Studies conducted at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute, published in the The Journal of Neuroscience show that having lots of stuff around when your trying to complete tasks cause those things to compete for your brain's attention along with any to-do's you may be trying to get done. In short, your brain doesn't know what to tell your hands to do, making it hard time complete tasks in a timely, effective, and efficient manner.
That translates to why people living an uncluttered and organized life tend to get more done. Clutter also makes it hard to process information. So many things going on in your visual space means your brain is so busy woking to process what you see, that you may find your self reading email messages more than once just to really understand what it said,
Your environment begins to compete for your attention in the same way your toddler suddenly finds you more interesting when your on the phone or using the bathroom. You may be able to complete the task, but you’re still aware those tiny hands grabbing at you, screaming your title. After a while, it wears you down mentally and emotionally, causing frustration and can even lead to physical discomforts like aches and pains.
Long story short, if you work from home and have deadlines you need to create a clear, clutter free environment that offers serenity and productive energy. There need to be some basic ground rules, especially if you share your work space with family members. Here are my rules for getting the job done, when your on the job at home.
Don't Set Up Shop In The Hearth
Your kitchen island is not the place to work on spread sheets and call clients. You need a designated area, preferably with a door. High traffic areas in your home are just that, high traffic. Which means if you do have a clutter issue, these areas are probably where they are most concentrated.
The kitchen, the living room, the play area designated basement with the kids gaming equipment and your spouses binge watching command center will make anything you try to accomplish in relation to your work stressful. Find a place in your home thats tucked away from all the activity. Gather what you need to work and banish any distractions. Things like laundry, dishes and an unmade bed will only remind you of other to-do's on your list.
Office Hours Are A Must
Its your job right, so there needs to be set time to do it. Working from home is not a connivence afforded to you so that you can get work done around your home. You can't draft proposals and help with homework simultaneously. Time management is essential to successfully completely any task, so take it seriously and set time for it.
Your family should know when you will not be accessible. Your spouse can't call you every minute in a conventional office, so at home the same rules should apply. Have a family meaning to explain to everyone why its important your not disturbed unless absolutely necessary. Make sure everyone knows when you're available and when you're not. Of course they may be times you need to take a break, but the operative word is need, so make the break count.
While Your At It, Make It A Space You Love
I love the word zhoosh. I think a good zhooshing can make anything more inviting. If you don't like the space you work in, it can be hard to perform your best. Im not suggesting you hire an interior designer (If your in that financial position go for it!), but if you put thoughtful planning into your home office to make it representative of what appeals to you, You'll find yourself wanting to spend more time there and a lot more getting done.
Think about your work routine; How do you start your work day? Do you sort mail first? Get a mail sorter you love that has all the receptacles you need for the different categories you sort into. Are you comfortable? Perhaps its time to invest in a chair that you could sit in all day. What supplies do you use? Sort them into categories and store them accordingly.
Bonus: create stations for the different tasks you do throughout the day and store the items you need for those tasks at those stations. A great technique to help you begin sorting and planning your home office is called "knolling". Knolling is the process of arranging related objects in parallel or 90-degree angles as a method of organization.
If its good enough for the top design professionals, it'll definitely help you plot out your day.
Working from home can be a wonderful experience. It can afford you the time to do all the things you couldn't do if you were chained to a conventional office with all the distractions that environment comes with. From working for a company to building your own empire, rules of production must apply. Implementing some structure will help you find a rhythm that will make your day less stressful. After all, you wouldn't leave the house without a structured bag; don't make the mistake of starting your work day without the right framework.