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15 Home Office Organization Tips to Save Time and Get More Done

15 Home Office Organization Tips to Save Time and Get More Done

The opportunity to work from home has become more common as the way we work shifts away from the traditional office to more flexible arrangements where companies can hire the best not just locally, but globally.

But with this shift comes new challenges. When we work in an office, the ecosystem and environment are developed to create a working environment; whereas, when we work from home; the environment is developed for living. To make our home a great place to work; we need to make a few mindset changes and apply some boundaries so we can work at our most effective.

So, here are 15 tips and tricks you can use to make your home working environment an effective and great place to work.

1. Create a Dedicated Space to Do Your Work

While it might seem fantastic that you no longer need to commute to an office every day, one of the biggest advantages of going to a place to work is you have a designated area to do your work. It puts you in the right frame of mind to do your work.

One of the hardest parts of switching to working from home is you no longer have that specific place to do work. It can be very tempting to stay in bed until 11 am with your laptop on your lap responding to your emails and messages, then moving to the sofa to do your monthly expense report, and finally sitting on the veranda in the afternoon watching the sunset while putting the last pieces of code together before submitting your software. While all this may seem idyllic, you will quickly find you are not getting very much work done.

Instead, create a dedicated place to sit down and do your work. It could be a separate room you convert into a home office, or you create a corner somewhere in your house for work. Wherever you create that space from now on that space is where you do your work.

2. Make Your Dedicated Space Light

You will more than likely be doing your work during ‘office hours’ and you need daylight. It can be very tempting to create your dedicated workspace in a corner away from the windows in the belief this will help with your focus. That might be correct, but it will also cause you to feel down and depressed.

We need sunlight, so find a cool, airy, well-lit place for your work area. You want to enjoy working in that place. A dark dingy corner will not do that. You soon come to hate your workspace that is not going to be an encouraging way to do your most important pieces of work.

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3. Buy Yourself a Comfortable Chair

When I began working from home, the first items I thought about was the computer and monitor I would use. It never occurred to me to make sure I bought a comfortable chair. It turns out that if you think you can use any old chair, you are going to find yourself feeling very uncomfortable when you are at work, possibly leading to back and neck pain and much worse in the long-term.

It is just not worth it. Instead, invest in a good quality chair. Go your local office supplies or specialist furniture store and test out the chairs, and make sure you buy yourself a comfortable one. You will thank yourself later.

4. Create a Set Working Pattern

While it can be very tempting to start your work when you feel like it, we all need some kind of structure in our lives. Without structure, things slip. This is why many of the most successful people around us wake up early and do exercise. It’s the structure of having a morning routine that enables them to get into a set state to do their work, and also gives them that needed structure.

This means you wake up at the same time and you begin your work at the same time, preferably in the same place. It helps to create a start of day routine. Wake up, exercise, walk the dog, take the kids to school etc. You can also break for lunch at the same time and finish your day at the same time. Try to resist the temptation of taking a longer lunch break, believing that you can work an extra hour at the end of the day. This rarely happens and you soon find yourself lost.

5. Use Your Calendar to Block Focus Time

While this tip is usually reserved for those working in a busy office environment, I have found that when I block off time on my calendar to do focused work, not only does that work get done, it also gets done within the time I have allowed. It also stops me from being tempted to clean up the bathroom, do the breakfast dishes or pop out and do some gardening—ie procrastinate.

For me, I would normally have calls with my coaching clients in the evening which are scheduled on my calendar, but the day time is relatively free. At the end of every day, I spend ten minutes cleaning up and scheduling my work for tomorrow. This maintains a consistent flow of work being delivered every day.

6. Learn When You Are at Your Most Effective

Somewhat linked to number five, work out when you are mentally in your “working zone”. There are times during the day when we can better focus, and other times when we normally find it hard to focus. For most people, their most focused time is in the morning and their concentration will drop in the early afternoon before picking up again towards the end of the day.

We are all slightly different here, but once you know your best working times, you can schedule your blocks of focus time. For me, 7:00 am to 9:00 am is my best time for focused work and so is between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm. With that knowledge, I block out two sessions of focused work each day and knowing that my concentration falls off a cliff around 2:00 pm, that’s when I would go to the gym.

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7. Don’t Eat Lunch at Your Desk

This is a biggie. It can be very tempting to go to the kitchen, make your lunch and then return to your desk to continue with your work. Don’t do this. You need to get up and move. You need to change your environment from time to time.

