By John Brook
A cluttered desk might be the sign of a genius, but it could also be a sign of an out of control home based business. As chaos reigns in the office, maintaining a well-organized, well-managed business becomes more difficult.
To help you get control over the messy buildup that is threatening your career and your bottom line, you should read the following nine tips for a tidy home office.
- Take the time to organize–As one who works from home, you may feel pressure to perform, so the temptation is to skip clean up time for production time. Although production is what brings in money, maintaining the capacity to produce is essential for a sustainable business. This means that important tasks like bookkeeping, filing, and cleaning should not be overlooked. Take fifteen minutes at the end of the day to clean up.
- Get a filing plan–Use hanging files and a consistent naming convention so that you can always find the invoices, bills, purchase orders, contracts, taxes, and other important documentation when you need it. Get a label printer and give every folder a complete name. Be consistent too. For example, you should either have an office supplies folder for all your vendors or have a separate folder for each vendor. Have both can become confusing.
- Create a To-Do pile and actually work on it–You can’t get everything done at once, so put all your priority tasks in a bin or a folder so that you know what you have to work on as soon as you get a chance. When it’s time to get back to work, file your priority stack away until the next time you can work on it. This way you get all your papers categorized and you get your clutter under control.
- Use your trash can–When it comes to paperwork, throw it away if you don’t need it now or if you can easily retrieve it electronically. While you’re at it, take a look at everything on your desk and through away the stuff you don’t need and probably will never use.
- Go through your drawers–The reason why so many things end up on top of your desk might be that your desk drawers are full. Go through each drawer and get rid of the stuff that is old, outdated, obsolete, or just plain useless. Now you’ll have a place to put the stuff you often use such as your stapler, ruler, paper clips, CDs, etc.
- Use a Getting Things Done system—Getting Things Done (GTD)® is actually a science with many different theories and proponents. Explore the various Getting Things Done systems that are available and use one of them. An organized, logical approach to your business will help you accomplish more without generating clutter.
- Get some storage boxes–As files become obsolete, remove them from your active filing system and store them in a box. Some accounting rules may require that you keep customer and financial records for a certain number of years, but this doesn’t mean that you must keep them all in your office. Put the old stuff in storage boxes and find a place to put them in your attic, basement, or shed. Do the same thing for books, and other objects that are littering your work environment.
- Use different colors of checks–As a home business, you may have multiple personal and business checking accounts. To help with your accounting and with your organization, order a different color of checks to use for each account. This will help you keep your accounts separated so you don’t record checks to the incorrect account.
- Use a scanner–Offload as many papers as possible by scanning them into your computer rather than keeping them around to file. You will find that a filing system on your computer presents many of the same challenges as a physical system, but the benefits of saved space and easy retrieval make electronic storage an appealing approach.
Start using these nine filing tips for a tidy home office now and you will be on your way to a more productive and profitable home office.