Saturday, March 15, 2008

10 Great Ways to Organize Your Home Office or Small Business

  1. A place for everything, and everything in its place”yes, it’s an oldie but goodie and still rings true, especially in today’s environment when so many of us chisel out workspace in our homes.
  2. Be a “Basket-Head”. Use baskets (shallow, rectangular) to separate the paper stacks that seem to have a life of their own. I have 3 baskets on a shelf next to my desk labeled “Personal” (correspondence, bank statements not related to my business, personal receipts, etc.) “Accounting” (bank & tax statements, vendor invoices, client billings, etc.), and “Read/Research” (articles, notes on prospects/products to research, newsletters and other non-critical mail).
  3. Daily Use Only on Desktops. In other words, don’t clutter the desktops with things you don’t need on a daily basis (do we really need 50 pens in a cup??)– move them to a shelf, a drawer, or a closet.
  4. The Virgin Inbox. Limit your Inbox only to items “untouched”. Once you pick up that piece of paper, DO something with it – sort it, shred/recycle it, or pass it on. Touching a document over and over is definitely one of the Top 3 time wasters.
  5. Mirror your Filing. Actually, I should have first stated: Create a filing system! Once you’ve done that for the paper files then mirror the same folder structure/names for your electronic folders (email/docs stored on your PC).
  6. Christmas is over – Take down the tree. Most of us make that a ritual, right? Apply the same principle to your office. Once the event or project is complete – archive it. Use banker’s boxes to store files, project samples, photos, etc. Make a semi-detailed list of the box contents and tape it to the front of the box. Box labels like ‘2007 Projects’ or ‘Old Jobs’ are only going to require unnecessary search time down the road.
  7. Time Blocks. Interruptions and distractions are probably the most difficult to overcome. For me, it’s the little window that pops up to let me know I have new mail…I’m like a moth to a flame! Designate blocks of time to complete tasks. Even if it’s only 30 minutes, committing to a particular date/time to handle a specific task will add to your sense of accomplishment…and it “catches on” with others. For instance: When others see that every morning when you come in you take 30 minutes to read your incoming mail and check your messages and respond to any critical items, they become aware and less likely to interrupt.
  8. Tackle Clutter. You can create an entire shelf/storage system for less than $150. If you don’t have shelves, invest in a free standing unit. Purchase see-thru plastic boxes in a variety of sizes, for storing office supplies, samples, parts, etc. Purchase a labeler (Brother has a great inexpensive model) and make sure to label two sides (front/back, front/side) with the contents. I say two sides because depending on how you stack things, it might be easier to read the side of a box as opposed to only the front.
  9. Let Go of the Past. Typewriter ribbons…track-fed labels… gummed reinforcement circles… pegboard accounting journals…adding machines…orphaned computer parts…Does this ring a bell? Storage closets are not time capsules! The rule of thumb is: If you haven’t used it in the last year, you probably won’t. Donate or dispose of, but get ‘em out of there.
  10. Scan & Store. Don’t let flooding, fire, etc. be the demise of “business as usual”. Every business should have at least an electronic copy of things that are crucial. So if you don’t have a scanner, buy one. Scan a copy of tax/bank/credit card records (scan the front and back of any credit or debit card…sometimes you need that CCV number.) Scan a copy of your master agreements and document templates, lease agreements, current vendor and client contracts, and inventory lists. Make sure you have a copy of your logo, your brochures, etc. When you’re done – transfer a copy to some sort of portable storage (a flash drive, SD card, CD) and store it offsite.