We’re (thankfully) coming to the end of the year – and what a year it was. You probably spent much of the year working from home after being thrown into remote work overnight. Hopefully, over time, you’ve developed organizational habits that kept your productive and feeling on top of things. If your business slows down during the holidays, you might have some time to re-evaluate your home office and do some cleanup – both physical and virtual. Here are some tips.
Take a long hard look at your paper management. If you keep files in your home office, this is a good time to purge what’s not needed and create a system that makes storage and retrieval easier. Organization experts advise that you consider ditching paper files whenever possible. Ask for a great scanning system for Christmas so you can store important documents and files digitally. You can opt for a system that scans important receipts and stores them by category, making getting organized to files taxes much easier and quicker.
If you do need to keep some paper files on hand, develop a system that works for you. You might benefit from storing all relevant documents within a single project folder, or be the type who prefers to store invoices, receipts, and correspondence in folders together so you can find them easily. Whatever system you design, make sure you’re able to use it intuitively and keep it up. No matter how gorgeous your folders and labels are, they’ll make you miserable if you put off actually filing documents for months.
Clear Visual Clutter. Clutter makes you less productive. It takes longer to find what you need, and it may even keep you from thinking as well as you could. Libby Sander, writing for Harvard Business Review, says her research has shown that “our physical environments significantly influence our cognition, emotions, and behavior, affecting our decision-making and relationships with others. Cluttered spaces can have negative effects on our stress and anxiety levels, as well as our ability to focus, our eating choices, and even our sleep.” People with a lot of clutter in their homes are more likely to procrastinate, according to researchers.
She says a study found that when participants cleared clutter from their work environment, they were better able to focus and process information, and their productivity increased. You definitely have a strong incentive to clear your desk and create a more serene visual space in your home office. A more beautiful space will also lift your mood every time you walk through the door – it’s well worth the time you’ll invest.
Consolidate, purge, and organize digital files. Digital files are often ignored because you can’t see an actual pile of unorganized, unrelated files. This is a great time to decide what you need to keep for next year and what you can archive into folders to eliminate visual clutter on your desktop or your drive. If you haven’t created an effective naming system for your digital documents, you’re probably spending more time than you need to finding files you need. Lead the name with a unique identifier that allows you to sort and access files quickly. It will be so much easier to find an invoice that leads with the date (113020) than one that’s titled “customer invoice” (among dozens of others.)
While you’re at it, back up your files to reliable cloud storage. There are many affordable solutions. Dropbox’s basic plan is free and allows you to access your stored files from anywhere. If you need more storage, Dropbox offers plans for individuals, family sharing, small teams, and professionals, starting a 2TB of storage and $9.99/month. Carbonite automatically backs up your files every time you connect to the internet, protecting you from mishaps and ransomware attacks. Plans start at $24 a month. I use both, and sleep better knowing I can restore any file from the cloud, no matter what happens to my laptop.
Whether you’re working from home or in a traditional office, cleaning up is therapeutic. We’re all looking froward to a fresh start for 2021, and you can get a head start on yours over the next couple of weeks.