9 Time Saving Tips for the Home Office

Finding the best time saving tips for your home office can be even more important than saving time at one of those “regular” offices. After all, home offices can be filled with distractions. Kids, significant others, pets, flat screen TVs and the tempting call of your bed can all have a dampening impact on your productivity.  If you work from home, you need a special set of time saving tips to keep you on track throughout the day. Here are our top 9 life hacks for the home office.

9. Make your own “fast food”

If you love to cook, creating gourmet concoctions for breakfast, lunch and dinner is a great way to waste time during the day. Avoid the temptation of getting all ‘Top Chef’ about your meals by making them the night before. Throw breakfast ingredients into a blender and store it in the fridge overnight, make a salad or sandwich that’s easy to grab when you get hungry, and keep plenty of snacks on hand to eliminate trips to the store in the middle of your workday.

8. Set Boundaries

If others in your family are home while you’re working, set a “don’t interrupt me unless the world is ending” rule. Little interruptions throughout the day don’t just waste time – they also distract the mind and make it difficult to get back to what you were doing once the interruption is over.

7. Stick to a Schedule

If you’re self-employed and work from home, the temptation to wake up “whenever” and work until “whenever” can be great. Sticking to a consistent start and end time will help you get more done, and will also allow you some much-needed relaxation time at the end of every day.

6. Take Breaks

Times saving tips aren’t simply about creating more time so that you can get more done. They’re also about giving yourself some space and breathing room. Taking frequent breaks is important for your brain. Spending more than two hours straight staring at a computer screen squelches your creativity. So get up, do some stretching, or go for a walk. When you return to your task, you’ll be refreshed and more focused.

5. Smell your Way to Success

Keep some essential oils or scented candles on hand to provide energy and help you focus. Citrus scents like orange and lemon are known for their powers of revitalization, and are much better for you than chugging cup after cup of coffee.

4. Get an Exercise Ball

Swap your boring chair for a big exercise ball that fits underneath your desk. As you work, you’ll be engaging all sorts of muscles, increasing blood flow to the brain.

3. Move your Work Station

When you start to feel antsy or unfocused, change your work station. Saving time is all about putting yourself in the optimum work environment, so if you feel inspired on the couch – or even in bed – go there, and go there now! Not all masterpieces are created while sitting upright at a traditional desk.

2. Schedule your Calls

One of our favorite time savings tips is ensuring that the majority of your calls are scheduled in advance. Nothing wastes time like phone interruptions. Just as you were beginning to really get some work done– ring! Before you know it, you’re on a 45-minute call that results in 45 new things to do, and the task you were working on gets lost in the shuffle. Make it clear to your clients and partners that calls need to be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance. This will let you clear your schedule and create some mental space for the call.

1. Beat your Client to the Punch

Prevent those time-consuming “Where is my _____?”-emails from clients by heading them off at the pass. Shoot them a quick email update, even if you have nothing to give them. Doing this creates trust, puts them at ease, and saves you time later when the actual due dates begin to loom.

Hey, work-from-homers, what are your favorite time saving tips?

photo credit: beauty.lovelyish.com

Holiday Ghost Town? Quick! Get Organized!

get organized
Is your assistant in the dog house?

This year, when everyone else is indulging in an embarrassing amount of sugar and gifted electronics, you will be taking advantage of the holiday ghost town in order to get organized! When your clients, partners and customers have unplugged to enjoy some offline holiday fun, you can take advantage of silent night after silent night by taking a good, hard look at your small business’s systems.

Step One – Don’t panic!

Yes, your inbox isn’t as bombarded as usual. No, there aren’t any phone calls to return. Yes, the number of emails opened and the number of orders placed is clearly lower than it normally is.  But don’t panic! Everyone checks out during the holidays, giving you some much needed down time to take stock of the way your run your business, and to finally – finally! – play catch up. So relax. No one else is making any money right now either.

Step Two – De-clutter your desktop

Set aside a few hours (maybe more if things have gotten way out of control) to de-clutter your desktop, and get organized when it comes to your personal computer. Sure, you have folders assigned for specific accounts, and you know where everything is. But in the busy months leading up to the holidays, did everything belonging to Client A actually make it into Client A’s folder?

Take a good, hard look at your desktop. If it looks more like a crater-faced teenager than an inviting computer screen, it’s time to do some damage control. Crank some tunes, grab some hot chocolate, and make sure all of those icons find their proper home.

Step Three – Unsubscribe from email lists

If it’s been more than six months since you’ve opened an email from the folks at, say, Groupon or Expedia, it might be time to unsubscribe. The holidays are a great time to organize your inbox, since you won’t be inundated with new emails as you’re attempting to purge the old.

While you’re at it, delete your old emails! Every single message should be:

1. Answered and/or…

2. Labeled and archived or…

3. Deleted!

Fight the urge to ask “But what if I need it?” Unless it’s related to money or something legal, chuck it. At the very least, archive it to make room for all of the fantastic, lucrative emails that are waiting to appear in a clean shiny inbox with lots of room.

Step Four – Gather the troops

A great way to get organized during your holiday downtime is to combine the various accounting, administrative, and organizational forces that have been working for you throughout the year. From your Shoeboxed account to your FreshBooks account to your PayPal account, the holidays are a great time to start taking stock of year end numbers. Make sure all invoices are marked as paid (and if they haven’t been paid, starting hunting those naughty clients down!).

Begin gathering totals, crunching numbers and preparing tax treasures for your accountant. If you do it now, you’ll be free to enjoy a fresh start in 2013, and your accountant will love you for not giving her a frantically scribbled spreadsheet come April.

Step Five – Get critical

The end of the year is a great time to evaluate what’s working in your company, what needs to change, and what (or who) may need to go.

Do you absolutely love your invoicing application? What about your CRM software? Come to think of it, what about your assistant?

Get honest with yourself as you weigh the pros and cons of the various components that help your business run. It may be difficult to let go of a program (or person) that you’ve been with for a while, but if you’re anything less than stoked, there’s just no reason to be spending your hard earned money on mediocre products and services.

If you only had time to do one thing to get organized during the holidays, what would it be?

photo credit: dailymayhem.com

Shoeboxed Organized Fridays: “How can I permanently change bad work habits?”

Every Friday Shoeboxed speaks with organizational guru Samantha Bennett and asks her a question submitted by one of our users. This week, Melissa from Wisconsin is ready to make some big changes to her bad work habits, but needs Samantha’s help!

“Hi Sam, I’m kind of a ‘go big or go home’-type person. I either work for 8 hours straight or not at all. How can I transition into the 15 minutes per day that you recommend?”

~ Melissa G., Milwaukee, WI

Do you have an organizational question you want answered? Submit it below!