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Old 7th September 2006, 02:15 PM   #1
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Default Organizing A Cluttered Home Office Space - HELP!

Whew. . .my office space is becoming increasingly unorganized. I've got post it notes all over my computer, my email accounts are on overload and the distractions just keeping rolling in!

Got me thinking - how are others who work from home staying organized?

Any suggestions?

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Old 8th September 2006, 12:37 AM   #2
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I work from home evenings and weekends, and I have a day job (and a five-year old son), so I have to stay organized or it all falls apart pretty quickly.

Any email I want to keep for any reason gets forwarded over to a "private" Gmail account (that is, one I never use for anything else or hand out the address for, so the only messages that ever end up in there are the ones I send). I love the Gmail search, which has never let me down yet when I needed to go back and retrieve one of those emails quickly.

For notes, article ideas, etc., I use a software package called Surfulater. It allows me to save entire web pages or selected portions thereof, clipboard cuttings and my own original notes and to categorize them in various ways, cross-reference them as I see fit, and add my own notes. I would be lost without my Surfulater.

I've got four thumb drives I use to carry files back and forth between home and work (including the backup copy of my Surfulater database, so I can be sure to stay in synch between each office).

I use a web-based service called FreshBooks (FreshBooks.com) to maintain my timesheets and issue invoices to my freelance clients. I love it and have highly recommended it to several client-serving colleagues who need to issue invoices on a regular basis. I especially like the way clients can pay via credit card using my PayPal account via a link right there in the online version of the invoice... and how they can print out really nice, professional looking paper copies of the invoices.

And since it's web-based, I can access it from wherever I might be, without having to be being in my home office.

I'm also experimenting with two other web-based services called "BackPack" (backpackit.com) and "BaseCamp" (basecamphq.com) for project management. So far, they're interesting, but time will tell whether I have the discipline to stick to using them.


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Old 8th September 2006, 07:37 AM   #3
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Unfortunately I don't have much success with organization, but I do have a Daytimer that I write things down in. That seems to help quite a bit.


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Old 8th September 2006, 08:12 AM   #4
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I'll tell you what worked for me. I spent years trying to find the perfect solution, from military white glove ready to 3x5 cards and all points in between. What worked for me is imagining that someone else would come in tomorrow and take my place.

It's not just the office space, it's the filing system, phone records, accounting practices and even passwords and access codes. Think of it as making yourself "upgrade ready." When your business grow beyond the walls of your walk in closet, having some kind of system or plan will play a key role in the success of your growth. All too often does the ship come in to greet an unprepared passenger.

Make it your own! The only system that will work is the one that works for you. You are your own boss for a reason right? Now you get to make those decisions and when you hire people... you get to have it done your way. What? You don't have "a way?" Well, that's my point.

Process procedures, customer contact records, billing, invoicing... the lot. Build your own process so you can hire, train and staff your office with a system that works.

No need to do it all today! Just do a little here and a little there until it comes together. You have too spend the bulk of your time making growing your business, but making your business work efficiently will actually give you more time to grow your business.

Alright... that's my 2 cents and then some... good luck.

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Old 8th September 2006, 10:20 AM   #5
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I don't know if you have time to read a book, but Julie Morgenstern's Organizing from the Inside Out is a great reference. I also recommend her Time Management from the Inside Out book as well.

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Old 8th September 2006, 10:55 AM   #6
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Wink Throw out paper

Staci, my philosophy is to throw out as much paper as possible. Paper's the killer.

Shred - Get yourself one of those portable shredders that fits right over top of a small waste basket. Immediately shred all those unwanted credit card offers, back pages of catalogs with your identifying information on them, and other sensitive correspondence.

File electronically - Keep as much of your information electronically as possible -- it takes less space. And space is at a premium in home offices. However, that means you need to be very organized with your online file folders. Set up lots of file folders by topic, client, job, or whatever makes sense to you. Immediately place information into the proper folders, rather than letting hundreds of important messages accumulate in inboxes or having documents filed in one giant computer folder.

