Creating Productive Work-From-Home Space: National Clean Off Your Desk Day

Last week, I heard from a newly minted college graduate.  She is very excited to start her first  professional position with a national company, working from home.

Hmmm… “Working From Home”.   A quick glance at wikipedia revealed related terms like “telecommuting”, “remote work” or “teleworking”.  This is a growing trend, with many of us working at least some of the time from non-traditional work space.

According to this recent New York Times article,  “More American employees are working remotely, and they are doing so for longer periods… Last year, 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely, according to the survey of more than 15,000 adults.”

With this conversation in mind and National Clean Off Your Desk Day (second Monday of January) here again, let’s talk about Organizing Your Work Space for Working-From-Home.  Let’s look at solutions to common Work-From-Home Challenges!

Be Professional and Productive While Working From Home

There are habits we can create to feel professional and productive, no matter where we work.

  • Create a morning routine – get up, work out, eat a healthy breakfast, get clean, etc. – even if your commute is the 10 feet between your living room and office.

    My Company Wellness Program 🙂

  • We all benefit from the clear definition of a start and end to our work day.  If you need separation in your day between personal time and work, go for a run, for Mass, for coffee, or to drop off the kids at school.  Then, come home and boot up!
  • Dress professionally, even if you don’t see another person all day.  No PJs for productivity!
  • We need to minimize distractions (more on this later) working from home, but the opposite is also true.  Remember to walk around and take breaks!

My Company Cafeteria (a.k.a. my kitchen counter!)

 

Stay Connected:

  • A common challenge of working from home is feeling isolated.  Remember, Community comes in many forms.
  • Check with your company!  If your company has teleworking opportunities, they probably also have strategies in place to help employees stay connected.
  • Find a mentor or accountability partner within your company.   You can also ask the professional association attached to your industry, or even just someone you really respect.
  • Join networking or FB groups within your chosen field or geographical community. My FB and networking groups are amazing resources for me as I navigate my day!

Physical Workspace:

  • If you are clear on the Work of your Work, you can probably work from anywhere!
  • No one needs to know where you work!  Some days saying “working from home” doesn’t feel professional, so I might say I’m working “remotely” or “virtually”, whether I’m at a client’s office, my own home office or Starbucks!
  • Your Actual Work Space:
    • If you skype, or have video conference calls, invest in a back drop or standing screen that looks more professional than your family room or basement!
    • Organize your work space, especially if you need to switch from student focus to work focus, like my young friend.  A clean desk helps you focus.  My accountability partner mentioned just last week how much more creative she feels when her work space is organized and clutter free.
  • Need Professional Space for a change of pace or a group project?  Perhaps your team is coming into town for training?  Many communities have available shared professional spaces or  business centers.  For a fee, these centers may offer work spaces, office services such as copiers or fax machines, conference rooms to rent by the hour or day, and even administrative help.   For example, I am a member of BAPA here on the South Side of Chicago, and their business center offers office equipment and conference room space free to paid members.

 

The “Home” part of Working-From-Home

  • Be clear with your house-mates what your tele-working will mean.  You may be home but still on the clock!  (The same goes for pets – one client closes the door and curtains to the back yard, to signal to her faithful furry companions that play time is over!)
  • A closed door can be an arranged signal that quiet time is needed, or that a conference call is in progress!

Consider these ideas when creating your productive work-from-home space!

National Clean Off Your Desk Day: Whadda YOU looking at?

No, really, what do you see?

This time every year, we have a chance to review, refresh and de-clutter our work space with National Clean Off Your Desk Day, celebrated annually on the second Monday in January.

I’ve published many articles about organizing your work surface, but today I suggest you lift your eyes, and organize your visual work space (your view).

Look up from your desk for this one.  What do you see? Look straight ahead, side to side. Order or chaos?  Positive messages or nagging responsibilities?  Simple beautiful things, or old and outdated things?  We are all influenced by our visual fields, but we can also become overwhelmed with visual clutter.

