How many times have you walked into your home office only to cringe, turn around and walk out again? If you spend more time thinking up reasons to avoid your office than actually working in it, you may be suffering from ‘mess related stress.’ The thought of de-cluttering your home office is easier said than done!
Clutter is more than a time and space waster, clutter causes stress! It can also cause you to think you have more work to do than you actually have. Let’s take a look at the typical home office hot-spots and learn a few tricks for clearing the clutter to create more calm and organisation in your life.
Whether you have a massive antique desk or a tiny computer stand, your desk is going to be home for a lot of stuff. Much like a wardrobe, the bigger the desk, the bigger the mess. Buying a larger desk will not solve the clutter problem. However, organising the space you have available on your desk will definitely help.
Start de-cluttering your desk by making a clean sweep of the top and drawers. All that should remain is the computer, printer, etc. Once you can see your desk’s surface, the mess that should jump out at you first is the tangle of cables. Even though electrical and computer cables don’t take up a lot of space on your desk, the visual impact most certainly will stress your brain. Clear this mess by gathering those cables in cardboard or foam tubes and get them out of sight.
You will want a nice big clear area on your desk to actually work on the project you have at the moment. Therefore, rather than pile your desk high with an entire week’s worth of work, choose another area close by to hold the papers, books, diaries, or things you’ll need later.
The most common home office clutter monster – papers!! This includes projects, notes, post, bills and all that paperwork we just can’t seem to get rid of. You’ll be pleased to hear there are ways to tame this monster.
As mentioned, you want to remove the pile of papers from your desk. In order to have a good workspace available on your desk, the paper has to go somewhere else. But, there’s more to de-cluttering than just moving papers around (not what you want to hear I know).
We all have paper to handle every day. We take notes, we get bills, we save receipts – the list is endless, just like the paper. If you tend to throw every piece of paper into the In-Box in your office, perhaps it’s time to stop treating all paperwork equally.
To set up a system for paperwork that doesn’t just become another pile, you will need to divide your office’s In-Box into categories. For example, set up three boxes and title them “Immediate,” “Tomorrow,” and “File.” Anything you have to handle before you move onto another task goes into the “Immediate” box. Something that is not as time-sensitive, but needs to be checked again tomorrow, obviously goes into the “Tomorrow” box and things that don’t need any further attention can go into the “File” box to be stored when you have time. Of course, you will really have a fourth box – the recycling bin – to complete your paperwork system.
If you use this method, remember to keep the papers moving daily and clean out the filed papers on a regular basis, which brings us to the next area where clutter often builds up – the filing pile.
Even the best filing cabinet fills up when left unattended. You may think “out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to this clutter, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Knowing you have mountains of clutter lurking behind closed drawers is enough to cause ‘mess stress.’ You don’t have to see it every minute of the day to feel that stress growing inside. You still know it’s there even though you can’t actually see it.
Start by setting aside an afternoon for purging the stuff out of your files and shelves by first finding out what you actually need to keep.
Now you can begin digging into those items that are obsolete. You may find old instruction manuals for equipment you don’t even have any more or receipts for items way past the point of return. Many of these items have simply been forgotten. It’s time to get rid of those “someday we may need these” items.
DON’T LET WORKING FROM HOME BENEFITS BACKFIRE
There are a lot of reasons you decided to work from home. At the time you made the decision, all those reasons sounded like excellent solutions to the problems of working outside the home commuting, childcare costs etc.
You now have your home office arranged and you’re enjoying the good life and all the benefits of working from home.
Some of the pros have actually turned into unexpected cons. Let’s take a look at a few of the ways working from home positives can turn into negatives and how to correct it.
I CAN SPEND MORE TIME WITH MY FAMILY
Swapping the daily commute and time at work for a day at home with (the kids/ partner/spouse/dog/cat – delete as appropriate) is a common reason for working from home. Everyone is happy you’re right there in your office, close at hand, all day long, accessible at the drop of a hat.
