6 Ways to Define Your Workspace at Home

A home office that promotes concentration and creativity and protects you from diversions is simpler than you think—and we’ve got six tips to get you there.

If you work from home even part of the time, chances are, you struggle with distractions. You’re certainly not alone. While some distraction is perfectly natural, if it’s getting in the way of a productive day, it’s time to make a change. A home office that promotes concentration and creativity and protects you from diversions is simpler than you think—and we’ve got six tips to get you there.

home office 31. Make room for work

Of course, distraction is an issue at the office, too, but it’s more manageable because the entire space is dedicated to work and efficiency. You don’t want to turn your entire home into an office, but you do want to set a clear and distinct space that is just for work and outfit it accordingly.

Ideally, your workspace is as far away as from the living areas of the house as possible, or has a door that you can keep closed. That way, when you’re working, it’s all about work, and when you’re not, you don’t have to be distracted from a relaxing evening at home by your inbox. Your first defense against diversion is to create a space that you actually enjoy spending time in. Indulge in a favorite paint color, hang some prints or photos that you love, and pop on some music when you walk through that door.

2. Outfit the space

Ever notice how your house is really clean when you have a deadline? Organizing doesn’t feel like procrastination, but it often is. Keep your home office easy to organize by making sure you have the space and equipment to do the job—and to keep the space tidy. Shelves, rather than cabinets and drawers, keep everything accessible—not only so you can easily get at what you need, but so you can easily put it away, too. Simple bathroom hooks installed over the desk do wonders to keep the desk clear, and give you easy access to headphones, charging cables, and keys. So many of our clients who work from home also do a lot of shipping from home, and a stylish towel rack repurposed above the workspace is another great way to keep things in order.

home office 23. Don’t go cable crazy

A tangled twist of computer and electronics cables gets in the way of productivity in the inevitable event that you need to move equipment or a cable comes loose. But it’s also the kind of thing that promotes procrastination every time you sit down and see that mess staring you in the face. I mean, how can you get any work done until that’s taken care of? Choose one of the many cable management systems available today according to your particular work style, and cut down on the equipment as much as possible, too. Make sure your printer also works as a copier and fax machine, and use your computer for music and video.

4. Figure out the filing

People often overthink filing. Accessible and organized files are very important, but filing cabinets are not always a necessary or convenient choice. Here, too, shelves with baskets and binders for files you use frequently keep the work flowing and the clean up simple. My rule is to touch everything no more than once, so if I don’t have to head for cold storage every time I need to file an invoice, I’m much more likely to do it right then.

home office 15. Let in the light

One of the first reasons we get distracted is because we get tired. Though we tend to forget it, our eyes are what we use most when we work, and a day spent looking at computer screens, invoices and spreadsheets can be exhausting. That’s why good lighting is crucial to keeping you focused both visually and mentally. You want three layers of light: Ambient, task and accent lighting.

Use a dimmer switch on the main source of overhead light so you have strong light when you need it, but can tone it down, too. Desk and floor lamps will help you keep your eyes on the details, and accent lighting will be helpful in maintaining an attractive and intimate space that’s pleasant to be in.

6. Sit up straight!

Finally, make sure to invest in a good office chair. It’s hard to sit up straight for long stretches of time, but today’s ergonomic office chairs make that a much simpler and more relaxing affair.

Keep it simple to look at, but make sure it has the ergonomic controls that address your personal body issues. One of the first reasons we walk away from the work in front of us is because we’re tired of sitting, so the right chair removes one more source of distraction.

Now, tell us your tips for creating a workspace that keeps you working!

Interior designer Kerrie Kelly writes on home organization and home office décor for Home Depot. Kerrie’s ideas focus on helping you become more productive at home through the creative use of design and décor. To view office bookcase and shelving options that could improve your home workspace, you can visit Home Depot’s selections online.

Track This Small Business Metric Today for a Happier Tomorrow

It’s safe to say that small business owners have to keep track of a lot of numbers. One important metric to track is time wealth, which tells you how long you can sustain your business at your current rate of income and expenses.

This guest post is brought to you by Thibaut Barrère, a freelancer, long-time small business owner and the founder of WiseCash, a lightweight cash flow forecasting app.

It’s safe to say that small business owners have to keep track of a lot of numbers. Profit and loss reports. Invoices due. Discounts from vendors. Shipping charges. Tax deductions. Sometimes you just don’t want to see a single other number!

But if I told you there was one small business number that could put your mind at ease, avoid a dipping bank account, and even allow you to take a vacation once in awhile?