Let’s make it better!  Think about this statement:  “I want to see that which I want to attract.” For me, I want to look at a view that is simple, streamlined, functional and beautiful!

Spend some time cleaning off your desk space today (yes, you still need to do that!), and then Look Up! and apply the same steps (from Julie Morgenstern’s SPACE Method) to taking care of your view!

 

SORT your stuff into categories:
Clear the stuff off that message board or wall in front of you.   Yes, all of it.

Then, sort the stuff into categories, for example:  Photos, memos, messages, task reminders (bills on paperclips to send in or pay, post it notes with “call Bob”, or “order baby shower gift”), decor / tchotchke / kitsch, things to go elsewhere or to other people, etc.


PURGE:

Ok, friends. Time to get real.  Let’s go back to the statement “I want to see that which I want to attract.” Keep only the items that encourage, nourish and support your work.  Put away the rest, or purge it completely.

If you are not ready to part with all the stuff, consider a seasonal visual work space / view: swapping out your photos or inspirational messages every week / month or season.

(I like my Chrome extension Momentum: every day I’m provided a new beautiful photo, an inspirational quote and a space to jot down my intention for the day.  Then I see it whenever I sit down to work at my computer.)

A few words about… Post-It Notes.  I have a love/hate relationship with Post-It Notes. Post-Its are meant to be momentary reminders.  However, when we use Post-Its a lot, we start to look past them.  When I ask clients about the notes all over their work space, I’ll hear “Oh, they’ve been there so long, I don’t even see them anymore.”  Then WHY ARE THEY THERE?

So, jot a note on a Post-It Note, and then do something with it.  An event reminder?  Put it in your calendar.  A phone number?  Enter it into your contacts.  A task reminder or creative idea?  Add the task to your to do list, or the idea to your idea file.  AND THEN TOSS THE NOTE!!

 

ASSIGN A HOME, CONTAINERIZE and EQUALIZE:

When assigning a home and containerizing the stuff in our field of vision, consider keeping only those things that are useful and beautiful.  Keep pictures that make you smile (only a few), inspirational messages (only a few), and a handful of little items that evoke positive memories or creativity.  Add a plant, if you’d like!

Consider boundaries – limit your visual clutter to a small space in your line of sight or just one shelf or tray for kitschy items.

We want a nice view, but not too nice!  Have nice things to look at, but not so nice that they pull your focus from your work.  I love my vision board (thanks, MTO!), but if I look at it all the time, I take it for granted.  It’s more inspiring for me to intentionally look at it, and then set is aside and move on to my tasks.

Now, set a reminder to do this again every few months, to keep your View looking good!

OK, daylight’s wasting! Get on with cleaning off that Desk!

National Clean Off Your Desk Day and The 80/20 Rule

Now The Real Work Begins!  Now it’s time to get down to business, and what better way than with National Clean off Your pile of mailDesk Day, the second Monday of January!  Think about it – Cleaning Off Your Desk makes room for motivation, clarity and focus.  What are your Goals for 2015:  Clear the clutter; get a handle on your money and finances; read more; stress less; do / get a better job?  It all starts with cleaning your desk!

Let me (re)-introduce you to the Pareto Principle, a.k.a. the 80/20 Rule.  The Pareto Principle says 80% of what you need is in 20% of what you have. Say it a couple times out loud until it sinks in.  The 80/20 rule applied to Paper management says we need about 20% of our papers, and we can probably get rid of the rest.  As an example, a client returning from a trip mentioned collecting 2 inches of mail from her mail box, and keeping… 4 items.  That’s it.

Let’s clear that cluttered 80%, so we can work on the 20% we need to act on and keep.

Here’s What To Do:

Grab a recycling bin and shredder, a letter opener, and pen and paper.

Grab the first pile of papers on your desk, and get started. With the most recent pile of mail, open it all.  Yes, really, Standing at your work space (standing is better), open it all.

