1. Develop clear understandings and guidelines with others in the household to minimize misunderstandings about your home office. Avoid “living" in your office - make commitments to family time and keep them!
2. Choose a location for your office where you like to be. If you have a formal living area you use only a few times a year, but are working at home every day in a place you don't like - think again!
3. Choose furniture and lighting to suit your individual preferences. If possible, create an L-shape for your desk area with filing space within reach. Consider ergonomic design to protect yourself from fatigue or even injury.
4. Set up your desk so you can process mail quickly. Most people need at least three containers within easy reach of their desk: In - for mail you haven’t yet looked at Out - for items that need to go someplace else File - for items that need to be filed outside the reach of your desk
5. Put wastebasket or recycling containers wherever possible – for example, under your desk, near the filing cabinet, or next to the fax machine. If you are concerned about confidentiality issues, purchase a paper shredder.
6. Create a system for filing paper and electronic information, so that you (or someone else, if necessary) can find any information you need quickly and easily.
7. Divide your files into “Action” (for things you are currently working on) and “Reference” (for information you want to be able to refer to easily).
8. If you are short on filing space, create “Archives” in a less accessible or off-site location for files you are legally required to keep, or for files you rarely use. Keep a list of those files at your desk for easy reference.
9. Make good use of wall space for bookshelves or cabinets for resources such as books, notebooks, magazines, and office supplies.
10. Continually ask yourself “What’s the worst possible thing that would happen if I didn’t have this?” If you can live with your answer, toss – or recycle it - and work happily ever after!
© Barbara Hemphill is the author of Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger at Work and Taming the Paper Tiger at Home and co-author of Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever. The mission of Hemphill Productivity Institute is to help individuals and organizations create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. We do this by organizing space, information, and time. We can be reached at 800-427-0237 or at www.ProductiveEnvironment.com