Where you work affects how you work. Whether you write blogs in a local neighborhood coffee shop or code apps on the beach, your surroundings make a difference when you work remotely. Creating an ideal work space helps you maximize productivity and efficiency. Even if you’re the digital nomad type who prefers ever-changing scenery, having that personal haven where work is your primary focus really helps you to overcome mental obstacles, which can lead to more clients, sales, and income. You can transform your office into an efficient work space without investing too much time with a few quick changes.
Streamline Your Surroundings
Finding somewhere to work that’s free of distractions can take some creativity. Even if it’s a small walk-in closet, try to claim a room or corner where you can work from home productively on a consistent basis without worrying about being interrupted. Too much clutter can be distracting, but an empty room can feel cold and sterile. You want to create a home office that you genuinely enjoy inhabiting, so hang up some artwork, family photos, curtains, or anything that makes the room feel welcoming. It’s a good idea to invest in lighting that’s bright but not harsh.
Consider moving any clutter that doesn’t have a relevant purpose to another room. Your goal is to create a work zone that’s inviting without distracting you from the task at hand. Some ways to declutter include:
- Discarding any furniture that you’re not using
- Hiding cords with cord clips or covers
- Using vertical shelves and bookcases to move things off the floor so you don’t have to step over books or equipment to walk through the office
- Organizing the things that do stay into baskets, bins, bulletin boards, drawers, and other organizing tools
- Digitizing your paperwork to create a paperless workplace
- Creating a general rule about piles of paper, books, or anything else; everything should have a place and be put away when it is no longer in use
- Conducting weekly maintenance and clean up to stay organized and tidy
Establish Work Zones
It’s easier to stay productive when you have dedicated work areas for different tasks you perform. Consider designating certain areas of the office for specific tasks. Most home-based entrepreneurs need a desk with a computer setup to handle the majority of the work. If you sell a handmade product, consider creating a separate area for production. And if you handle your own shipping, you need a space to package, label, and store the items until you ship them. A comfortable spot for brainstorming sessions can also help. It can be as simple as a comfortable chair and ottoman in the corner where you can get away from your computer to brainstorm.
You probably need a spot for the printer, scanner, and copier, which can be grouped together in one work zone. Keeping relevant supplies, such as paper and toner, organized in a cabinet in the same area helps you handle those tasks efficiently. A reference area may include all books, manuals, binders, and filing cabinets you need. You might organize office supplies in a cabinet or closet, depending on your space. Using a label maker to mark the shelves where specific items should be stored ensures things go back where they belong.
Arrange Your Desk
Think of your desk as the command center where your career happens. The way you organize that desk can directly impact your productivity levels. It’s always a good idea to play with the arrangement to figure out what feels most comfortable to you, but certain organizational strategies usually help. For example, consider placing your monitor about 17 inches in front of you at eye level so you can see it well. Positioning your phone on your dominant side means you don’t have to reach across your body to answer it. A vertical file organizer on your desk lets you keep the important files you use most often within reach. Most people feel productive with minimal items on their desktop, but you may want a cup of pens, pencils, markers, and other office supplies that you use regularly. All other items can go into a desk drawer where they’re still accessible without adding to the clutter on top of your desk.
Filing physical paperwork regularly keeps the documents from building up on your desk. Plus, those important documents stay safe inside your filing cabinet, so you don’t have to worry about anything happening to them. Having an organized filing system can help you get the job done. It’s a good idea to create a labeled file folder for every topic and client for papers that you must keep. Make sure you organize the filing cabinet in a way that makes sense for your office. The key is to be able to quickly find any document you may need at any given time. You can save on space by scanning and then shredding all documents you don’t need to store as a hard copy.
Make a Playlist
Some people prefer to work in silence, but true silence isn’t always feasible. Maybe the neighbor’s dog barks or the faucet drips. One option is to hang up soundproof foam to muffle those sounds and reduce the distraction. Another way to cut down on outside noises is to play music in the background. Music with lyrics tends to be distracting – your brain processes language and meaning differently than sound – so try listening to instrumental music, such as classical, electronic, or jazz. Movie and video game scores are also popular choices. Making a playlist in advance keeps you from getting distracted when the music ends.
If you find music to be too distracting, you can play white noise to drown out surrounding sounds. Phone apps make it easy to find white noise options that you enjoy. Even just running a fan can work. Ambient soundscapes and nature sounds can also help you focus. You might set up a fountain in your work space, for example. The sound of water flowing can have a relaxing effect and block other sounds.
Buy Some Plants
Potted plants can really add a lot to a room. After staring at a computer screen for hours, looking at a bit of nature is a nice change of pace. Plants also improve the air quality of the room, which is refreshing during long work sessions. Plants that require little maintenance are ideal, but there’s nothing wrong with anything from a ficus tree to a bouquet of roses if it makes you happy. Some popular indoor plants in Canada include peace lilies, spider plants, jade plants, and ZZ plants. Herbs, succulents, and cacti are great choices, too.
Create Communication Options
Privacy is golden, but you may end up more distracted if you’re wondering what’s going on, especially if you have children, pets, or roommates. An intercom system can be surprisingly affordable and easy to set up, and it makes it possible for household members, visitors, delivery drivers, and anyone else to get in touch with you. You could also hang a sign that instructs people to only knock on the door if it’s important.
These little details go a long way in helping you to work without interruption, but distractions aren’t always external. They can come from your own brain, so it’s important to find peace of mind within your work zone. What works for one person isn’t always ideal for another, and creating your own personal home office paradise isn’t an overnight task. Over time, you start to figure out what works for you. Try to track when you’re most productive, and create a similar environment next time. When you get distracted, think about what distracted you, and find a solution. If you’re struggling to find your focus outside of the office, don’t underestimate your ability to adapt. Working from home is a change – turning it into a positive one is up to you.
Your office environment plays a major role in your productivity. And so do the tools you use to streamline your workload. The QuickBooks Self-Employed app helps freelancers, contractors, and sole proprietors track and manage your business on the go. Download the app today to support your productivity.