  • Recycle immediately the ads.
  • Start piles for Common Categories, like these:
    • Bills to pay
    • Action Items (notes to send, reminders of phone calls to make, forms to complete and submit, etc)
    • Items to Read Later: magazines, articles
    • Errands to Run (coupons, receipts for returns, etc)
    • Papers To File
    • Tax Related Papers 2014
    • Receipts
  • Recycle all the catalogs, but first tear off the back page off and set them aside.
  • Open every envelope, and toss / recycle / shred anything you don’t need for action or filing.  Recycle outside envelopes and inside inserts for your bills, etc.,
  • Set the bills-to-pay in their own pile, and the action items (same pile for me)
  • Grab a magazine holder and start a reading pile for your magazines and articles you plan to read later

Make some magic, and STOP MORE MAIL FROM COMING!

  • Low Tech: Call the 800 #s on the back page of the catalogs, and request to be removed from their mailing list.
  • Go To http://www.catalogchoice.org/, create an account and “Unsubscribe” from catalogs
  • Using your catalogchoice.org account, Get the Mail Stop app for your smart phone and get rid of unwanted mail in your mail box, too
  • Contact and create an account with the Direct Marketing Association,  http://www.dmachoice.org/, to get off of mailing lists and stop unsolicited mail
  • Another option is the Paper Karma app for your smart phone, to unsubscribe from mailing lists.
  • Unsubscribe from Magazines you no longer need or want, and digitize your subscriptions, so they come via email or on your IPad or Tablet.
  • Make a regular appointment to get to your reading pile (mine is early on Saturday morning for an hour or 2)

I’ve blogged extensively on setting up the actual Paper Management structure, the files and things, so please check out those, too, as you proceed to the next step:  http://colleencpo.wordpress.com/?s=paper+management

Here are related blogs, too, from past National Clean Off Your Desk Days:

You Can DO This!  Now get to work!

Monday, January 14th is National Clean Off Your Desk Day!

Monday, January 14th, 2013 is National Clean off your Desk Day!  Spend an hour and make your Desk work for you!  Focus on visual results, and save acting on ideas for another day. Corral your papers into meaningful places, so you can see what you have and start getting things done.

Most folks are capable of sorting and piling papers into categories of their own choosing. But mid-sort, they find they need to reclaim their work space, and the papers get piled together again and set aside, instead of finding a new home. So the desk stays a mess, and they never feel “done”.

Another challenge with papers is that they typically represent something else, like a memory, an event, a task to complete or an idea we want to keep. Acknowledging that, you need a physical storage system for your papers and ideas, and the motivation and perseverance to finish and maintain your system. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Remove non work related items from your desk.
  2. Set up a physical system for Passive Papers (Idea from Freedom Filer, and tweaked for my clients!).
    1. Passive Papers have been acted upon, and now wait for a pre-determined time until they are no longer needed for reference (e.g., receipts, paid bills, balanced bank statements, etc.).
    2. The storage system consists of 24 hanging folders in an open top vertical holder on your desktop (preferred) or a very near desk drawer. Label the folders 2 for each month, with a “- Even Year” or “- Odd Year” tacked on the end. You will end up with two full years of folders, one set for this year, 2013 (ending in “- Odd Year”), and one for last year (“ – Even Year”).  “January – Odd, Februrary – Odd” etc.  The Even Year folders will hold last year’s papers from your desktop, and the Odd Year folders are for adding to during 2013. Few papers need to be kept longer than one calendar year.
  3. Set up a physical system for Active Papers, also in an open vertical folder holder on your desk top, with folder names based on What Actions To Take or By Project, or sometimes, both! For Example:
    1. What Actions To Take: Receipts for Reimbursement; Calls to Make; Bills to Pay; Forms to complete and return; or Coupons, gift cards and shopping ideas.
    2. By Project (examples from my desk): Past clients to check in with; Proposal for Home Office and Productivity Class Series; LLC Research and Paperwork; Event Folder, May Communion Party.
    3. Strategic Management, product development ideas
  4. Set up a box for Archival Papers / Treasures. Archival Papers are long-term record keeping papers, like home purchase papers, filed taxes, appliance manuals and warranties, wills, etc. Treasures are school project, travel papers, received greeting cards, photos, etc. These are all projects for another day, get them off your desk.
    1. Grab two bags, one each for papers to shred later and recycling, and start distributing your desk papers to their new homes. Grab a notebook and jot ideas down as they occur to you, do not get distracted and lose focus.
  5. Now, Get Up and Put Your Stuff Away. You have distributed your papers to your new folders, but you may have other items that need to go elsewhere in your home or office. Get up and Put Them Away in their final homes. Even if this 10 minutes is in the middle of your project, Get Up and Put them away. Then bask in the glow of your clean desk top, and keep going. A fellow organizer calls this the Stand And Deliver step, but I can’t find out who that was, and I would happily give her credit. The point is…. Embrace “Done”! And feel good about your efforts!