There is. And it’s your “time wealth.”

Time wealth tells you how long you can sustain your business at your current rate of income and expenses. Knowing your time wealth is valuable – it gives you peace of mind when it comes to your business.

How to Measure Your Time Wealth

I created my cash flow forecasting app Wisecash because I saw too many small business owners working too hard, charging too little and in general not living the life they thought they could create when they struck out on their own. And often this happens simply because of a lack of cash flow forecasting.

What’s that? Cash flow forecasting is simply measuring how much cash you will have in a given period of time (i.e. that time wealth I’ve been talking about). With a little calculating, you can probably measure this number for next month. But how about for next year? At such a distant date, your cash flow starts to become abstract, and that makes it difficult to make other important financial decisions.

But with cash flow forecasting, you can simply enter your upcoming income and expenses along with the amount currently in your bank account, and see what your financial picture will look like in the future. This is your “time wealth.”

And knowing your time wealth helps you determine:

Are you charging enough? – If you discover that your time wealth is very healthy, that’s great news! That means you’re in demand. You may be able to charge more and regain some of your work/life balance!

Should you take on a new client? – Simply enter the income from the new client into your cash flow forecast. Will the amount the client is willing to pay be worth the time and effort you spend working with her? If she doesn’t make a big dent in your time wealth, you may want to pass.

Can you fire a troublesome client? – The same goes for a client who takes a lot of your time. Is he really worth the effort? Find out by removing him from your cash flow forecast. You may find you’re better off without him!

Can you afford to take a break? – What if you didn’t work for a month? How about two months? For many small business owners, this prospect sounds crazy, but try creating a hypothetical situation where you don’t receive any income for two months next summer. Does it work? Then you have more time wealth than you thought. Enjoy your vacation!

Are you heading for disaster? – On the other hand, if your time wealth runway is short, you now have a heads up that something has to change. You may need to focus more on marketing your services, raise rates or cut unnecessary expenses until your time wealth increases. Thankfully, with cash flow forecasting, you can catch the problem early.

Chances are you started your business because you wanted to create a different kind of life for yourself. Knowing your time wealth can help you live that life, and decrease worry and stress over money.

Try a 2-week free trial of Wisecash today, and find your own financial peace of mind.

Want to know more about cash flow management? Check out our free email course on mastering your business cash flow.

How to Acheive the Perfect Work-Life Balance During the Holidays

Achieving work-life balance is difficult any time of the year, but it’s especially tough to do during the holidays. Here’s how to pull it off.

Achieving that perfect balance of work and life is difficult any time of the year, but between the festive parties, wrapping presents, and helping out with your kid’s holiday pageant, it’s especially difficult to balance at this time of year. When the scale has a tendency to lean a little more towards the “life” side of things, how do you keep your work a priority?

Put everything on the same calendar.

Typically, the number one rule of keeping work life and personal life separate is to leave work at work and leave home at home. Though, during this time of year, with so many things going on, it’s easier and more efficient to just keep everything in one place. If you have an elementary school recital you need to attend in the middle of a Friday, you need to make sure it doesn’t conflict with any big projects or meetings also on that day. Keep all of your obligations on one calendar. Mark work obligations, like meetings, presentations, and big assignments, in one color, and personal obligations in another color.

Take care of your bigger tasks in the morning.

Though it can sometimes take a little time to warm up in the mornings, it’ll benefit you in the long run to take care of your bigger projects first thing in the morning.

If you’re one of those people who have a little trouble operating at full speed in the morning, I suggest trying to get “warmed up” for the day before even getting to the office.Though it sounds counterproductive to the night owls of the world, wake up a little earlier. Instead of rushing in the morning to try and get as much sleep as possible, wake up a little earlier to enjoy a cup of coffee at home, watch the news, read the paper, get into a nice little routine to make you feel awake and ready for the day. Then once at work, tackle all of your big tasks leaving the afternoon free if you need to head out early to pick up the kids or prep the house for a party.

Let everyone know when you’re gone.

Because everyone has a crazy schedule this time of year, communication is key. As the boss, you need to give people a heads up as to when you’ll be gone because you need to make sure everything gets done! Even the boss needs some help every now and then. Clearly and thoroughly assign duties to your employees on the days you need to miss, and let everyone know that if they need to get a hold of you to mark their emails with an “urgent” notification.

Communication between employees and yourself is the only way to tackle this crazy season. As long as you’re making sure all of the work gets done, it’s very possible to cater to everyone’s individual holiday schedules.

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.