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Have a Workable Workspace

I was talking to another mom recently and, as sometimes comes up, I mentioned that I work at home. She said that she had tried it but kept getting distracted by everything else there was to do around the house. It occurred to me that that might be a symptom of not having a good work space. Your work space needs depend on what kind of work you do. I don’t need a whole lot of space, but some at-home jobs require quite a lot. No matter what, your work space has a huge impact on the quality and efficiency of your output.

We have a three-bedroom house and two kids. Before John was born his room was my office and Megan’s play room. But we had to get a bit creative when John arrived. His room (which is the biggest bedroom) is still my office and partly a play room. My desk used to sit under a pair of corner windows, which I loved, but now that part of the room belongs to John. We moved my desk next to the door and DH built some shelves that would separate my area from John’s. The shelves from desk-level up face my side and the lower shelves face the other way. This was a great solution for storage in both areas. It also blocks John’s view of me while he’s supposed to be napping.

I’m a super organized person. I can tolerate toys scattered all over the room but my workspace MUST be organized. I’m also a chronic box-keeper, and had a collection of specialty paper boxes, shoe boxes, christmas card boxes and old checkbook boxes. Everything I have has its own box! But they looked terrible. Years ago DH had bought me a large pack of scrapbooking paper, but it was the large, square kind and I prefer the letter-sized papers for my scrapbooks. I picked out some papers I liked (mostly purple, go figure) and covered the boxes with it. Then I got some clear return address-sized labels and printed labels for each box. They look great and cost almost nothing. Everything I need is right where I can find it, which is especially important when I’m on the phone or particularly stressed out.

Don’t forget your computer, though. For most of us it’s as much your work space as your desk and drawers. I have Windows 7 and forced myself to use the Dock. Now I love it. It’s all organized into work-related and non-work-related roll-outs. My iGoogle home page has time-saving gadgets. My favorites are ‘Sticky Note’ and ‘Bookmarks’. The great thing about iGoogle is that it’s available on any computer I might need to use. My Firefox has plugins for things that make online research and communication more efficient. And don’t forget to use wallpapers that make you feel good about using the computer.

I try to keep as much paperwork as possible digitally, that way I can pick up my laptop and move to another room if John’s having trouble napping with me in the room.

There’s plenty of room for the kids to play near by, which makes them happy, and a craft table for Megan just a few feet away. Oh, and don’t forget about the baby gate on the door so John can’t escape into an unsupervised part of the house!

A few DOs and DON”Ts:

  • Don’t set up your work space where you’re going to see piles of dirty dishes and laundry while you’re trying to concentrate.
  • Do keep a to-do list of non-work tasks, but DON’T tack it up where you’re going to see it while you’re working. Put it upside down or under another piece of paper.
  • Do take a brake, stand up and stretch once in a while.
  • Don’t have the TV visible from your workspace unless what you’re doing requires zero concentration.
  • Don’t settle with a workspace that isn’t working for you. It’s not going to get any better unless you do something about it.

Your workspace is important, don’t just skip it because you’re in a hurry to get working. It’s worth a little bit of time, planning and (yes) money to get it to be the space YOU need to be the best at what you do.