5 Steps to Making Your Office More Productive

KBB_markersUs freelancers are strange creatures. We keep strange hours, and work strange days, and we develop strange workflow habits. People who telecommute or have another special arrangement with their employers can understand too the challenges we face working from home. On top of the continuous distractions that come with running a household and having a pet and/or kids, it’s a wonder we can find a dedicated, organized space to pay our bills let alone run a small business. Having an unproductive work space can make this journey an uphill battle for even the most dedicated of business owners, so here are five solutions I’ve implemented in some of the offices and homes I’ve organized (as well as my own!) to make them more productive.

Make it light. If you can’t see anything you won’t be able to do anything- or at the very least, you won’t be able to do anything very well. Makes sense, no?

Make it comfortable. Almost as important as your desk (or your counter, or your diniing table, or wherever you work), the seating that you choose can make a big difference to how long and how comfortably you can focus on your work. Obviously you don’t want to be so comfortable that you never want to leave your desk (I have enough problems with that anyway!) but you do want to be able to get up from your desk with some feeling still left in your back. Or avoid this altogether and invest in a stand-up desk- just make sure you pair it with a specialized mat underneath designed to minimize the impact prolonged standing has on your back, hips, knees and feet.

Make it ergonomic. A bright desk lamp and an appropriately comfortable chair are two important ingredients in the ergonomics of your work space, but make sure you aren’t forgetting other important considerations. Is your desk tall enough for your legs to fit underneath? Do you have a place to put your feet? Do you have an accessible electricity supply? Does your work space allow for enough storage to house the things you need on a daily basis to maintain your flow at work? Fitting together all of these elements is like fitting together a jigsaw puzzle- as soon as you have one or two of these answers figured out, the rest are going to start conveniently falling into place.

Make it convenient. Obviously it would be wonderful if we all had the means to create a work space that’s configured exactly the way we want it. However, depending on your position at work, or the conditions of your home life you find yourself in less-than-ideal working conditions. In that case, it’s important that you concentrate on the convenience of your working space. I’ve known many small businesses owners who have run companies from their dining room tables. However, if your dining room table is always covered in junk, or is crowded with kids doing their homework, you may want to consider creating a dedicated space on your kitchen counter, or even on your dressing table to house the necessary supplies to fire off a quick email, pay some bills, or look up an address.

Make it your own. Each individual has their own set of wants and needs that they feel is conducive to a productive workflow. It doesn’t matter if they are deemed necessary by others. What matters is that these are the items that give you the pleasure and convenience required to have a successful workday. I call this set of items your “office essentials” and I’ve shared what’s on my list here. No matter what’s on your list, it should be in amply supply and well within your reach.

Working from home isn’t always easy and without a lot of discipline it can be a challenge to maintain focus even in the most organized of work spaces. But hopefully with a more productive work space, (one that’s designed to fit your needs and store the essentials necessary for you to run your business) you’ll be better equipped to face all of the little battles that life throws your way.

KBwB-BFlower-50Have you tried any of these solutions in your home? Is there anything you’d like to add to my list? Comment below or drop me a line at keepingbusyb@gmail.com. I’m always looking for ways to improve my productivity (and by that I mean makeover my desk). I could definitely use your help!

Writing and learning about productivity is kind of my jam. If you’d like to read some of my other thoughts on cultivating a more productive lifestyle, why not mosey on over to my productivity page here?

