Your productivity level depends on how organized your work area is especially your home office. A messy and disorderly workspace will make it difficult for you to concentrate, work efficiently, and reach your daily goals.
So, use this guide to declutter your home office so you can improve your concentration levels and increase productivity.
Assess Your Current Setup
Assess your current home office setup and identify sections that need your attention. Focus on one section at a time to see desirable results and speed up the process. Know what to keep and what to discard. For example, identify items, equipment, or tools you no longer use and get rid of them.
Decide how you want your home office to look like and take the necessary steps to make it happen. Prioritize your workflow and only keep tools that you use daily within reach. For example, keep documents or files of active projects on your desktop. Place the rest of the files inside your drawers.
Get rid of cables and other office supplies such as staplers and stencils. Put them in drawers to maintain focus and minimize distractions.
If you have too many projects to work on, group your work into 4 different sections. Have an important and urgent section, urgent but unimportant section, important and not urgent section, and not urgent and unimportant section.
Identify urgent and important projects and mark them as such. Place all the documents from those projects on your desktop and within reach. This helps you work more effectively, manage your time wisely, concentrate on what matters most, and ensure you meet deadlines.
Go through the rest of the project files and place them in marked folders. Use markers to easily identify your documents and access them whenever you need to. Use different color codes for different labels. For example, use a red marker for urgent and unimportant files. Use a green marker for projects that are important but not urgent and use a yellow marker for ones that are not urgent and not important.
Color coding your files and keeping them organized is key to working more effectively. It helps you to save time and gives you easy access to the information you need. So, don’t skip this part.
Next, focus on the rest of your paperwork and improve your filing system. Go through every paper and divide them into 3 sections; ‘scan’, ‘keep’, and ‘tear.’ Check your filing cabinet, drawers, desktop, paper trays, baskets, and every part of the office you use to store your documents.
Identify papers or files you want to keep and place them in the ‘keep’ folder. If you want to go through certain documents and aren’t sure whether you should keep them or not, place them in the ‘scan’ folder. Put the rest of the files in the ‘tear’ folder. To make it easy for you, identify outdated documents as well as ones you no longer need and place them in the ‘tear’ folder.
Use a marker to mark your folders and avoid mixing up your files.
Create different categories for your office supplies, equipment, and files. Use drawers, bins, containers, and baskets to divide and store your items. Store pens, markers, pins, plastic tapes, pencils, erasers, and sharpeners in a container. Invest in a container that fits into your desk drawer and store these items inside.
Using containers creates space on your desktop, keeps your drawers neat, and minimizes clutter.
Organize your file cabinets. Create different categories and place like items together to ensure accessibility and stay organized. For example, have a ‘Mail’ category, ‘Tools’ category, and a ‘Computer equipment’ category. Place stamps, envelopes, and so on in the ‘Mail’ cabinet. Put punchers, staples, scissors, and other related tools in the ‘Tools’ cabinet. Place cables, USB drives, chargers, external hard drives, and so on in the ‘Computer equipment’ cabinet.
Use your marker to label your drawers and use different colors for each cabinet.
Categorize your filing system. Organize your files into 4 separate folders or sections. Have different folders for your financial documents, work files, medical documents, and personal files. Place your financial statements and other related documents in the ‘Financial’ folder. Label it with an orange marker. Place work documents in the ‘Work Files’ folder and label them with a green marker. Place medical files such as receipts in the ‘Medical documents’ folder and use a red marker. Use your ‘Personal Files’ folder to store personal files and mark them with a blue marker.
If you have too much paperwork, digitize some of your documents. Scan certain files and save them on your computer or upload them to your Google Drive account or whichever online cloud storage you prefer. Get rid of the scanned papers. Shred them or store them in the basement or somewhere far from your office.
Some of the best online cloud storage providers to consider are OneDrive, iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive.
If you use sticky notes or writing pads to write notes or schedule appointments,
consider using apps instead.
Use Evernote, Apple Notes, Sticky notes, OneNote, or Google Keep to create notes, write sketches, organize your writings, backup old notes, and more. The best part about most of these apps is that they offer a free plan plus they allow you to sync your notes across multiple devices for easy access.
