Albert Einstein once said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
I used to cling to this quote in defense of my messy workspace. But recently, things have moved from mere messiness to utter chaos. Now, rather than helping me to stay creative and busy, it’s hurting my productivity. All the clutter provides too many distractions, and I can never find anything when I need it.
This year, I’m making it a goal to organize my office better so that I can stay productive and ultimately make more money. Here are my home office ideas that are sure to increase productivity:
- Do an office purge.
- Create a mail filter system.
- Get color filters for your electronics to help improve sleep.
- Keep your office on the warm side.
- Put a plant in your office.
- Buy a good trash can.
- Set up a regular cleaning schedule.
1. An Office Purge
To clear out the clutter on my desk, I did a massive purge. I took everything off my desk — even my computer.
Then I picked up each item and asked myself, “Do I use this at least once a week?” If the answer was no, I didn’t put it back on my desk.
I then reorganized everything around how frequently I use each item. Obviously, my computer and mouse went front and center. My pencil cup and notepad are now right off to the side, and everything else is organized in order of ease of access in a small set of drawers.
Things that I use less frequently, like envelopes and rulers, all went into a box. I then placed that box in a more remote, yet still easy-to-access location within my apartment.
2. A Mail Filter System
How often have you let mail pile up until it becomes a life force unto its own? It’s ugly, and it’s cost me money because I’ve let more than one bill sit without being paid on time.
Now I’m going to get some sort of letter or file organizer with four slots: “Read Later,” “Needs Action,” “File,” and “For Zach” (my husband). Each time I bring mail into the house, it gets opened and sorted into one of these four slots (or the trash can, if it’s junk mail).
3. Color Filters For Your Electronics
Did you know that the blue light emitted by computers and cell phones can actually interfere with your sleep cycle, causing poor sleep quality and even generally poor health? These effects are especially pronounced during the evening and nighttime hours — the same hours that many moonlighting freelancers like myself work.
I can’t just stop working when the sun goes down, so I’ve found another solution: color filters for electronics.
I use the free f.lux program on my computer to automatically filter out blue light whenever the sun is down in my time zone. Many apps exist to help with the light from your cell phone. Otherwise you can use an internal program, such as the iPhone’s Night Shift feature.
4. A Warm Office
Experts in frugal living tell you to turn down your thermostat to save money. That might work fine while I’m sleeping, but I’m a small person. If I’m typing in a cold room, my fingers get cold, even if I wear a thick jacket to keep my body warm.
A study from Cornell University actually found that office workers were more productive when the room temperature was boosted from 68 to a near-sweltering 77 degrees. My room isn’t quite that warm, but I can definitely say that boosting the temp helps!
5. A Plant
I’m a nature freak, and right now my office looks pretty sterile — even institutional. I need some greenery. This home office idea is for more than just decoration, though: One study showed that having houseplants in workspaces boosted worker productivity and decreased the number of sick days taken.
I’m famous for killing indoor houseplants though, so I plan on keeping something very hardy and capable of handling the low-sunlight situation at my desk.
6. A Good Trash Can
My “office” is right next to my kitchen, so I thought I’d just walk over and throw my trash in my kitchen trash can. I have vastly overestimated my ability to not be lazy.
Instead, I bought a good-sized trash can that will hold about a week’s worth of trash. It’s done wonders so far for keeping my desk clear of old paper plates (and opened envelopes, tissues, candy wrappers . . .). You can find some pretty good deals on Amazon if your home office could use a trash can.
7. A Regular Cleaning Schedule
If I follow the steps above, I shouldn’t have too much of a problem with a messy desk again. But if there’s anything that I’ve learned about myself, it’s that I have an impeccable ability to sabotage my own plans.
This time I’ll be prepared. I’m going to set up a weekly reminder on my to-do list to quickly go over everything on my desk and make sure it’s still clean.
With my new home office ideas and organization rules in place, I’ll be prepared to have my most productive — and most profitable — year ever.