Working from home has been a blessing for many – no commute, more time to get things done around the house, no time spent getting ‘ready’ to be presentable. It has its perks. But for some, the office was a haven of productivity. Without co-workers or a boss to consider, it’s easy for your space and work habits to fall into disarray.
The good news is that you can create a space at home that will inspire you to be more organised and get your work done. Read on for a few clever tips that will make you more organised when working from home.
Create a work schedule
The flexibility of working from home is a blessing and a curse. If you’re not technically ‘on the clock’, then you have the freedom to leave your desk to quickly run your errands or do things around the house. This is fine for those that can switch in-and-out of work more easily – but if you’re struggling with work at home, set yourself a time structure.
Start work at a certain time every day. This is the most important thing. Starting your day at the same time will help you get into a work rhythm without thinking. If you can, take set lunch breaks and finish work at the same time too. This will give you something to look forward to while you work. These can also act as deadlines to help you get your work done on time.
If you don’t like having a very rigid schedule, set aside chunks of time to complete tasks. It could just be 30 minutes to work through emails first thing in the morning, or an hour to work on a particular project. Don’t let yourself do anything but that task for the allotted time period. This is helpful for large projects. Setting smaller, more attainable goals will make you feel like you are achieving more, and will keep you motivated to stay on task.
It’s harder to be accountable and stay focused for set time periods when you work alone. You might like to try setting alarms and timers to get you to stay on track – or have an accountability buddy (a co-worker that you can check in with, or a family member that is also working from home).
Write a to-do list daily
Being aware of your workload at all times will help you manage your time accordingly. When you’re working from home, you’ll likely be sent tasks via email, over the phone or from various different co-working platforms. You’ll probably also have a few things to do around the house.
The easiest way to set yourself up to stay on track for all your to-do items is a daily to-do list. Set time aside every morning to think about all your tasks, and write them down in a list in order of priority. No task is too big or small. The less you have floating around in your head, the more clearly you’ll be able to think about your work. Plus seeing it all written down in one place will help you prioritise.
It also helps to keep your daily to-do lists in one place – like a notebook, or note-taking app. This way you can look at the list from the day before and check to see if anything was left undone.
Bonus tip: It’s best to ‘eat the frog’ first. It’s an idea that basically means if you do the hardest and toughest things first, then you can spend the rest of your day working on easier, more pleasurable tasks!
Have a dedicated workspace
A dedicated workspace is crucial for working productively at home. If you have a spare room or nook that can be turned into a home-office – perfect! Set it up so that there are no distractions in that area, so no TV. Ideally, you’ll just have a desk, a comfortable chair, some shelves and storage for your office supplies, and some inspiring décor that will make you want to go into your office and start working. You’re going to spend a lot of time in that office, so you should take the time to make sure it’s a pleasant space.
Many of us won’t have a separate room or dedicated desk. If you need to work on your kitchen bench or dining table, you can still create a temporary workspace during business hours. It doesn’t need to be an elaborate set-up – it just helps to have all your work-related items such as a notebook, your files, supplies – within reach while you work.
Keep all your work necessities in a place that’s easy to access at the start of each day. Store everything in a drawer, cupboard, box or packing cubes and make it easy to grab everything you need and take it to your work area. Packing cubes are great as they act as portable drawers and come in varying sizes which means that they can be adapted to your specific needs.
If you have room for a small tiered trolley, use one as your portable office. You can even keep a pen cup and a few motivating desktop decorations on the top that can easily be transferred to your work area. No matter what you decide, make sure you make it easy for yourself to set up and pack down your workspace. Keeping everything neatly together will not only make assembling your workspace easy, it will also mean that everything you need is within reach during the day. This means that you’re less likely to have a reason to wander away from your workspace and get distracted.
Keep your workspace tidy
The environment you work in can impact your focus. If you’re surrounded by mess and clutter, your mind will likely be all over the place too. This is why it is important to keep your work area tidy.
Start on the right path by bringing in fewer items. Go paperless (if possible) to limit the need for filing, and only get office supplies that you know you’ll actually need. It also helps to keep your storage visible – think open bookshelves rather than cabinets or drawers. This way, you’ll always be able to see the mess rather than hiding it away.
Treat your office like you would any other part of the home. Clean it regularly, and declutter it every now and again. This will mean that your workspace is clean, less stressful and less distracting.
Start your own system
As you may have already found, working from home is different to working from the office. There are different processes for communication and exchange with clients and co-workers to adjust for the distance. The way you work day-to-day work might have to adjust too.
If you’ve started working from home and found that organisation has flown out the window, take the time to review your work system to determine what could be adjusted or improved. For example, you may have worked with an in-tray in the office. This makes sense if paperwork is being exchanged. A home, alone, this is unlikely to be the case. If you find that you need an in-tray to work, see if you can create a digital one by using different folders on your computer. Or if you must, create a physical in-tray and print important tasks out if that’s what it takes to get things done. Just make sure you recycle accordingly!
Trial, error and tidying
Maximising productivity and organisation while working from home won’t happen overnight. Think of it almost as if you’re starting a new job - there will be some adjusting and tweaking until you find what works for you. Just commit to keeping your space tidy and being mindful of whether any changes you make are working or not.