As tele-commuting has become a viable option in crowded metros, professional office suites are available by the day or month, and more home-based businesses have emerged, the concept of "the workplace" has evolved. No longer is "the office" exclusively a corporate space provided by an employer. Many workers and business owners have a corporate office space but also keep a home office where they can choose to work in the comfort of their robe and slippers. Others work exclusively from home. Heck, I work naked in my family room sometimes.
Here are six fundamental concepts taken from my book, Organize Your Office In No Time (Que Publishing) to help you get organized and maximize your success, no matter where your office may be.
1. Be Consistent
Business success depends on developing effective habits and processes, and using them consistently. Use only one planning tool for scheduling meetings and appointments and use it consistently. Handle your administrative processes the same way each time. File information the same way from one day to the next. Identify places for all your items and always store them in their homes so you can find what you need quickly and stay focused on business.
2. Handle Small Tasks Now
When faced with a task -- any task -- you have a choice. You can handle it now or handle it later. If you can take care of something in less than a minute, it’s often better to handle it then rather than putting it on a list. However if it requires thought, planning, research or can't be handled in a minute, put it on your "later list" to do another time. Remember that anything you put off now you'll have to do sometime, so taking care of things in the moment will help keep your "later list" manageable.
3. Create Catch-Up Time
Even if you normally handle quick tasks in the moment, when you're working on something really important, rather than interrupt your work, keep a running list of tasks to do later. Schedule a half-hour of "catch-up time" each week to focus on handling these items so they don’t pile up indefinitely.
4. Zone Your Space
Mentally divide your workspace into "zones" to ensure you can find what you need easily. Zone One is the area you can reach when you’re sitting at your desk. Zone One is for frequently accessed items such as your stapler, pens, computer and phone. Zone Two is a closet, walls or the credenza behind you. Zone Two is for storing items you refer to regularly, but not every day or even every week. Items in Zone Two might include printer paper, software discs, and reference manuals. Zone Three is out of your office -- a basement, central supply closet, or storage facility. Use Zone Three for archival information, extraneous furnishings, historical items and bulk storage of marketing or promotional materials. The items you keep will depend on your industry and work style, but the key to choosing the most appropriate zone is to evaluate how frequently you access each item.
5. Guard Your Minutes
Hours are made of minutes, and lost ones add up quickly! There will always be people who seem to have nothing better to do than steal your time by calling just to chat, or standing in your office droning on about their weekend while you're trying to work. Be as productive as you can by guarding your time and setting boundaries on how you'll use it. Close your door if you have one, to signal others to give you privacy to work. Cut phone calls short with windbags, or better yet, let them go to voicemail unless they're of an urgent nature. Time is your most valuable resource, so guard your minutes to make every hour count. If you don’t protect your time, who will?
6. Clarify Your Priorities
When choosing how to allocate your time each day, it's important to know which tasks and projects are your highest priorities, so you don't waste time on unimportant things. If you're not sure what should take priority, ask a superior, a co-worker or decide by evaluating the consequence of delaying each task. When you complete your tasks from the highest priority to the lowest, you accomplish what is important in a timely manner and increase your effectiveness and success.