Learn about some special considerations for setting up your home workspace.
- In my course Time Management Fundamentals, I emphasize the importance of processing. Processing is the act of deciding what you're going to do with something, when you're going to do it, and where its home is. Processing begins when you take one item out of a gathering point. A gathering point is a place where unresolved, unprocessed items gather. For instance, an inbox or an email inbox. When working from home, processing takes a slightly different flavor.
Unless there's some legal restriction against it, I strongly recommend you process both personal and career-related items at the same time. Your time spent processing will be reduced because you'll get into a solid rhythm and you'll be able to see the relationship between both work and personal demands on your calendar. When scheduling processing time on your calendar, schedule enough time to process all items from your work life and your personal life.
This means that my Time Management Fundamentals recommendation of scheduling five hours a week for processing may need to be a little bit higher when working from home. Perhaps seven hours a week is a good average. These seven hours of processing can take place at any time in the week that you want, as long as as it is a consistent, recurring schedule. Again, if your work requires you to keep work and personal separate, then you'll need two separate processing times, but it's best to avoid that if possible.
Also, since we're going to be doing both together at the same time, it's ideal for home-based workers to combine your work and personal gathering points. There's no need when you're working from home to create two different inboxes. Just put everything into one inbox and you'll process them all during processing time. In fact, if you live with other people, such as children or your spouse or roommates, encourage them to put any items that they want you to look at in your inbox.
Not only will this reduce clutter at home, but it will help you stay more focused and know that you don't have to worry about those things until the processing time that is scheduled on your calendar. This rule of intermingling work and personal applies to all your other gathering points. While you might have separate personal and work email addresses, you want those both to go into the same inbox. This will streamline your work radically and leverages one of the greatest advantages that you have by working from home.
Now let's talk about homes for a moment. Part of processing is deciding where something belongs, or its home. A home is a final resting place. Unlike a gathering point, it's not something that you must review every single week. It can be anything like a drawer where you put cables or a filing cabinet where you have thousands of different files. The funny thing about homes is that we want to follow the opposite rule when creating them.
Don't intermingle, but keep them separated. For example, if we have a set of A to Z alphabetical files for work-related papers, then we also want to have a separate set of A to Z files for home-related matters. Even for things such as office supplies, it's wise to have a set that is readily on hand and close to your home workspace that are designated just for your work and not for home personal use.
Why? A couple of reasons. First, it saves you a lot of time because you're not running around the house trying to find that one pair of scissors that your child borrowed for that magnificent flower artwork that they made from tracing their hands. I'm speaking from personal experience here. No, you want to have yours and they have theirs. That helps you stay focused by allowing you to stay in your workspace. Also, from a financial or tax standpoint, it makes it much easier for you to justify and create a separation for any expense reimbursements as well.
One final note, you might also want to create a home of an outbox for every important person that you live with. For example, I have an outbox at my workspace for my wife. That way, when processing, if I come across anything that I need to give to her, is just put it into that outbox. Then, at the end of processing, I walk the outbox to her inbox, where I put it in so that she can process it.
This also allows me to stay focused in my workspace for extended periods of time because I'd have to get up and walk downstairs and put something in her inbox every single time I have something for her. By mingling gathering points and separating homes, you'll streamline your workspace and become more organized and efficient.
- Creating a productive environment
- Creating a balanced schedule
- Using virtual meetings
- Staying responsive
- Balancing roles as a parent, caregiver, and professional
- Managing interruptions and emergencies at home