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10 Ways to Stay Organized at Home

Writing notes in a journal Unsplash photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters

Staying organized is the key to staying productive and successfully completing your daily tasks--whether you work from home, work at the office, or you’re a stay at home parent managing a household. Staying organized will help you keep track of what you need to do while encouraging you to actually accomplish your errands and obligations. If you want to improve your organizational skills, take a look at the following 10 ways to stay organized at home.

#1: Utilize a daily planner for work and personal tasks

A daily planner is an absolute must-have when you want to stay organized. A daily planner allows you to neatly lay out your obligations and goals, whether they’re related to your work or your personal life. A good daily planner is designed to keep you on track while allowing for some flexibility in how you organize your various to-dos and other important tasks.

You may want to get a separate planner for work, depending on how extensive your workload is or if you prefer to keep your work and personal life as separate as possible. If this is the case, make sure you keep your work planner in your workspace rather than your personal desk.

 #2: Create a workspace when working from home

If you work from home, you absolutely need to create a “workspace” in order to stay organized and productive. A “workspace” should be a space where you focus only on work; this helps your mind to differentiate between recreational activities, personal errands or chores, and your actual work.

You may recall how experts recommend that people don’t do anything in their bed but sleep if they want a better night’s rest; the same notion applies to your workspace. This doesn’t need to be an entirely separate room, and indeed many people simply don’t have the space to dedicate a room to work from home activities; it can be a corner of a room or a special table where you only do work.

 #3: Set realistic deadlines for yourself

One of the biggest organizational pitfalls that people make is being unrealistic with their deadlines. Can you really finish all the daily chores and make 5 personal calls and finish your entire work project all before 6 PM on a Monday? Likely not. Make sure that your deadlines for your goals are as realistic as possible; this way, you are more likely to achieve them and feel productive enough to keep up with your planner goals, instead of feeling like you should give up entirely.

#4: Have a place for everything

Organization isn’t just in your mind: it relates to your physical space, too. Everything should have a place. Have specific drawers, shelves or areas in your home for everything--personal paperwork, invoices, pens and pencils, tech gadgets, and so on. When everything has a place, you will always know where to go when you need something and you won’t have to spend 20 frustrating minutes digging through cabinets to find your stapler.

#5: Use a paper system to avoid excess paper mess

Whether you work from home or not, paper is one of the biggest sources of disorganization in the home. The best way to deal with clutter is to use an easy paper system that separates paper into distinct categories. One simple paper system is: take action now, keep for reference, shred. Some examples: paper that needs “action” right away include bills or invoices; paper that needs to be kept for reference includes information about taxes or health insurance; and shred refers to any paper that you no longer need.

#6: Separate “work time” and “personal time”

If you work from home, then you need to make sure that your work time and personal time are as separate as possible. In addition to creating some sort of physical workspace, you need to block out your daily schedule so that work and personal time do not intermingle. This can lead to distractions, loss of time--and end with you starting down at your daily planner and wondering why you didn’t get enough done for the day.

Remember: work time is for work. It’s not uncommon to think that interrupting work time with a few personal needs isn’t such a big deal. For instance, you might go into the kitchen to grab another cup of coffee,  look at the floor and realize you need to sweep, or spot a few dishes in the sink that need doing. Or you might get a text from a friend asking about your day and start to respond. But you need to resist the temptation to do “just a few things”  when it’s work time. The floor can wait, the dishes can wait, the text message can wait. Focus on your work until it’s time to stop. 

#7: Declutter your workspace every night 

If you’re doing work from home, you need an optimal workspace setup if you want to stay on task. It’s easy for workspace clutter to build-up over time, so to eliminate this issue, make it a habit to declutter your work area every single night. It might add a few minutes onto your schedule, but it will be worth the benefits of starting work the next day with an organized, clutter-free space.

#8: Set-up a color code as a once-glance system

Color codes are a great way to ensure that you can tell the importance or nature of a task at a glance. If it’s a must-do-right-now type of task, write or highlight it with a bold vivid color. If it’s a personal errand or goal (such as “read 30 minutes before bed”) then opt for something softer, like a neutral shade of blue. Color code systems in your daily planner will help you keep track of both urgent, short-term and long-term goals.

#9: Consider using index cards to delegate one task at a time

A daily planner is a great way to lay out your needs on a daily basis, but sometimes even a helpful planner can get overwhelming if you have a lot to do. If you’re the type of person that needs to focus on one task at a time, consider using index cards where you can showcase one specific task before moving on to the next card. This can be especially helpful if you are trying to break down large tasks into separate pieces, such as breaking down a project step-by-step.

#10: Leave room for flexibility

Finally--leave yourself some room for flexibility! It’s okay if you sometimes need to shift around errands or move something to a new day because an emergency or unexpected situation has come up and made it impossible to neatly check-mark everything in your planner.

Staying organized can be imposing at first, but with the above tips in mind, you’ll be organizing your life in no time at all!