The problem is, you don’t get any work done. You are just a shout/cry or bark away from everyone’s wants and needs, so why wouldn’t they call for you? The solution is to set up boundaries. You have to treat your workday as if you were actually out at work. Diary in plenty of downtime, as well and you will enjoy that extra time with the family that you wanted.
I CAN GET MY HOUSEWORK DONE WHILE I WORK
If you worked outside the home for any amount of time, you’ll remember how much you disliked having to spend your evenings and weekends catching up on all your housework. Now that you’re working from home, you can easily get those jobs done during the day.
The problem created by this is you lose focus quickly. On the way down the stairs, you pick up the washing. Then as you head to the kitchen, you see dishes in the sink, dust on the TV shows up more during the day too. Each little chore will end up growing into larger jobs if you let it. Instead, choose an hour a day to catch up on a few things that would have been waiting until you got home at night after work. Your evenings are free like you wanted and the housework gets done. What works for me is, every morning I list two household jobs that need doing and I stick to two, whether it’s cleaning a bedroom and doing the washing or food shopping and cleaning the kitchen. I only pick two jobs every day, usually one small job and a larger job to mix it up. This helps me to keep on top of my housework, without it interfering with my office work.
I CAN WORK WHEN I WANT AND HOW I WANT
The image of people in their PJs working from home is not that far-off. Many people like the idea of getting the kids off to school, then getting cozy with another cup of coffee and snuggling on the sofa with their laptop, answering emails and starting their workday.
Unfortunately, this lovely scenario can backfire. When we are in this cozy mode, we can lose track of time. The day is gone and we are still in our PJs and deadlines are looming. Now we are stuck working all night trying to get things finished. This is not the ‘when and how’ we planned. To make this benefit work set a schedule. Treat your workday like, well, a work day. Get up, get dressed and get to work.
I CAN HAVE MY OWN PEACEFUL OFFICE
Having your own space after sharing an office with other colleagues sounds like a lovely idea. No more office politics. No more gossiping. No more stress. No more noise. Just the peace and quiet of your own keyboard clicking away.
Peace and quiet. And more peace and quiet. You can have too much peace and quiet. Now you’re feeling lonely and isolated. You start to miss the fun side of having work colleagues. The solution is to create a similar circle of co-workers in your work/home situation. Reach out to people in the same type of work, either through professional groups or social media. Find forums that are engaging. Don’t forget to leave the house once in a while, to meet up with friends for a coffee and a catch-up.
There appears to be a common thread among people who work from a home office. Most work from home folks say they chose this career for family, convenience and a more relaxing work environment. All these benefits of working from home are possible, but they each have pitfalls, they are avoidable once you recognise the risks.
BE THE “BOSS OF YOU” TO REDUCE HOME OFFICE STRESS
If you have been working from home for some time, you may have fallen victim to the “I’m not the boss of me” syndrome. You may have started out being the ‘boss of you’ in your home office, but since then you’ve noticed some boss-worker lines are getting blurred.
Perhaps you’re shrugging off responsibility for deadlines, or letting your office turn into a catch-all for miscellaneous items of the house, or wandering into your home office only after that daytime TV show you promised you’d never watch has finished. Or maybe you’re a tough boss, not allowing yourself any breaks or fun. No matter what’s happening, the balance has tilted.
Most people that work from home have found themselves at one point lapsing into a routine that is not productive. The employer-employee relationship is strained. Pulling your socks up and getting back to work takes some re-thinking of your employer-employee relationship.
Let’s take a look at a few things the Boss (yes, you) can do for the Employee (that will be you again) to relieve stress and get your home office running smoothly again.
TIME MANAGEMENT TOOLS
The home office environment has some unique time management hurdles to clear. Everyone stresses when time is not being used well. Deadlines are missed and you have to answer to your clients at the same time you’re trying to figure out how to motivate yourself to get the job done. As both the boss and the employee, you have some serious decisions to make.
Start by providing yourself with the best time management tools you can find.
There are many programs and applications for tracking productivity to help identify the areas that need work. Keep track of tasks and the time it takes to do them and you’ll soon understand where to focus and make changes.