Use Calendly, SimplyBook, Google Calendar, Zoho Bookings, or Calendar to schedule appointments.
Clear Your Office
If you have any remaining office equipment or unsorted items, create 2 separate bins and sort them. Have an ‘Important items’ bin and an ‘Unused items’ bin.
Identify essential items or equipment and store them in the ‘Important items’ bin. Store unused items or things you haven’t used in a month or so in the ‘Unused items’ bin. Keep the important stuff and get rid of items you are not using.
Organize and sort your important items or equipment. Place them in different categories and add them to the previously-mentioned sections and folders. For example, place the important and urgent files in the important folder. Place the tools you use daily in the important and not urgent section for easy access and so on.
Have a ‘Pending’ bin for outstanding projects such as ones you haven’t started working on yet. Store documents for projects you haven’t signed contracts on or ones you haven’t received confirmation from clients to start working on, in this bin.
Have a ‘Donate’ bin to store items you want to give away to companies, certain individuals, schools, and so on. Donate things you no longer need. Make sure they are useful and not worn out.
If you have a lot of books around the office, organize them by genre, size, or color. Go with what you prefer. Take advantage of the wall space and invest in a bookshelf. Use your bookshelf to store books only to create space, avoid clutter, and maintain a tidy work environment.
You can also label different sections on your shelf for quick and easy access. For example, you can place self-help books on the ‘Self-development’ section. Add financial books on the ‘Bookkeeping’ section and business books on the ‘Business and Entrepreneurship’ section.
Create A Mail Station
Keeping tabs on the amount of paper you receive daily into your home office is daunting and makes it difficult to keep track of incoming and outgoing emails. This is why most workplaces have messy desks. So, create a mail station to control and organize your emails.
Your mail station must have 2 categories; the ‘Incoming Mail’ category and the ‘Outgoing Mail’ category. Add incoming mail to the ‘Incoming Mail’ section and your outgoing mail in the ‘Outgoing Mail’ section.
Create sub-categories and divide your mail into different sections; ‘Work Mail’, ‘Bills’, and ‘Personal Mail.’
Add all work-related letters to your ‘Work’ section. For example, mail from clients, coworkers, business partners, and so on. Place your receipts or bills in the ‘Bills’ section. They can be business receipts, personal bills, and so on. Use your ‘Personal Mail’ section to store personal letters such as mail from friends or family, postcards, vouchers, and so on.
Use a marker to label your station and easily identify your mail. Use different colors for consistency and to easily find the information you need.
Having a mail station keeps you organized, helps you to avoid clutter, and ensures you don’t miss important letters and bills.
Create Different Work Zones
Create work zones to better manage your office space and keep it tidy. Focus on your daily activities and specify which activities happen in which areas. Establish different work zones for different tasks. Have a ‘Supplies’ area, a ‘Reference’ area, and a ‘Main workspace’.
Your shelves, drawers, and other relevant tools fall under your supply area. Filing cabinets and binders fall under the ‘Reference’ area.
A reference area allows you to access your files in one place and saves you time because you know where to look and where to go to find certain information.
Your ‘Main workspace’ is where you spend most of your time and do most of your work. For example, your desktop.
Keep your main area tidy and free from clutter to improve your focus levels and avoid distractions.
If you spend most of your time on your desk, keep it neat and orderly. Remove everything from your desk and only keep items you use regularly within reach. Make sure your desktop has a monitor, keyboard, mouse, phone, office desk lamp, and at least one paper tray to file important documents. Remove office storage baskets from your desktop and place them on the floor or other preferred location to free up space.
Place one personal item on your desktop. For example, a professional image of your partner, your pet, or a personal picture to remind you of something remarkable you’ve achieved such as a picture you took when receiving a certain award. Don’t overdo it though. One picture is enough because you don’t want your desk to get too crowded.
Add one or two plants in your office to brighten it up, improve focus, and increase productivity. The great thing about having office plants is that they can improve air quality, lighten your mood, and improve your health. Plus, they give you time to focus on something other than your work. Especially during breaks or your free time. You get to groom them and keep them healthy and attractive.
