If your New Year’s resolution is to get more organized, you’re not alone. Most of us crave more order and less chaos in our lives. Getting organized can boost your confidence, save you time and money, and even increase your chances of getting your next job opportunity.
That’s according to Angela Harris Hughes, who helps individuals get more organized and achieve maximum efficiency and livability. I spoke to her about designing your home office space. First, Hughes says, it’s important to know that clutter is not just an issue for your home; it follows you into the world. “You carry your clutter around in your head, as well,” she says. “Getting organized frees your mind up to focus on what’s important.”
A job search is a complicated process, and you need to keep good records to be successful. Among other things, you need to track and store:
- Job postings you’ve applied to
- Company research
- Resume and cover letter versions
- Interview notes and follow up
Much of your clutter may be digital, but that’s another post. Let’s focus first on how to make your physical space feel more organized.
Hughes says that the first principle of organizing is to start with the end in mind. What kind of feeling do you want your office to give you when you walk in the door? How do you want your morning routine to feel each day? What do you need to do to feel totally prepared for an interview?
The second principle of getting and staying organized is to create a home for every item. If I went to your house today and asked you for a fork, you’d be able to find one in seconds. That’s because flatware is one of the items that we store consistently. It has a home (custom designed for it, buy the way) and it always goes into the same place after it’s used. Could you apply the same principle to your home office equipment, supplies, paperwork, and reference material?
The third principle is to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. File everything right away; it takes just seconds, as opposed to “catching up on filing,” which may take hours. Assuming you get around to it at all, of course. My personal rule is that if a task will take just a few minutes (less than five) I try to do it immediately. Putting off small tasks makes it harder and harder to remember them; eventually they fall by the wayside. That could be a problem, since your job search success, like other areas of your life, can succeed or fail based on your attention to detail.
To get started organizing your work space, Hughes recommends starting by removing everything from the space so you can see it with fresh eyes. Then spend time visualizing the ideal work space over this blank canvas. What activities will you be doing most often here? Making phone calls? Research? Reading? Each of these activities may require a slightly different arrangement and equipment at hand.
Begin putting things back in place based on their frequency of use. When possible, store like items together near where they will be used in neat and visually appealing containers. Visual clutter makes it harder to focus on work, so the cleaner your work space, the more productive you’ll be. (For some great ideas on organizing, try searching “office design” “home office” or “workspace” on Pinterest.)
If, like many people, your work space also serves another purpose or is located in, say, the dining room or bedroom, Hughes recommends creating an “office in a box.” There are many versions of lightweight and portable file boxes that make it easy for you to carry an entire project from room to room and store it neatly out of the way when you’re done working.
Hughes, like many organizers, warns against systems that are too complex, those that value esthetics above usability, or those that are created by an organizer with no buy in from the user or without an in-depth needs assessment. “It has to be a system that works for you and is easy to maintain,” she says. “Even if you think you have a great system, you’ll probably have to make tweaks to make it work for you every day. No one can know what will work better than you.”
Here are some more workplace organization tips via the Container Store.
Angela Harris Hughes helps businesses and individuals optimize physical space, filing (paper & digital) and other systems, and coaches on time and project management. Find her and lots of advice, tips and inspiration at www.YourLifeOrganizer.com