Today the Silicon Valley Investors Club is happy to have Laura Gramann Richter, a Professional Organizer and CEO of Pieces into Place LLC in Milwaukee, WI and former Googler, share organizing tips that will help keep you sane and productive while you work from home.
You’re working from home – what does that look like?
You’ve been instructed that you need to work remotely for a while. Some people rejoice with that news; they get to subtract extensive commutes and uncomfortable “water cooler talk” from their daily routine. Other people experience frustrations working from home: distracting family interactions, barking dogs, difficulty communicating with a team, etc.
While there are definitely Pros and Cons to every working situation, working remotely can be rewarding and productive. To make the most of your time working from home, let’s talk about how having an organized work space can positively influence your experience and keep you happy and sane.
Some of you may find yourself working at a dining room table. Others have commandeered a section of the kitchen island. If you are fortunate enough to have a dedicated working space of some sort, then you’ll want to keep that area tidy – for your benefit and for the sake of your housemates (if applicable).
Why is an organized work space important?
Having an organized work space is important because you can find things easily, firstly. Studies have shown that 30% of an employee’s time is spent looking for things (documents, supplies, emails, etc). Wouldn’t it be great to reallocate those hours to something productive? Secondly, knowing where things are stored prevents you from feeling flustered, aggravated, stressed, and overwhelmed…especially if you need to find something quickly. Thirdly, they say that your work space is a reflection of your mental space. A cluttered desk can equate to a cluttered and fragmented mind. It’s challenging to perform optimally when your brain is not firing on all cylinders. Some distractions might be inevitable at home:
“Dad, where is my baseball mitt?”
“Honey, what do you need at the store?”
“Ruff, rufffffffff ruff ruff!”
However, if you are able to control the chaos of your desk, then the uncontrollable chaos from other parts of your surroundings will seem more manageable.
How can I be organized while working from home?
To become organized in your work space, you’ll need to first define what “organized” looks like to you. In the seven years I’ve been a Professional Organizer, I have seen a wide variety of definitions of “organized.” While some clients’ definitions border on OCD-tendencies, others define organized as a clear floor or countertop. Others just need to know where everything is. Others want their home to be Pinterest-worthy with pretty bins and labels. No matter what you see in organizing shows on Netflix or read in organizing blogs, your definition of “organized” is what matters most.
In a work space you might set a few organizational goals:
“A cleared work surface by day’s end.”
“Neat piles of active projects.”
“Labeled office supplies and hanging file folders.”
“Visible and ordered Post-it notes around your monitor.”
“A to-do list that helps you prioritize the day’s tasks.”
Once you know what “organized” looks like to you, you can create small tasks to help you get there. While there is likely not a one-size-fits-all solution, here are a few guidelines to having an organized work space at home:
If you have a dedicated desk and home office…
- Label your paper and digital folders. Do you have a label maker yet??
- Keep often-accessed supplies and files in organizers nearby.
- Maximize your focus with a closed door (including a signal for availability to your family), noise-canceling headphones (I use these), comfortable and ergonomic chair and desk setup with adequate task lighting.
- Desk with storage potential, if you have supplies and documents to maintain.
- Control your cords and cables.
If you have a portable workstation in a shared room…
- Label your paper and digital folders.
- Portable organizers that can move with you (at the end of each work day or week):
- Be considerate of others in your shared space and pack up your space on a regular basis…cleaning the surfaces occasionally will win you bonus points!
What are the outcomes of an organized workspace? What does this mean for other areas of my life?
Once you have an organized workspace, you will hopefully feel productive, motivated, and calm. You can reduce frustration and tension with housemates about where all your “office supplies” live the majority of the time. If you can focus on your work tasks, you can avoid letting your work hours creep later into the evening. Then you can spend more quality time doing the things you love with the people you love, instead of thinking about all the work you should’ve done during the day.
Wrap it up, Laura!
As a Professional Organizer I am biased that your home should be organized – especially your home office. However, some creatives thrive in chaotic environments, so it will depend on how you earn your living. I wouldn’t be in business for 7 years if people didn’t also see the benefits of an organized environment. While you work from home, keep your workspace tidy and watch your productivity soar and your roommate relationships thrive.