This does not just go for lunch either. You should be taking regular breaks and these breaks need to be away from a screen. Go outside, go for a walk. Whatever you do, make sure you are changing your environment, so your brain gets the rest it needs.

8. Use Cloud-Based Storage for Your Files

This has helped me when it comes to getting my work done. There are times I find sitting down at my desk at home to be uninspiring. Whenever that happens, I want to be able to grab my iPad and go to a nearby coffee shop. The change in the environment is often all I need to get inspired again and sit down and do my work.

By having all my work in the cloud, all I have to do is throw my iPad into my bag and head out. I don’t have to waste time trying to remember what files I might need. Everything I am working on is in the cloud and accessible wherever I am.

9. Plan Your Day Before You Finish the Day

This one tip will ensure you never waste time and helps to make you much more effective. Before you close down at the end of the day, spend ten to fifteen minutes to plan out what you will work on tomorrow. The trick here is to plan exactly what you will begin the day with. What project you will work on and what you will do on that project—write a report, prepare a presentation file etc.

When you plan the day, the day before you don’t waste any time in the morning trying to decide what to work on. When you work from home, you are essentially your boss. It is you who has to decide what to work on and when. Making those decisions before you close down the day helps your workflow and ensures you are working on the right things at the right time.

10. Keep the Afternoon Reasonably Flexible

Over planning is a problem. There are far too many unknowns being thrown at us every day to be able to plan out every minute of the day. You need to build in flexibility.

For most people, the afternoons are the best time to deal with the urgent emails, messages and requests. This is when your concentration levels are beginning to drop and the change from focused work to dealing with communications—telephone calls, emails and messages—can be a welcome break from the heavy brain work.

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I generally deal with my communications immediately after lunch, before heading out to exercise, and in the early evening before ending my workday.

11. Create a Work Playlist

With the amazing music streaming services available today, it is very easy to create your playlists for different moods. I have several playlists I use for my work.

Two of the best places for inspiring work music are the Anjunabeats and Anjunadeep pages on the streaming services of your choice. Having your work playlists will help to put you into a great working mood, and will help you to focus on what is important without the risk of being distracted by outside noises.

12. Turn off Notifications

This one might not be specific for working from home—it also works when you work in an office—but it is still excellent advice. Notifications are distracting and you do not need them. If you check your email periodically throughout the day, you are not going to miss anything important.

It is when you are constantly being pinged by incoming emails and messages that you are unable to focus on getting your important work done. Turn off notifications and check email when you have finished each session of work and stop worrying, you are not missing out on anything important.

13. Keep Your Desk Clean and Clutter-Free

Having flies, paper and other stuff lying around on your desk will only distract you. You want to be creating a work station that encourages work and an untidy, disorganized desk does not encourage quality work and focus.

Before you end your workday, stop and clean up everything you have worked on and put them back in their rightful place.

14. Clean up Your Desktop at the End of Every Day

There’s nothing worse than beginning the day, turning on your computer and seeing a desktop full of old files, screenshots and other stuff. It does nothing for your motivation and it does not help you start the day with energy, purpose and focus.

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Instead, give yourself five minutes at the end of your workday to clean up your desktop, put files away in their rightful place and delete all your old files. It helps you to start the day with a clear mind and prepares you for a good session of focused work.

15. Use Tools You Enjoy Using

One of the benefits of working from home is you generally get to use your own tools. It could be that your employer provides you with a computer, but there’s nothing to stop you from adding to that. You could invest in a separate monitor if you prefer to work from a large screen, you also generally have greater freedom with the software you use.

For example, if you hate using Outlook, you may be able to use an alternative email service. Likewise, if you prefer to write in a different writing app other than Microsoft Word, then do so. In my experience, the tools you use do help you to perform better. I enjoy writing all my written work in Ulysses, using Apple’s Mail app as my email program and Evernote and Todoist as my productivity and planning tools.

Choose the tools you enjoy using. You’ll enjoy your work more if you do so.

The Bottom Line

So there you go, fifteen tips for getting the most out of your home office. Remember, work should never be a chore, you should enjoy what you do and love the environment you are working in.

As I write this, I have the sun’s rays pouring in through the window to the side of me, Above and Beyond playing in the background and I am sitting very comfortably in my chair. It could not get any better.

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Featured photo credit: Paige Cody via unsplash.com

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Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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