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Where to Begin?
An organized work area is key to increasing productivity. I have worked at home as a writer and editor for over 10 years, and keeping my work area organized is a constant struggle. I share my desk with my boys and their computer, so I often have to dig through their games and notes to get to my stuff! So, in an ideal situation, don't share desk space with an 9 and 13 year old!
To get started, take a step back and look at your work area. Where is the clutter and where is it coming from? I love post-it notes, but it got to the point where I had twenty of them all over my desk and computer. I am also a list maker, so there were sheets of paper everywhere with to do lists, contact information, and article ideas. So, step one was to buy a small notebook. Nothing fancy, just a 6 x 9 spiral bound book. Now, I make my notes and lists in the notebook. I can turn the page to add more, and look back when I need to. I only tear pages out when the information is not needed. Everything is in one place and my desk is no longer covered with post-it notes (although, I will admit there are few here and there!)
I also found that I had a stash of mail, smaller note pads, and other miscellaneous that needed a home. So, I started with a small letter holder. It is inexpensive, doesn't take up much space, and keeps things off my work surface.
Besides all of the papers that you accumulate, you also need to keep pens, pencils, and other office supplies handy. A basic pencil cup will do the trick for writing utensils, and a desk station can keep your post-its, and other small supplies organized. Now, like I said, I share my desk with my boys. So, I do not have a lot of desk space, so I use a drawer organizer instead of a desktop item to store office supplies.
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More Cool Organizational Tools
Tracking invoices and all of the additional paperwork that piles up when you work from home requires a file cabinet. Whether it is the standard two-drawer cabinet, or something more portable, an organized filing system is essential. To stay organized, I have separate file folders for each client, and then keep separate folders for invoices and informational paperwork. If you have a large number of outstanding jobs, you may need to separate things even further on a per-job basis. There are a wide variety of file accessories available to keep your filing cabinet in perfect working order.
If you have a metal desk or filing cabinet, these magnetic mesh bins would be a hand way to store supplies without taking up desktop space. They come in a variety of sizes and are affordable. A bulletin board in your office is also useful when you are trying to keep items off your desk. I have a large one and use it for phone numbers that I use regularly, business cards that I access frequently, a small calendar, and of course pictures of my kids for inspiration!
Another item that may seem obvious is keeping a trash can within arm's reach. I recently rearranged my office area to move my trash can closer to my desk. I found that I got up to throw something away and became distracted by bills that needed to be filed or my overflowing bin of items that needed to be shredded. Making things more accessible helps maintain workflow.
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All of the above will not do you a bit of good if you do not have a good desk to work at. Right now, I use a table that my husband got from work (from the trash pile). The plan is to build a new workspace...but, you know how that goes! The Container Store has a variety of component desks available that may fit your needs. They sell combinations of their desk components that fit your needs. The other option is to purchase components separately and design your perfect work space. To go along with your perfect desk, you need the perfect chair. This is one area where it pays off to spend a little more money. Finding a chair that is comfortable and supports your back is important if you are going to be spending a lot of time sitting at a desk. One that is adjustable is a great option; then you can make it fit your needs and others using it can make any necessary adjustments.
The focus here is to plan an organized, comfortable space for you to work in. It is worth the time and money to maintain a high functioning work space.