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Five steps to organize your home office

A home office allows you the freedom to tune out the distractions of everyday life and focus on your work. In addition, you can get more done in less time because there is no commute. However, the key to this productivity is organization. It’s much better for the bottom line to get that key proposal out, for example, than to hunt for that long missing tax document.

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Fortunately, organizing your home office isn’t as daunting as it sounds. Follow the 5 tips below and watch your productivity soar:

1. Sort Your Materials

When you’re pressed for time, it’s easy to throw your files and papers into one “To Do” pile. Unfortunately, however, this pile often gets persistently bigger, eventually overwhelming your desk, your home office and your ability to maximize productivityThe first step toward organization is digging into that mass of paperwork and creating smaller piles based upon subject, function, or importance. For example, you could place your proposals in one pile and your tax related items in another.

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2. Discard and File

Once you’ve separated your documents into related stacks, you have to make decisions about what to do with them. To start, discard all unnecessary papers. Remember, your goal is to reduce clutter. Next you need to organize any papers left in your respective piles. A filing cabinet with color-coded hanging files is often the most efficient solution. However, clearly labeled file folders in a dedicated desk drawer will also work.

3. Eliminate Paper and Unnecessary Clutter

The cloud has given small businesses and individuals resources that were once reserved for large enterprises. One such resource is document management, or the ability to digitize and store important papers somewhere besides your physical office. You can, for example, send paper to a company like Shoeboxed which will scan and organize your paperwork for you. The net result is less clutter – and more organization.

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4. Create a System

In order to keep your office organized, you’ll find it helpful to develop a system of rules with which to process your papers. Create a “To Do” pile on your desk and place items in it that you will definitively act on within seven days. Place all other documents in their appropriate folders or “in the cloud”. Think of these rules as analogous to those in Outlook or Gmail, where your emails automatically move to predetermined folders.

5. Block Out Time for Maintenance

If you’re like most people, time is your most fleeting asset. As a result, it’s easy to let your new organizational system slip to the point where piles of paper reappear in your office. To prevent this, set an hour aside each week to organize any documents that you haven’t yet processed.