From the July 2000 issue of Startups

Organizing your home office can be easy if you use the right tools. You wouldn't use a hammer to screw in a nail, just as you wouldn't use a typewriter instead of a computer to write a 40,000-word manuscript. Here are several tools to help you get organized.

  • A to-do list. Take control over your time by creating a to-do list each day or at least weekly. This will give you an overview of what to expect each week and give you time to make any changes in advance. Use it in combination with a calendar, and keep in mind that to-do lists are for tasks to be completed, while a calendar is for recording appointments.
  • A current filing system. Divide the stacks of paper on your desk into current and reference. Set up a filing system that separates what you need for current projects (marketing information or sales meetings) from what you refer to occasionally (articles of interest or past publications). Use hanging folders for main categories and manila folders inside the hanging files for subcategories. Store reference materials in a filing cabinet, and put your current files vertically in a desk file drawer or a vertical file holder; purge them weekly or transfer papers to your reference files or recycling bin.
  • A functional computer workstation or desk. When buying a computer workstation, look for two things: storage space and desktop space. If you are a packrat, avoid a desk with more than two drawers. It will be more difficult for you to stash unnecessary items if there is little space to store them.
  • Drawer dividers and other useful organizing products. Use drawer dividers to separate the items in your desk drawers. This will make it easier to find everything you need. Other organizing products that work well are separated paper holders for letterhead, envelopes, postcards, etc.; a fax stand with storage space below; and clear containers for extra supplies. Before you buy any product, make sure you know what organizing problem it will solve. Otherwise, you'll only increase the clutter in your office.
  • A computer with enough memory and speed to meet your needs. If you're constantly struggling with a computer that's too slow or one that crashes because it needs to be upgraded, you're wasting your time. However, don't expect a computer to automatically organize you. It can only be as effective as you are.

  • Home office expert Lisa Kanarek is the founder of HomeOfficeLife.com and the author of Organizing Your Home Office For Success (Blakely Press) and 101 Home Office Success Secrets (Career Press).