Learning and working from home are most productive when you are prepared. Here are three tips to help your home become an area of productivity and focus. These tips include the proper supplies, a thought-out workspace, and a consistent schedule. Here are some details on creating the most productive workspace your home can provide.
Have the appropriate supplies available for completing professional and academic tasks. A basic school supply list is a great starting point. Be sure to have extras for when the crayons break, the ruler is misplaced, the printer runs out of ink and erasers fall off the pencils. Also, consider electronic supplies such as a calculator, headphones, and charging cables.
Organize Supplies by Type
Organize the supplies by type so they are easy to locate and easy to put away. Open cups or containers work great for pencils, pens, markers, etc., because you can take the entire container to your workspace and grab as you need. Label all containers, shelves, files, and areas that house school supplies. Follow the “place for everything and everything in its place” rule. Even the most obvious storage location should have a simple label.
Keep Supplies Simple
Keep the supplies simple. A fresh box of crayons, matching pencils that are freshly sharpened, a simple set of markers will make it easy for students to select the appropriate tool without overstimulation. A simple, clean file system and basic notepad will keep professional tasks organized. Store supplies in a location that is convenient for everyone to use and put away. If there are young learners, place supplies in an area that they can reach. Older learners will also need a convenient location too, that retrieval and replacement are mindless. The proper supplies will keep your home a well-supplied environment for productivity.
A well-thought-out workspace makes working and learning at home possible. Space will need to have good lighting, be well organized, have space to think, and have minimal distractions. The lighting of a workspace is very important to aid in productivity and alertness. Natural light is important for mental well-being. In the darker, winter months, lamps, and lighting with a warm light can help students feel alert while putting less stress on their eyes. Select a work area that has the best lighting for learning and working.
Organizing and Setting Up Work Space
Keeping a workspace organized will foster learning from home. Students will know where to find what they need to complete their work. The consistency of an organized workspace will also foster learning and reinforce a stable learning environment.
Work areas should have open space on the walls and on the floor to encourage creativity and thinking. While a good selection of wall art and learning posters will create a fun work area, a complete covering of the walls may create overstimulation and distractions. Limit the number of distractions in a work environment. If there are multiple people in the house, try to create smaller work areas for times when independent learning and working is necessary. The workspace should be separate from areas where there is a lot of traffic, younger children may be playing, or where adults will be on calls. Creating a productive workspace is a mix of art and science. Remember to keep it simple and clear for productivity.
Scheduling with Time Blocking
A consistent, time blocked schedule will help you stay focused and be the most productive at home. For adults and children, a consistent schedule is key. Keeping consistency day-to-day will help keep everyone focused on the tasks for the day. When creating a daily time block, you will dedicate each period of the day to a specific category.
What to Include in a Time Block
Time blocks include self-care such as sleep, grooming, exercise, fresh air, and breaks. The work and school day can be blocked out by subject or work tasks. However, meetings and face-to-face time with colleagues, teachers, and teams, may not have much flexibility, so your workday time block may be created around these meetings. There will need to be an end time for your work and school day. The end time gives everyone a time limit to their work and will encourage focus and productivity during work time. Your time block will also need an allocation for meals and meal preparation. Allowing enough time for meal preparation or planning will help keep the day on schedule. Allow for take-out and convenience meals occasionally, so this task doesn’t flood your schedule. The time block schedule should also allow for any housekeeping, yard work, and cleaning, as these are equally important tasks to keep your home a productive environment.
A general time block day that simplifies the details and includes only sleep, self-care, school/work, and family time is completely acceptable. You may personally want to include more details in your time block such as exercise, meetings, planning, etc. Keep it simple when working with the family as a whole. A consistent schedule that is communicated to everyone will promote productive work at home.
Whether your family is working from home full-time or part-time, a well-planned environment will reduce stress and encourage productive work and learning. Take time to select the proper supplies, plan out workspaces, and create a schedule. These three areas will help make working from home as productive as it can be.
If planning and organizing are a challenge for you, Top Shelf Home Organizing can work with you. Contact Jayme if you want help setting up for a productive home.
