Home Office: Make Working from Home Work

Having a home office is both convenient and rewarding, especially when the stars align and you are able to sneak in a quick lunch with your toddler. It can also be very distracting. The dirty laundry is always beckoning. So is Facebook. More often than not, work-at-home parents only have snippets of time throughout the day to focus on work. A well-organized work space and good time management skills will go a long way to help make that time count.  Here are some tips to help get you there:

Get Your Office Organized

  • Keep only what you need to do your job in your work space. This is not the area to store screwdrivers, spare sheets, or sparkly headbands.
  • Create a home for everything.  Place the things you use most (pens, your calendar, your phone) in easy-to-access areas. Less used items, like extra office supplies or backup software, should be further away.
  • Use storage wisely.  Supplies should be stored in drawers, and paper is best kept in file cabinets.
  • Put things back.  Studies show that the average business person wastes 150 hours a year looking for misplaced items. (Imagine how much you could accomplish if you had an extra 150 hours!) Returning items to their homes only takes a few minutes. If you don’t have time to put things away immediately after completing a task, take 5 to 10 minutes to put things away before you end your work session.

Be More Efficient

  • Compartmentalize your time. Look at your family and business responsibilities and create a schedule you can realistically stick to. Be fully in the moment during family time. Make it clear to your family that you are not to be disturbed during office hours.
  • Do the right things at the right time. First, figure out when you are at your peak. Then, identify the activities that require your undivided attention. Plan to do the most intensive tasks when you are at your most productive. Do everything you can to limit distractions during that time.
  • Avoid “invisible tasks,” small activities like washing dishes and cleaning up toys that distract you from your work. Instead, schedule a distinct time for doing housework and running errands, and discipline yourself to only worry about them then.
  • Plan ahead for your next work session. At the end of the day take 5 minutes to write down what you need to do the next time you will be working. Set out files and supplies, if necessary. (This technique is especially helpful for people who do not work consecutive days.)
  • Set a Quit Time and stick to it. Remember that you are in charge of your schedule. You get to say no. You get to say not now. And you get to say yes – to your family, yourself, and a business that succeeds!
Sarah Nelson