Closed September 2017

7 Tips for Working Effectively from a Home Office | Clutter Video Tip

Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’. Traffic jams and office politics really make the case to work from home. It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it. Whether you are telecommuting or self employed, pour yourself a cup of ambition and watch this video for strategies for your home office.

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Hi. I’m Lorie Marrero, creator of The Clutter Diet Book and on-line program, and today we’re going to talk about my seven tips for working effectively in a home office. I’ve worked in a home office for over 15 years, and I know a thing or two about this. First, I want to answer a question we got directly from a viewer, and that was about managing your boundaries around friends and family who think, “Hey, you work from home, you can go do this in the middle of the day,” or, “You can run this errand for me.” Let’s talk about that, along with all these other tips I have.

You need to have conversations with your friends and family and keep having them. They need to be ongoing conversations because people are probably not going to get this concept the first time. This is a lot about you managing your boundaries. When you get a request, saying no to that request is important if you want to keep that boundary the way you need it to be. There are going to be things that are really benefits to the flexibility that you have working from home that you want to take advantage of. If you have an elderly family member that needs a favor in the middle of the day, okay, you know what, maybe you can do that. There are things like that that are the reason you decided to work from home in the first place, but do continue having those conversations with your friends and family as those boundaries continue to get managed.  There is no simple answer to this; this is about a minute-by- minute decision-making process.

So let’s talk specifically about young children. During my long period of working at home, I have had young children and I fell prey to the fallacy that “You can do it all when you work from home!” and “That’s why you’re working from home, because the kids are there at your feet and they’re playing there while you work.” That doesn’t really work out. You can’t give your focus entirely to your work if your focus is getting constantly shifted back and forth with the children, and the children are just masters of interruption. So what I ultimately decided to do was hire a college student to pick up my children after school and bring them home, get their homework started, get them a snack, and manage those interruptions for me until I was finished with my work day. This was less expense than daycare, everybody was home, we were still together, I was still there if they really needed me, but mostly, I was able to work more effectively. So consider this and find another solution. You could trade babysitting with another mom who works from home; you guys could take turns on that so you could have more full focus. There are other ways to manage this.

Ultimately, whether you work in a corporate office or a home office, you are going to have interruptions and distractions and it’s all about you and managing your choices. So, I want to share with you what I call my Productivity Prayer based on the Serenity Prayer that some people know, and that is this: “I will improve my productivity when I manage the distractions I cannot control, stop allowing the distractions I do control, and stay present enough to know the difference.” In other words, when that distraction comes along, being present enough to understand: “Okay, I have a moment to manage my response to this. Is this something I control? Is this something I don’t control?” and, “Do I want to react to this, or do I want to stay focused over here?” So that is really what it’s about, is that presence and that ability to understand which things you control or not. So talking about boundaries, I want you to think about your boundaries of both your time and your space. Have a finish line for your day. Have a time when it’s quitting time, when it’s time for you to put everything away and focus back on your personal life. You don’t want to be tempted to be constantly going back and forth, because you’re never done. Right? So have that quitting time, and also have a dedicated space where you do your work, and hopefully that you can have a finish line on visually closing that off. So, if it’s a folding screen, if it’s a door that you can shut, even if it’s a curtain that you can draw across this work space; if you can visually close down the office, you’re going to have a lot better boundaries of your time and energy.

Let’s think more about that dedicated space, and even have dedicated stuff, dedicated supplies. If your family is coming in to your work space and sharing your computer, sharing your office supplies, you need to tell them to get their own scissors. Buy them a set of their own office supplies and hopefully find a separate work space for them to do their homework or other kinds of things, because somebody’s going to spill a drink on your keyboard, somebody’s going to save over some work, or, you know, put a virus on your computer or something, and this is affecting your way of making a living. So I would highly recommend working as hard as you can to separate the work spaces and the office supplies.

Also, you might think about noise and privacy issues. This is often overlooked. I am very attuned to sound personally, so this is a big deal for me. When I come into an environment to consult with someone, I’m thinking about the noise, both incoming and outgoing. So if you are needing privacy for the things that you are discussing, and there’s people around your area, like your spouse, or whoever, that doesn’t need to hear this conversation – for example, if you’re a coach or a psychologist or someone who has appointments in their home office – you might need a white noise machine to screen that noise out. And you also need to think about the sounds that are going out from you on the telephone, from your home environment, like your dogs barking or, you know, children making noise while you’re talking to your clients and customers. So consider those things as well. Think about sound as just another layer of that environment that you’re creating.

Finally, I’d like you to get what I call an “elsewhere basket” for your home office. It is inevitable that things are going to bleed into your environment from the other areas of the house. So you’ll have dishes and snacks from the kitchen, you’ll have children’s toys around, you’ll have books and magazines and other things that find their way into your work space. So find that basket, keep it near the door, keep it on a credenza, put things in it, you don’t need to get distracted taking those things in and out all day. Just gather all that up and at the end of the day you could go put it all away where it belongs, but it gives you a place to corral that while you keep your work space more productive.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this. If you’d like some more information, we have a whole book about it that I wrote called “The Home Office Handbook.” You can find the links for that here in the description. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I’ll see you next time. May you always be happy and grateful for having more than enough.

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