10 Things to Do on a Rainy Afternoon

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  1. Winter is coming. Well, at the very least it comes once a year. Get your wardrobe ready by giving your sock drawer a mini-makeover. Make sure each sock has a mate and toss those that are on their last legs. Do the same for sockettes, footless tights, stockings, pantyhose, etc. Take inventory of the pieces you’ll need to get your through the colder months and save for your next shopping trip, or add to a future budget. (Feeling more ambitious and wanting to clean out your whole closet? I’ve got some tips on how to do that here.)
  2. Christmas is coming, too. Why not be super organized and spend a fun afternoon browsing the Internet and magazines to brainstorm some fun gifts for all of the people on your list? If you find birthday, anniversary or shower gifts to add to your list than you get a gold star.
  3. Craft your perfect playlist. An afternoon stuck inside is the perfect opportunity to start browsing through your digital library. Organize music based on mood, region, genre, beat, era or be even more prepared by crafting playlists for upcoming events or occasions. For example, I’ve got a playlist called “Broken Heart Mending”. Bet you can’t guess what that one’s for!
  4. Clean your oven. Because, come on- how often do you clean your oven? Probably more than I do. A friend of mine has a funny story he likes to tell about me at parties about the afternoon he walked into my apartment and found me on my hands and knees shouting obscenities at my baking rack. True story- it’s honestly my most hated task. But you have to do it sometime, right?
  5. Go through your pantry. Discard expired and damaged products, consolidate multiples and take inventories for your next shopping trip. See how much money you can save by stretching your staples and shopping your pantry to flush out meals before you need to go to the grocery store. Remember to donate anything your family won’t use or love to your local food bank!
  6. Organize your digital photos. Now is the perfect time, especially when a lot of your summer memories are current, to edit and refine your collections and store them in a way that makes them easy to revisit and share with others. Order prints of your favorites online to include with letters or holiday cards, or share by cultivating a collection on your favorite social media platform.
  7. Purge your files. Pick a filing cabinet, a box, a folder, or a magazine file and make a vow to yourself that nothing goes back inside that you don’t absolutely need to keep. Make sure to shred sensitive documents or set them aside and accumulate in order to hire a shredding service.
  8. Testing, testing, one, two, three. Once a year I like to do a quick inventory of all of my office supplies and test my pencils, pens, highlighters and markers on a scrap piece of paper so I may discard ones that have dried up, or have become difficult or uncomfortable to use. Hello, my name is B and I am anal-retentive. (In my defense, there’s nothing worse than grabbing a dead pen when you’re trying to jot something down quickly, right?)
  9. Back up your computer. If you don’t then all of that playlist organizing and digital photo sorting will be for naught. Don’t have a way of backing up your computer? Now’s the perfect time to research a method that will work for you.
  10. Pick a shelf, any shelf. That’s it. Clear it, clean it, organize it and make a vow to yourself that you will never, ever let it get disorganized again (or at the very least for another year, until you have another rainy afternoon on which to organize it again).

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I’ve shared with you some of the ways that I spend my rainy afternoons- now I’m interested in hearing how you spend yours! Drop me a line at keepingbusyb@gmail.com or contribute by commenting below. Are you looking for other productive boredom busters? I’ve got plenty of thoughts on organizing here. Looking for something a little more creative? When I’m not busying myself with some project or another I’m reading or whipping up something in the kitchen. Read all about it here and here.

My Office Essentials

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I have to tell you a funny story. It’s about one of my co-workers and how her obsession with office supplies actually got her into trouble.

In a busy, paper-based medical office, a lot of faxing and photocopying occurs. We use black pens when scheduling or writing memos simply because the pens with blue ink do not produce legible faxes or photocopies.

However, my co-worker just had to use the blue pens because they were part of her office essentials- the funny, little quirky preferences that we develop for certain stationary supplies or office gadgets that inexplicably make us feel more confident and more productive at our jobs.

Our office manager begged her until she was blue in the face (pun intended) to switch, but she just couldn’t. We eventually removed all of the blue pens from the office, but to this day my co-worker claims that writing with the blue pen just makes her feel better.

Don’t tell me you don’t have your favorite office supplies because I know that you do. And because I’m in the mood for sharing, and I love making lists, I’ve compiled a list of my office “essentials”- the supplies that I need on a daily basis that not only assist me in being productive and staying organized, but make my work honestly more enjoyable. I’d love for you to share yours as well by emailing me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com.

A paper-based agenda. Writing down my appointments and the time-sensitive actions in my calendar solidifies them in my memory, and I developed a system of storing my to-do lists in my agenda so I can access them on the fly. Bonus points if the agenda is pretty.

Colorful pens. I used to be so obsessed with color-coding that my classmates in first-year linguistics at university made up a verb to describe my unique brand style of transforming lecture notes into a crazy rainbow of reminders and possible study questions.

Pretty notebooks. Anyone notice a theme here? They’re essential for jotting down notes in a meeting or recording an idea you got while waiting for the street car. Much like my pens, I carry these babies around with me until they bite the dust. Or get filled up with ideas. Whichever comes first.

I’m constantly on the go so I am forced to manage most of my emails and phone calls through my Smartphone. It also has a copy of my calendar and a couple of apps I use to manage my time. And I also have the IKEA app which just sort of draws me into this universe of assembly-required furniture.

Highlighters. I make a ton of notes and use these often to color-coordinate tons of reminders, projects, etc. They also make my agenda look pretty. Bonus!

Blank notecards. Because. I. Believe. In. The. Power. Of. The. Handwritten. Note.

Post-Its. Flags, shapes, sizes, colors- I personally consider them to be one of the ultimate reminders- kind of like my nagging conscience, only prettier.

To others my essentials might seem frivolous or unnecessary, but to me, they’re what keeps me happy before, during and after the work day. After all, what’s a few dollars to spend on post-its if they make everything look pretty and organized?

KBwB-BFlower-50To check out more of my favorite office supplies? Some of the stuff I dig is featured on my Amazon store here, and I should tell you that I get a small (small!) kickback if you see something you like. Did I miss one of your favorites on my list? Comment below or drop me a line at keepingbusyb@gmail.com and set things straight!