Productivity is all about being efficient and accomplishing more in less time. Schedule your day to be the most efficient you can be by having a plan for every day.
Here are a few tips to make the most of your day whether you work in your home, run a business, or work for a large company.
- Difficult Tasks
Schedule your most difficult, undesirable tasks for the time of day when you are most focused. For many, this time is first thing in the morning. And doesn’t if feel good to get it out of the way?
Prepare, review and stick to a meeting agenda to ensure everyone stays on topic. Issues that may come up during a meeting can wait to be discussed at a later time with only the people involved. Set up video conferencing equipment ahead of the meeting so you can tackle the agenda on time and save everyone valuable minutes with each meeting.
Schedule a couple times in your day where you devote time to checking and responding to emails, voicemails and messages. Having a set time to do this will help you avoid being interrupted throughout the day, and keep you focused on the project you intend to accomplish. Also, use the phone to communicate more often versus the never ending back and forth of email and other messaging communications.
Schedule blocks of breaks throughout your day to keep your mind fresh.
- Me Time
Schedule me time every day. Taking time first thing in the morning to focus on your health and faith will get your day off to a good start.
Use a checklist for daily repetitive tasks. This will keep you focused and help minimize errors in the tasks you do everyday. Also, create a weekly checklist to help keep your week on task, so you can accomplish your goals. Create your weekly checklist at the end of the previous work week so your week is off to a strong, focused start.
- Work Space
Keep your work space neat and organized to ensure focus. Keep only the current project on your desk. If it makes sense, plan certain tasks to be completed offsite or at home. Offsite work allows for focus without the office interruptions and can save commute time.
If scheduling and organizing are challenging, a professional organizer can help. See if Top Shelf Home Organizing can help you on your journey. Contact Jayme to schedule a consult or chat about organizing.
Part 3 of 3 by Laurel Schenkoske
The goal was to bring my home office from cluttered to focused in two weeks. I did it. My office is now a place where I can work without distraction from physical clutter or from mental over-stimulation.
Last week I worked through the process of making things worse before better by pulling every item out. And due to this, all the randomness is now either out of the house, or in an appropriate place. That clears a lot off my mind.
The work done at home is split between reading and writing, and I have an appropriate space to do each. For reading, I settle into the bean bag chair, with my Moroccan rug sticking out just enough to keep my feet off the cold tile. For writing, my desk is clear of excess clutter. (A longer-term goal is to get rid of the PC and monitor, but for now, I’m still using both computers.)
Hanging on the walls are simple reminders to keep me both calm and focused: an inspirational message above my desk, my grandma’s old Hummel pictures on the wall, ceramic angel statues throughout. There’s also a white board with my work-to-do list (our home to-do list is in the kitchen), and a larger board where I can scribble out my work while thinking – just like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory.
As for noise distractions, I have great success listening to music in alpha-wave frequency. This type of music does more than block out noise; with headphones, it helps stimulate the brain’s ability to think. There are many free tracks out there, up to 6 hours long.
The process of getting the office organized was simpler than I’d expected. And because I focused on just one room, it was manageable. Even when I feel the rest of the house is in chaos, I have a space to go where everything is in its place. In this environment, I can feel calm, and I can get work accomplished. The cats are happy, too!
While I met my two-week goal, the task going forward will be maintenance. For me, this will mean clearing my food dishes and coffee mug out; folding up the blankets after reading; putting away books, pens, and highlighters – every day. See Top Shelf Home Organizing Process for simple steps for organization and upkeep.
By: Laurel Schenkoske
Laurel is a busy college instructor, Ph. D. student and wife. She is also writer for Top Shelf Home Organizing. Follow Laurel as she discovers efficiencies in her own home, office and busy routine.
Part 2 of 3 by Laurel Schenkoske
It’s been about a week since my last post, and since my commitment to get my home office in working order in two weeks (by September 6th). If you remember, that meant creating a space of efficiency, which includes serenity and mindfulness.