Six Essential Steps to An Organized Desk

      Spend an hour on your desk for National Clean off your Desk Day!   

     Focus on visual results, and save acting on ideas for another day. Corral your papers into meaningful places, so you can see what you have and start getting things done.

     Most folks are capable of sorting and piling papers into categories of their own choosing. But mid-sort, they find they need to reclaim their work space, and the papers get piled together again and set aside, instead of finding a new home. So the desk stays a mess, and they never feel “done”.

     Another challenge with papers is that they typically represent something else, like a memory, an event, a task to complete or an idea we want to keep. Acknowledging that, you need a physical storage system for your papers and ideas, and the motivation and perseverance to finish and maintain your system.  Here is what you need to do: 

    1. Remove non work related items from your desk (see last year’s blog for a list).
    2. Set up a physical system for Passive Papers (Idea from Freedom Filer, and tweaked for my clients!). 
      1. Passive Papers have been acted upon, and now wait for a pre-determined time until they are no longer needed for reference (e.g., receipts, paid bills, balanced bank statements, etc.).
      2. The storage system consists of 24 hanging folders in an open top vertical holder on your desktop
        (preferred) or a very near desk drawer.  Label the folders 2 for each month, with a  “- Even Year” or  “- Odd Year” tacked on the end.  You will end up with two full years of folders, one set for last year (2011, ending in “- Odd Year”), and one for this year (“ –  Even Year”).  The Odd Year folders will hold last year’s papers from your desktop, and the Even Year folders are for adding to during 2012.  Few papers need to be kept longer than one calendar year. 
    3. Set up a physical system for Active Papers, also in an open vertical folder holder on your desk top, with folder names based on What Actions To Take or By Project, or sometimes, both!  For Example:
      1. What Actions To Take:  Receipts for Reimbursement; Calls to Make; Bills to Pay; Forms to complete and return; or Coupons, gift cards and shopping ideas.
      2. By Project (examples from my desk):  Past clients to check in with; Proposal for Home Office and Productivity Class Series; LLC Research and Paperwork; Event Folder, May Communion Party.
      3. Strategic Management, product development ideas
    4. Set up a box for Archival Papers / Treasures.  Archival Papers are long-term record keeping papers, like home purchase papers, filed taxes, appliance manuals and warranties, wills, etc.  Treasures are school project, travel papers, received greeting cards, photos, etc.  These are all projects for another day, get them off your desk.
    5. Grab two bags, one each for papers to shred later and recycling, and start distributing your desk papers to their new homes.  Grab a notebook and jot ideas down as they occur to you, do not get distracted and lose focus.
    6. Now, Get Up and Put Your Stuff Away.  You have distributed your papers to your new folders, but you may have other items that need to go elsewhere in your home or office.  Get up and Put Them Away in their final homes.  Even if this 10 minutes is in the middle of your project, Get Up and Put them away.  Then bask in the glow of your clean desk top, and keep going.  A fellow organizer calls this the Stand And Deliver step, but I can’t find out who that was, and I would happily give her credit.  The point is…. Embrace “Done”!  And feel good about your efforts!

Next Week I will offer some insight on work-flow and productivity, to get things done now that your desk is looking better!