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Published on October 30, 2019

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 September 24, 2020

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

In the movie The Matrix, everyone was intrigued with the ability that Neo and his friends possessed to learn new skills in a matter of seconds. With the incredible rise in technology today, the rapid learning in the movie is becoming much more of a reality than you realize.

The current generation has access to more knowledge and information than any before it. Through the internet, we are able to access all sorts of knowledge to answer almost every conceivable question. To become smarter, it’s more about the ability to learn faster, rather than being a natural born genius.

Here are 17 ways to kickstart your Matrix-style learning experience in a short amount of time.

1. Deconstruct and Reverse Engineer

Break down the skill that you want to learn into little pieces and learn techniques to master an isolated portion. The small pieces will come together to make up the whole skill.

For example, when you’re learning to play the guitar, learn how to press down a chord pattern with your fingers first without even trying to strum the chord. Once you are able to change between a couple of chord patterns, then add the strumming.

2. Use the Pareto Principle

Use the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80 20 rule. Identify the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results. Find out more about the 80 20 rule here: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

Take learning a new language for example. It does not take long to realize that some words pop up over and over again as you’re learning. You can do a quick search for “most commonly used French words,” for example, and begin to learn them first before adding on the rest.

3. Make Stakes

Establish some sort of punishment for not learning the skill that you are seeking. There are sites available that allow you to make a donation toward a charity you absolutely hate if you do not meet your goals. Or you can place a bet with a friend to light that fire under you.

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However, keep in mind that several studies have shown that rewards tend to be more motivating than punishment[1].

4. Record Yourself

Seeing yourself on video is a great way to learn from your mistakes and identify areas that you need to improve. This is very effective for any musicians, actors, speakers, performers, and dancers.

5. Join a Group

There are huge benefits to learning in a group. Not only are you able to learn from others but you’ll be encouraged to make progress together. Whether it’s a chess club, a mastermind group, or an online meet-up group, get connected with other like-minded individuals.

6. Time Travel

Visit the library. Although everything is moving more and more online, there are still such things called libraries.

Whether it’s a municipal library or your university library, you will be amazed at some of the books available there that are not accessible online. Specifically, look for the hidden treasures and wisdom contained in the really old books.

7. Be a Chameleon

When you want to learn new skills, imitate your biggest idol. Watch a video and learn from seeing someone else do it. Participate in mimicry and copy what you see.

Studies have shown that, apart from learning,[2]

“Mimicry is an effective tool not only to create ties and social relationships, but also for maintaining them.”

Visual learning is a great way to speed up the learning process. YouTube has thousands of videos on almost every topic available.

8. Focus

Follow one course until success! It’s easy to get distracted, to throw in the towel, or to become interested in the next great thing and ditch what you initially set out to do.

Ditch the whole idea of multitasking, as it has been shown to be detrimental and unproductive Simply focus on the one new skill at hand until you get it done.

9. Visualize

The mind has great difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. That is why athletes practice mentally seeing their success before attempting the real thing[3].

Visualize yourself achieving your new skill and each step that you need to make to see results. This is an important skill to help when you’re learning the basics or breaking a bad habit.

Take a look at this article to learn how to do so: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

10. Find a Mentor

Success leaves clues. The best short cut to become an expert is to find an expert and not have to make the mistakes that they have made.

Finding out what NOT to do from the expert will fast-track your learning when you want to learn new skills. It is a huge win to have them personally walk you through what needs to be done. Reach out and send an email to them.

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If you need help learning how to find a mentor, check out this article.

11. Sleep on It

Practice your new skill within four hours of going to sleep.

Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, is a noted rapid learning expert. He says that any practice done within this time frame causes your brain to embed the learning more rapidly into its neural pathways. Your memory and motor-mechanics are ingrained at a quicker level.

12. Use the 20-Hour Rule

Along with that tip, Kaufman also suggests 20 as the magic number of hours to dedicate to learning the new skill.

His reasoning is that everyone will hit a wall early on in the rapid learning stage and that “pre-committing” to 20 hours is a sure-fire way to push through that wall and acquire your new skill.[4]

Check out his video to find out more:

13. Learn by Doing

It’s easy to get caught up in reading and gathering information on how to learn new skills and never actually get around to doing those skills. The best way to learn is to do.

Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are physically engaged continuously. Keep alternating between research and practice.

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14. Complete Short Sprints

Rather than to force yourself into enduring hours upon hours of dedication, work in short sprints of about 20-30 minutes, then get up and stretch or take a short walk. Your brain’s attention span works best with short breaks, so be sure to give it the little rest it needs.

One study found that, between two groups of students, the students who took two short breaks when studying actually performed better than those who didn’t take breaks[5].

15. Ditch the Distractions

Make sure the environment you are in is perfect for your rapid-learning progress. That means ditching any social media, and the temptation to check any email. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Before you sit down to learn new skills, make sure that potential distractions are far from sight.

16. Use Nootropics

Otherwise known as brain enhancers, these cognitive boosters are available in natural herbal forms and in supplements.

Many students will swear by the increased focus that nootropics will provide[6], particularly as they get set for some serious cramming. Natural herbal nootropics have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions to improve the mind and learning.

Find out more about brain supplements in this article.

17. Celebrate

For every single small win that you experience during the learning process, be sure to celebrate. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin as you raise your hands in victory and pump your fits. Have a piece of chocolate and give yourself a pat on the back. This positive reinforcement will help you keep pushing forward as you learn new skills.

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The Bottom Line

Learning a new skill should be exciting and fun. Whether you use online courses, real world experience, YouTube videos, or free online resources, take time to learn in the long term. Keep picturing the joy of reaching the end goal and being a better version of yourself as continual motivation.

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Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

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