In early 2020, the raging COVID-19 pandemic shuttered businesses nationwide, forcing some 33% of Americans to work remotely. The transition from the bustling cubicle life to a lonesome pajama-infused shift at the dining room table quickly lost its allure.
You took the plunge, stocked up on office supplies, bought a fancy computer desk, and dedicated that spare bedroom to a private home office! Now, you’re planning to customize this space to convert it into a productivity hub.
How do you do that?
Here are five home office organization tips to be more productive in 2021 (and for years to come).
Buy A Desk Organizer (& A Desk!)
A home office is just an empty bedroom until the moving truck arrives with your newly ordered desk in tow. But choosing the right surface (and a nifty on-desk organizer) can be a surprisingly hefty task.
First and foremost:
Buy a sturdy (no squeaks or wobbles) desk that offers ample storage space, such as hidden drawers, surface area, cubbies, and shelves. If you’re really on a productivity kick, hop on the standing desk bandwagon — a trend that reportedly boosts focus by some 45%.
Now that you have a spacious desk that fits your keyboard, desktop, and paperwork without becoming cluttered, the next item on your shopping list?
A desk organizer.
These shelf-and-cubby organization tools keep everything you need within reach, including:
- Post-It Notes
- Pens & pencils
- Phone chargers
- Weekly schedule
Now, think about this:
A 2000 Microsoft study discovered some startling news — the human attention span is <12 seconds. With a desk organizer just feet away, you can keep your train of thought without rifling through messy drawers for a pen!
Get Rid Of Distractions
Even in the classic cubicle set-up, some 70% of workers report feeling distracted. Whether it’s a chatty coworker, buzzing smartphone, or simply workplace stress.
When working from home, the distractions are ten-fold. It’s easy to “escape” with a jaw-dropping Netflix finale blaring in the background. Or toddlers on a sugar rush banging on the door just because.
Here’s a look at the worst productivity killers (and how to outsmart them):
- Social media (62.6%), smartphones (53.7%), and gaming (30.4%): Toggle your phone to Airplane Mode to stop notifications and shove it in the drawer until lunch. Or download one of these productivity apps to cure that tech addiction once and for all!
- Binge-watching (42.1%): It’s safe to say that a TV has no place in a home office designed for productivity. Unplug the device altogether, or set parental controls to block streaming during work hours!
- Kids (33.8%): Teach your children that the home office is off limits while you’re on the clock, shut the door, and hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign outside. Keeping them on a daily routine also helps curb this habit.
- News media (24.3%): Unfortunately, every newsreel qualifies as “breaking news” these days. Prevent mass hysteria and distracting anxiety by turning all news app alerts off and flipping over to the news after your shift ends.
- Pets (18.1%): There’s nothing Fluffy and Fido want more than to nuzzle next to you as you type away on your Mac. Buy your pets new toys, beds, and towers to prevent them from pawing at the door as you work!
Remember: it takes time for everyone in the house — especially your four-legged sidekicks — to adjust to this new routine. Don’t lose hope!
Install A Bulletin Board (Or Cork Board)
Working from home plucks you from a bustling, 100-person office and leaves you with just three coworkers:
“Me, myself, and I.”
In this self-reliant — yet mildly terrifying — work environment, no boss is breathing over your shoulder. There’s no coworker stopping by to ask about a report status, or company bulletin board leaving you “in the know.”
Every productive home office needs a corkboard.
On top of being unconventionally aesthetic decor, these boards are also the perfect landing pad for upcoming deadlines, inspirational quotes, company passwords, and more!
Plus, they aren’t as cluttered as those at work (no subtle reminders about not cooking fish in the break room microwave!).
Embrace A More Creative Set-Up
There’s a fine line between a wholly furnished home office littered with distractions and a custom work set-up that soothes your five senses.
Think about what motivates you and adds some pep to your step.
That could mean a white noise machine with stress-reducing tracks like rustling leaves or flowing water. Or opening the shades to allow natural light to reign free (while slashing eye strain and headaches by some 84%).
Try an ergonomic, backache-free seating choice (like an inflated yoga ball or a mesh chair with lumbar support).
Plop a cactus or small plant on your desk’s corner, paint the room a calming light blue or green shade, and light a subtle vanilla or lavender candle!
Organize, Organize, Organize!
You can train your pup not to bark, tuck your iPhone into a drawer, or leave inspirational pep talks to yourself on a bulletin board.
But in a classic case of Occam’s razor, the best home office organization tip for productivity is, well:
This is probably the most satisfying step of all.
We’re talking about giving every file (digital & physical) and object a rightful home by:
- Organizing files by providing each a descriptive name (no, “report1” doesn’t count) and separating personal and business data
- Deleting duplicates and digital clutter that make finding a month-old report almost impossible
- Labeling manila folders, waste bins, and binders
- Color-coding everything by client, date (month), or category
- Archiving (or even shredding) old files that are only adding to the mental and physical clutter
The longer you spend digging through years-old storage boxes for a rogue report, the more your productivity suffers! A general rule of thumb is to keep more recent and important items — whether that’s a storage box, calculator, or upcoming files — closer to you.
Ambient lighting and color-coded filing cabinets aside, a well-organized home office is only as productive as you are!
Now that your office is worthy of a Better Homes and Gardens centerfold:
- Create a daily work schedule (breaks included!).
- Don’t stray from your morning routine (shower, breakfast, walk the dog).
- Cut off all distractions while you’re on the clock (mute your phone, lock the door, hire a babysitter).
- Communicate, communicate, communicate (water cooler chatter isn’t “so 2020” — keep in touch with coworkers on Slack)!
With these tips in your toolkit, you can avoid missed deadlines, stress overload, and feelings of loneliness.
Now, get to work!
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Traverse Commons to help them with their online marketing.