In all aspects of life, things often have to get worse before they can get better. The same is true of physical space, and I certainly experienced it in my own office decluttering. A few of the smaller boxes I had stacked in a corner, I was able to make room for and arrange neatly in the closet. But three large boxes in the middle of the floor were very random – a result of last-minute packing from the old house – and had to be sorted piecemeal. I therefore emptied them of their contents, and spread it all out on the floor to better assess what I was dealing with. Doing this gave me a sense of what could be donated, what could be stored, and what needed a place in our home.
During this time, I did not attempt to do any kind of work that required concentration in the office. Even though I could have sat at the desk, with my back to the mess, it would have been nagging at me the whole time.
By now, much of the content seen in the picture has found a home. But even as I type this, I can hear the TV and a video from my husband’s phone. I get up to close the office door, and he walks in to ask what’s going on. The door had been open to begin with because one of the cats was howling to get in. Clearly, space and clutter are more than just elements of the tangible.
The physical office is starting to take shape. But as that develops, I need to work out a system to keep it mentally peaceful, as well.
Goal: Work-ready in 1 week.
By: Laurel Schenkoske
Laurel is a busy college instructor, Ph. D. student and wife. She is also writer for Top Shelf Home Organizing. Follow her as she discovers efficiencies in her own home, office and busy routine.
Part 1 of 3 by Laurel Schenkoske
A little over two months ago, my husband and I moved, just a mile away from our old place. After two years in our Tucson duplex, our lease was finally up, and we were hoping for a better landlord, and needing air conditioning for the not-such-a-dry-heat monsoon season. We were lucky enough to have my parents and sister help with the cleaning and moving-in process, but even now, there is still clutter everywhere, and several random boxes sitting in the middle of the office. I was out of town for the last three weeks, for a very much needed break from work. Towards the end, I was feeling like I might be able to get re-motivated for work and school. But returning to the clutter I’d left behind, especially in the office, has made that much-needed motivation vanish.
I am a Ph.D. student and an instructor at the University of Arizona, so, I’m a little busy. I don’t have weekends free and I don’t get summers off. I am never able leave my work at the office and forget about it until the next morning. Always, always, always, I have lesson prep and grading, research and writing, presentation and grant applications, committee responsibilities, and meetings – meetings as an instructor, meetings with my student cohort, meetings with my professors; they don’t end.
That all said, I need an organized, efficient space for work and concentration. This year it’s more critical than in the past since, with my more “flexible” (read, self-management requiring) time schedule, I need a place to work without distractions. And as most of us know, distractions abound. Facebook, Wikipedia, LinkedIn, and ohmygoshNetflix. And clutter. When I see clutter, my mind wanders. I want to clean, or to organize, or to just look in the stuff in that box over there. Whatever temptations the clutter offers, it is more appealing than the important task at hand.
Moreover, the distractions get in the way of my thinking process. In fact, physical clutter has the power to fill my mind with a sort of mental clutter. The more things I see around me, the more I can’t concentrate on my reading or writing. If I pause to reflect on my work and see stuff everywhere, my mind goes into cognitive overload and isn’t able to process anything fully. I begin thinking of all the things I have to do and start feeling anxious. My work takes much longer, and consequently, I have to stay up late, or get up early, or just plain fall behind.
But, if when I stare off into space, my eyes can rest on an empty piece of floor or a plain piece of wall, my mind has an opportunity to process and to rest. This gets me back on track much more quickly.
In German, there are a few sayings that apply here: Ordnung muss sein = There must be order; and Alles hat seinen Platz = Everything has its place. The first is a stereotype for the German lifestyle in general. The second applies more specifically to physical organization. But to have order in your life as a whole, everything does need its place. While my direct priority is to create a functioning office space, the underlying reason is that it will help create serenity and mindfulness in my home and in my life.
Mission: The Office. While much of our new home needs decluttering, organizing, and wall decorating, the office must be my new priority.
Goal: Work-ready in 2 weeks.
By: Laurel Schenkoske
Laurel is busy college instructor, Ph. D. student and wife. She is also writer for Top Shelf Home Organizing. Follow her as she discovers efficiencies in her own home, office and busy routine.