Whether you maintain a home office or a formal office address, your work area can become unproductive when you bury it under an avalanche of papers, equipment, notes and other odds and ends. To get a handle on your work area, start by looking at it with a clear, objective eye.
Picture Your Clutter
Clutter can grow into a habit and a habitat. After a while, you become so accustomed to your inefficient surroundings that they no longer register as cluttered. To get a good look at your space and what needs to change, pull out your digital camera, camcorder or smartphone and shoot photos or video of your office from every angle, starting with the entrance. View the images or footage on your HDTV, computer monitor or tablet and look for patterns, problems and areas to improve.
Wrangling your email inbox into shape helps you find vital messages quickly and eliminate irrelevancies. Setting up email organization rules ensures that your email software automatically files your incoming messages with other missives from the same source, which also reduces the amount of email that lands, uncharacterized, in your inbox. How you create mail rules depends on the software you use. Consult the online help system for your email program to learn the proper techniques. As you set up new client or vendor accounts, get in the habit of setting up mail rules to accommodate them as soon as you receive the first message from these new contacts.
Just as you use folders to organize paper and their digital equivalents to organize email messages, set up zones in your office space that become devoted to singular types of activities or priorities. The primary zone reaches within an arm's length from your chair when you sit down to work. Dedicate this area to all the items you use continually, including your phone, computer, notepad and pen. Around you but a few steps away, your secondary zone should include the items you use frequently but not constantly, such as reference materials, printer supplies and client files. The third zone should contain archival storage, old equipment and other out-of-service items that you store off premises, in a closet or basement. What you incorporate in each zone depends entirely on how often you use it, not on whether other people think it belongs there.
Cables and Wiring
Avoid cable spaghetti behind your computer and under your desk. Whether you invest in inexpensive hook-and-loop cable wraps, add-on cable-management ducts or a desk with integrated cable slots built into it, you can neaten up your wiring and clear out space. In addition to straightening up your connections, take the time to add a simple labeling system that identifies each power cord, USB and network cable so you can manage your wiring easily if a component or peripheral needs to be unplugged for service or replacement.
Photo Credits: Kyle Goldie/Demand Media
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