Creating an Organized and Productive Home Office That's Cozy Too
The pleasures of home can be distracting but that doesn't mean your home office has to be a cell.
The two biggest challenges of working from home are undoubtedly concentration and organization. It is far too easy to become distracted by family demands, the beckoning view out the window, or the nearby refrigerator. And there are days when laundry duty seems more appealing than completing a long-overdue project.
The secret comes down to structuring your work-at-home environment in a way that makes you more focused and most productive. Here are some tips to help you design your perfect setup.
Make the best of what you've got
Create a convenient workspace complete with everything you would have in an outside office: a desk, comfortable office chair, file cabinets, good lighting and proper equipment. Whether you work from your spare bedroom, basement or garage, size does not matter. Last year I sold my house and moved into an 800-square-foot boathouse in Mount Dora, Florida. Although it was small, I managed to operate my office while watching the boats and the wildlife go by on Lake Dora. I was pleasantly surprised that all I really needed was a small writing desk and some inspiration to keep my business going.
Enjoy the view
It doesn’t do much for your creative side to be stuck in a dreary, windowless space, considering that you may spend most of the day (and night) in your office. If possible, select a space with a view outside. The natural light will invigorate you, as well as provide a restful scene to relax your eyes after staring at a computer screen for a long period of time. If you want to create a Feng-Shui-friendly space, avoid having your back to the door and try not to face a wall. Facing a wall can make it seem as though you will never get ahead, as your progress is blocked. If there is no way to avoid this, place a small mirror on your desk to reflect the office entrance.
Assign a work schedule
Assign work hours and stick to them. Keep a small, spiral-bound notebook handy to write down your daily to-do list. At the end of each day, review what you want or need to accomplish the following day. Control your own schedule by blocking out work hours, appointment hours, and family and leisure time.
You’ll be able to sit and concentrate for a longer period of time in a more comfortable environment, so keep your work area tidy, clean and functional. Get an ergonomic chair that you can inhabit for many hours at a time. Always keep a bottle of water at your desk at all times so you don’t get dehydrated. Be sure the temperature and lighting are also optimal. I use a mini oscillating fan on my desk to circulate the air on warm days and a portable heater at my feet when it’s chilly outside.
Create a desk for success
Stock your office with all the office supplies you will need including paper pads, stapler, stamps, scissors, pens, paper clips and chargers. That way, you won’t need to stop work and find something whenever you need it. While living in my boathouse, I kept all of my files and supplies in a nearby closet.
Set an atmosphere
Do you work better with tunes? If so, set up a playlist that can inspire you throughout your workday. Or try a music-streaming service like Pandora, Spotify and iHeartRadio to keep you relaxed, invigorated or motivated. Light a candle and spread a little aromatherapy within the office. If you enjoy nature, open the windows and breathe in the fresh air. If your office tends to get a little stuffy, investing in an air purifier. Decorate with pictures that inspire you, affirmations, or motivational quotes.
Dress for the job you want
You may be most comfortable in workout gear, however, being too comfortable may not activate your mind to take work seriously. Dress and groom yourself appropriately for the office and you will feel and act more professionally. You never know, you may have to run out and meet a client spur of the moment, or interface with a client or colleague through Skype or Facetime.
The dream of working in your pajamas is in reality, just that -- a dream. To be successful, you must look and act and operate like a true business. Start by following the guidelines above as a way to add positivity and balance to your desk and to your life.
Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Fla. She is the author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals (St. Martin's Press, 2011) and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin's Press, 2005).