The popular image of bloggers and freelancers isn’t particularly flattering—the idea is that, without the discipline of an office environment, bloggers sort of revert to a wild state, slouched over a computer in their underwear, surrounded by pizza boxes. But even if nobody sees your home office but you, it’s still nice to maintain a professional, clutter-free environment. You’ll feel better, create better, and make more money by following these tips to professionalize your home office.
- Have a place for everything in your office
Whether in drawers, boxes, or trays, designate a space for everything you use in your home office. Writing utensils, scrap paper, staplers, small electronics—everything should have a place. One of the biggest offenders in your home office is likely bills and other things you have to take care of—you don’t want to store them or throw them away, because you’ll forget about them, so they just pile up on the desk and get in the way. To solve this, buy a filing cabinet and an in/out box, just like you’d find in a commercial office space. Things you need to handle go in the inbox; things you need to send out go to the outbox; and once you’ve finished, everything goes in the file cabinet under “utilities” or “invoices” or whatever categories you decide on. If you don’t know where you’d file something or what you’d need it for, shred it on the spot. You’ll be amazed at how much cleaner your desk becomes.
- Whenever something comes in, try to send something else out
It’s just like losing weight—the only real way to permanently reduce clutter is to get rid of more than you take in. If you buy a new appliance, get rid of the old one—thrift stores will gladly take these, and you might just help out some fellow struggling small-business owner. If you’re like me, you tend to hang on to packaging for big-ticket items, in case you want to return them, so set a deadline for how long you’ll test-drive something before you decide whether or not to keep it. After about a week, you should know whether that new digital camera is a good fit, and you can probably throw the old box away.
- Go paperless whenever possible
Managing the flow of paper in and out of your office is good, but cutting out paper altogether is better. Set up direct deposit billing (and payroll, if you have employees). Instead of covering your monitor with Post-Its or scribbling ideas on old receipts or whatever is at hand, invest in a clean, classy glass whiteboard—your notes will be in big, bold script, prominently displayed on your office wall, and you’ll never have to dig through a pile of old papers to find them
- Eat only at your kitchen or dining room table
This is a tough rule for telecommuters to follow, but it’s a good idea for several reasons. It’s easy to get into a groove on the job and watch plates and bowls start to pile up around your computer, but for your health, your sanity, and your family, you need to take breaks. Telecommuters, far from being lazy or undisciplined, are often tempted to work way past normal business hours and burn themselves out. Meal time is a good excuse to get away from the computer, make eye contact with a real human being, and give your brain a rest. As you probably know, your keyboard is already a wildly unsanitary thing, and eating while you work will make it worse, and possibly get you sick.
Angela is a writer, guest blogger, loving wife, and mother of two beautiful twin girls and a standard poodle named Morty. She graduated with her Master of Arts Degree in English from the University of North Carolina. During her time at UNC, she wrote a number of children’s short stories that focus on a set of curious twin sisters and their dog (go figure).
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