You can place your plants in multiple areas of your office. For example, your desk, near a sunny window, at the front door entrance, on the floor, or a separate small desk or office countertop.
Choose your preferred area but keep a few things in mind to keep your plants healthy and ensure growth. For example, place them in areas where they will get good air circulation and sunlight.
Remember, some plants need direct sunlight to grow and fare better outdoors while others don’t. So, choose the right indoor plants for your office and learn more about them before adding them to your office.
Have a ‘Print Station’ for your printer, photocopying machine, and other printing supplies. This is a great way to free up your desk space, work effectively, and control paperwork.
Buy a printer stand and organize your printing station. Keep your station orderly and maintainable at all times.
Declutter Your Computer
Decluttering your computer is as important as decluttering your office. It improves your computer’s performance, helps you free up storage space, and allows you to work more efficiently. So, clean up and organize your machine.
Get rid of unnecessary files and keep important files only. Create 3 folders on your desktop. Use ‘Important Files’ to name your first folder. ‘Unused Files’ for your second folder and ‘Unnecessary Files’ for your third folder.
Go through your computer documents, identify important files, and add them to your first folder. Identify unused files that you need to keep and add them to your second folder. Add all unnecessary files to your ‘Unnecessary Files’ folder.
Go through all your desktop folders and follow the same process. For example, add important files to the first folder you created when we started, unused files in the ‘Unused Files’ folder, and so on.
Keep all the documents in your ‘Important Files’ and ‘Unused Files’ folders. Delete or move the ‘Unnecessary Files’ folder to the trash or recycle bin and empty it.
Go through your ‘Unused Files’ folder and determine whether or not you need the documents. Delete ones you don’t need and keep ones you need or might use.
Next, create an ‘Apps’ folder on your desktop. Add three Word documents to your folder. Name and save the first one as ‘Important Apps.’ Name and save the second one as ‘Outdated Apps’ and the third one as ‘Unused Apps.’
Check all installed apps under Programs and Features on Windows and Applications if you are using a Mac.
Open your ‘Important Apps’ Word document and list all your important apps as well as ones you use regularly. Make sure you add all relevant apps to avoid frustrations later on.
Open your ‘Outdated Apps’ Word document and list all important but outdated apps.
List all unused apps in the ‘Unused Apps’ Word document.
Keep the apps listed on your ‘Important Apps’ document and make sure they are all up-to-date.
Update all outdated apps listed in your ‘Outdated Apps’ document.
Uninstall all apps listed in the ‘Unused Apps’ folder but make sure you don’t remove system applications. To make it easy, only remove unused third-party apps or ones you installed yourself and keep ones that came preinstalled.
Next, focus on your images and videos. Keep important videos and images. Delete the rest. Create different folders for your videos and name them accordingly. For example, have a ‘Tutorials’ folder for tutorials, a ‘Business’ folder for work-related videos, a ‘Personal videos’ folder for personal videos, and so on.
Check your downloads, keep important ones and delete unimportant ones.
Once you are done organizing your files, take precautionary measures and keep your computer at peak performance. Install a reliable Antivirus, run Disk Cleanup, disable unnecessary startup programs, and check your device’s performance and health.
You can also hire an IT Technician to do health checks on your computer monthly if you prefer.
Manage Your Electronic Mail
Organize your inbox to manage your time wisely, avoid missing emails, and send quick responses to urgent emails.
Manage your emails to stay organized, get rid of spam, and increase productivity.
Identify all newsletters you subscribed to and unsubscribe from emails you no longer read or need.
Delete old unimportant emails and keep important ones.
Go through your unread emails and identify which ones to keep and which ones to unsubscribe from and delete from your inbox. Set aside at least 30 minutes daily to clean your inbox until you are satisfied with the results. Once you organize your inbox, run regular checks to keep it clean and manageable. You can check your inbox at least once a day to ensure you take the necessary actions and avoid missing important emails.
Use Gmail filters to organize your inbox if you have a Gmail account.
Schedule decluttering and declutter regularly to maintain a tidy workspace. Declutter your office weekly or at least twice a month.