record school and extracurricular activities, doctor appointments and other family commitments. Keep the calendar in a high-traffic area (preferably the kitchen) and coordinate the calendar with your business planner. Assign a color to each family member to record their appointments and yours.

6. Take a break. You survived the summer, fall is in full swing, and your calendar is starting to fill up. Before you make one more commitment, stop to take time for yourself. Whether you take a few long, physically and mentally rejuvenating walks each week or sneak off to an afternoon movie (you're allowed), find an excuse to leave your office and do something for yourself. Your mind and body, clients, and probably even your spouse will thank you.

Lisa Kanarek (http://www.everythingsorganized.com) is a home office organizing expert and author of several books, including Organizing Your Home Office For Success (Blakely Press) and 101 Home Office Success Secrets (Career Press).