This post by guest blogger Corey Post appears as part of our series Small Business 500.
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. 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 productivity. The 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.
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 (full disclosure: I work there), which will scan and organize your paperwork for you. The net result is less clutter – and more organization.
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.
Organizing your home office can seem like a daunting task. But if you follow the 5 steps above, you’ll quickly develop a work area where you can maximize your productivity.
Corey Post is the VP of Marketing for Shoeboxed, the industry leader in receipt scanning and organization. Since 2007 Shoeboxed has helped over 500,000 small businesses manage their documents in the cloud. Get organized today at Shoeboxed or visit Shoeboxed on Facebook.
The information and tips we’re sharing in this article are meant to be a starting point for your year-end tax prep, so you can be informed and feel confident when working with your accountant. Be sure to check with a tax expert in your country or region for any specific advice you need, as each business (and tax district) is different. As our lawyers would say: “This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.”