1. Are there any universal rules for organizing a well functioning home office?
The one big rule is make it work for you. I share with Clients that organizing is not “one style” or “one container” fits all. It’s a very personal application. One person’s order is another person’s disorder.
“Good rules of organizing order” which apply to most of us include:
* Store Like Items Together
* Keep Frequent Use Items Most Accessible
* Instead of Asking Where You Should Put It, Ask How Will I Look For It
* When you decide to do an organizing task, make it small enough so you don’t feel overwhelmed
2. For folks who already have a home office: are there things they can do to make it function more like a (semi) permanent vs. a home office? Are there easy ways to organize and separate home to-do’s from work duties?
If you need to transition a shared office space to a work only office space, here are some easy ways to clear the clutter and re-set for how you need to use the space today:
Divide the Stuff
The first thing to do is divide up the stuff based on the Task. Group work items/tasks together; group personal items/tasks together.
When you use an item only sometimes, or for both categories (like office supplies or technology) keep some with each grouping – or store with other like items that are less frequently used.
Once you divide up the stuff, get ready to relocate the categories to their own spaces/surfaces.
Divide the Real Estate
The second step is to divide up the real estate. Decide where you will do your “work” (maybe at the desk in the office) and where you will do your “personal” (perhaps at a temporary desk in the same space or a folding table in another room of the house).
Make sure whatever area/surface you choose is devoted only to the task of “work” or “personal/home” – avoid “technical errors” (mixed categories) and co-mingling of other non-related categories.
Where do I put I? How do I use it.
The third step is to decide where to locate items. We answer this questions based on (1) how we will use it next (2) frequency of use and (3) emotional attachment.
Items that are engaged with most often should be assigned real estate within arms reach of the task. (I.e. – computer and key board, pen/pencil, to-do list, printed paper to review, brain toy you play with all the time to help you think) – and items which are used less frequently should go to secondary storage areas (reference material, back up supplies, to be filed, charging cords, etc).
And if you love it – keep it! A picture of your family, a treasured memory, an inspiring poem – all of these items are as important as your lap top or cell phone. But remember, keep it simple. Too much of a good thing becomes overwhelming.
If I Move It, I’ll Forget It
Now is the time to link our space, tasks / what we have to do , and our time to do it. Space Planning (how we use the space) and Time Blocking (when we do the stuff we hold onto) go hand and hand. A clutter free space means linking “what you have to do” to a time you “have to do it.”
To Label or Not To Label.
Yes. Hard and fast rule. Yes. Label it. Labeling does several things.
One, it reinforces your decision about location and incorporates the muscle memory of movement, cerebral decision of what to call it, and aesthetic decision of what the label looks like. All of these factors help to “set” an organizational memory.
Two, most of us respond extremely quickly to visual cues (that’s why we leave things out to jog our memories). Having clear information displayed identifying what the item is easiest method for storage and retrieval. Labels can take the form of label tape, post its, writing on the outside of the box, etc – and labeling in our calendar via Time Blocking.
3. For folks who did not have a home office and now need to create one? How can they take a non-separate room space and turn it into a workable space? What’s most important for making this a space one in which the user can truly maximize productivity?
Another great question. Many of us are turning spaces which have been functioning in one way into a space that can serve a different purpose, like a dedicated work from home office.
First thing we need to do is clear out the room we are doing to use. I use the SPACE Process.
Once we have cleared the stuff, we are ready to re-set with the sorted “work” items. Starting with a clear space leads to clearer, more purposeful decisions on where to locate things.
We talked about function and frequency of use above, but aesthetic – and space planning – is also motivating when creating a home based office.
Consider how your desk/office at work was set up. Are you a creature of habit and do we need to set up in a similar way to create historical comfort? Or Is there a window in the room or does the light make you feel good at certain times of the day. What does your chair feel like – can you comfortably sit for long periods. Or is a stand up desk a better fit.
Merging function and feeling together creates a space of balance, peace and productivity.
Be safe, be healthy, be organized.