Back up data - Also, the more you keep electronically, the more important it becomes to back up your computer regularly.

Hope this helps!


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Old 13th September 2006, 07:39 AM   #7

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Originally Posted by sannwood View Post
Whew. . .my office space is becoming increasingly unorganized. I've got post it notes all over my computer, my email accounts are on overload and the distractions just keeping rolling in!

Got me thinking - how are others who work from home staying organized?

Any suggestions?

Hi Staci --
STICKY NOTES: Love 'em, but, like you, I had them stuck them all over my computer. Overwhelming and not very effective. I always had a vague feeling I was "dropping a stich" somewhere. So I bought a bulletin board and hung it within my eye sight. I divided it into sections -- one for each client. I herded together all my little yellow sticky notes and stuck them in each appropriate section. The bulletin board is the first thing I look at each morning and keep glancing at all day. I cross out or remove the note as I finish the task.

FILING: I hate doing it piece meal -- daily. So I bought one of those plastic horizontal file containers and put everything in it that needs to be filed. One day a week -- usually Friday/Saturday -- I force myself to file everything. As I file each thing, I scan the file I'm putting it into to see if there's anything in there I can remove. So, I'm doing a bit of purging as I'm filing.

EMAIL: I totally agree with Anita on this. I've created a folder for each of the clients I work with (plus other generic categories). I then create sub folders for each client. Other than that, I'm convinced that email will eventually take over the world and turn on us!


Last edited by Lynne; 13th September 2006 at 07:44 AM.
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Old 15th September 2006, 02:46 PM   #8
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Default a work table..

to clear my messy desk, i got another one, essentially. i bought an inexpensive 3x6 table and am using it as an orginizational area. the extra space keeps my primary desk clear of clutter.

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Old 11th October 2006, 08:50 PM   #9
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Change your habits
The lack of organization laid in our habits. You need to indentify yours and the cause you have that habit. Once you find these two things you are in control on them and not they in control of you. First thing you need to do is to stop it

Change your sentiments
The reason we get filled out of stuff on our space is that we fall in love of things, we do not know what to do with them or we want to keep it just in case it is needed later. You need to identify immediately whether you are going to need it or not. If you really need it or you are going to need it later, take the time to put it in the appropiated place. If there is not place for these thing create one in an organized manner. If you do not need it throw it away with no doubt.

Get a Time Organizer
It does not mean you need to contract a secretary but a way to have all your notes organized. Some people use PDAs (Personal Digital Asistant) where they keep all their notes but if there is not money to buy one, you can use regular agendas and notebooks. The most important things to organize are: To Do List and Calendar. Whenever you make an appoinment or remember something to do, take the time to go to these tools and write it. Do not use post it because if you did not have the time now, you will not have the time ever.

Identify your distractors
Most of our distractors are the Telephone, Messengers, Email and Visits. You need to have priority to the activities placed in your calendar. Ask people to stay away when you are busy. Any time you get a message through one of these media, filter them by importance. If base on its source person, it is extremately important, answer and let them know that you will be back to them later. On any situation, make a note in your To Do List that you need to talk to that person. You will be attending those people during the time that you scheduled in your calendar for this purpose.

Schedule your calls
Make room in your calendar to make calls daily. These are calls that you want to make or you need to get back because they were not attended when called them.

Schedule your filing
Make room in your calendar you file either daily or weekly, depending of the volume. You can put every thing on one place that is not visible (for example, not on your desk). You may use a box or one folder in your filer. If you have the time to organize the document, do it right now, otherwise put it in that place and organize it when scheduled.

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Old 12th October 2006, 03:57 PM   #10
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Default Thanks To All!

Thanks to all for your responses to this post!

I won the Thread of The Week contest for this thread and will be receiving a very nice gift as a result.

So thanks again to all!

Staci Wood | Small Business Trends Radio | Small Business Trends
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