Every good boss knows how valuable time away from the desk can be. Employees, especially dedicated employees like you, often work long hours, skipping lunch and breaks to get a project done. The fact is when working without a break the quality of the work suffers.
As your boss, you need to remind yourself that you are not a machine. Go for a walk. Fresh air can work wonders for your state of mind.
If you need to, schedule break times in your calendar and stick to them!
MAKE YOUR HOME OFFICE FAMILY FRIENDLY
One of the reasons you chose to work from home was to spend more time with your family, am I right? Perhaps you were working outside the home and resented those lost hours to the point you were getting jealous and angry. Many people find a work-at-home situation soothes the stress they were feeling and is the ideal solution for their family life. An added bonus is that you don’t get that “Sunday night feeling”, you remember that feeling don’t you?
Creating a family-friendly home office is one of the tasks you have in front of you. It is a delicate balance to try to achieve. On one hand, you need to get your work done. On the other hand, you want to enjoy your family. Here are some suggestions to do both:
Nothing says relax like a big comfy sofa. My daughter comes in after school to relax on her sofa in my office and we have a catch up on her day. I use this time to have a break and leave my laptop for half an hour. She appreciates the attention too. After our catch up, she does her homework and I get back to work!
*Note – sometimes my breaks are cut short when I ask “so how was school today” and I get back “fine” – thankfully this doesn’t happen too often though.
Put a coffee table or small kitchen table and some good lighting in your office separate from your desk to make a homework spot for your school-age kids. Use the same idea for pre-school children and include lots of arts and crafts so they can ‘work’ while you do.
Having a family-friendly office doesn’t mean there are no rules involved. There will be times when you will need your office to yourself and this needs to be made clear from the beginning. If my office door is closed, my daughter knows I’m on a call and can’t be disturbed unless it’s an emergency. Be clear about the rules and arrange your work time, so you can enjoy your office and family.
Isolating yourself in your office and making it totally off-limits to your family may not be what you had in mind when you decided to work from home. If that’s the case, you will want to create a home office that is, open for visitors. Take time to enjoy the reason you decided to work from home – your family!
TRY RELAXATION TECHNIQUES IN YOUR OFFICE TO RELIEVE STRESS
Are you waiting for a long hectic day of work to end before you take time to relax? Many people let the stress build, then hope to repair the damage later.
Building relaxation techniques into our daily routine can be challenging. People who work from home often lose track of time and only know the stress is out of control when the stiff, sore muscles and headaches start to surface. Rather than put relaxation and stress relief off until later, here’s a few basic techniques to try right in the comfort of your home office:
To practice deep breathing, find a comfortable place to sit in your office, sit straight and breathe in deeply through your nose and out slowly through your nose. If you are breathing correctly, your abdomen should expand rather than your chest. Set a small notepad on your stomach, and, if you are breathing deeply, you should see the notepad rise and fall. This takes some practice but the results are almost immediate once you learn it.
If you feel stress in your body, suffering from neck pain, back pain, and headaches, muscle relaxation may be helpful.
More than just shaking your shoulders loose or turning your neck in a circle, this is a technique focuses on individual muscle groups. The most common way to move through the body is by starting with your feet, tensing the muscle in one foot, then relaxing and repeating with your other foot, then moving up each leg, tensing and relaxing as you move up your body until you reach your face. The critical technique for this method is focus. You will focus on one muscle group at a time (foot, calf, thigh, hips, stomach, chest, etc), tensing and relaxing. With time and practice, this method of stress relief can help reduce body pain.
All of these techniques for stress relief can be done in the comfort of your home office. Remember to schedule time during the day, every day, to do some form of relaxation in order to deal with stress before it creates long-lasting health problems.
I also do stretching exercises before I go on Skype calls or webinars. You can suffer from neck and back issues from sitting in the one spot for too long. Stretching out has become part of my pre-call routine.
Working from home is great but you do need to ensure you have the right environment, rules and tools to make it work for you.