Whether you're advising a work-at-home client or planning your own space, these tips will help.
Store your documents online. Scan, upload, digitize, or e-mail your docs to SlideShare, Posterous, or Google Docs. You'll never have to worry about computer crashes. And try Microsoft OneNote. I don't know how I lived without it for so long, says Stephanie Crawford of Zeiltin InTown in Nashville, Tenn.
Minimize Distractions. Your office space should be dedicated only to things that help make you money or are for the practice of your profession, says M. Colleen Klimczak, certified professional organizer with Peace of Mind in Chicago. Are you using your office to store boxes of holiday decorations? In the interest of being ready to work when you sit down at your desk, taking out those extra personal items will help.
Find Tech That Does Double duty. Save space with multifunction or 'all-in-one' equipment that prints, copies, and scans. The smaller footprint of these machines makes them ideal for most space-challenged home offices, and they're affordable, says Lisa Kanarek, a Dallas-based home office expert and creator of www.workingnaked.net.
Prevent piles. A business can generate an enormous amount of paper, so you need to figure out what to keep and where to put it, says Garreth Wilcock of Keller Williams Realty in Austin, Texas.
I follow a one-touch system. If I get a piece of mail or a contract, it has only a limited number of options-it can go straight to trash, it can go to storage, I can delegate it, or I can work on it right now, Wilcock says. The system prevents random piles from forming.
Maintain your files. Just because you got organized once doesn't mean your office will stay that way, Klimczak says. It's an ongoing process. You need to set up a document retention policy. Keep the most timely files closest to your desk. My 'tickler folder' with information on prospective clients and pressing items is always nearby.
Set up an area suitable for guests. If you're going to be meeting with clients in your home office, set up a space with guest chairs and a table of some sort, Kanarek says. If you don't have space in your office, you can use an adjacent room, like a dining room, for meetings. Just be sure the space is clutter-free and readily available.
Don't get sidetracked. When you're doing work at home, there are so many other things calling for your attention.
I use my trusted kitchen clock to keep me focused, says Lourdes Luly MacPharlaine, with Prudential Northwest Properties in Lake Oswego, Ore. I set my clock for 50 minutes, and during those minutes, I stay on task. Then, 10 minutes are set for me. I get up and stretch, exercise, talk to the cats, munch, go outside, turn the TV on, whatever. The cycle repeats until the whistle blows at 6 p.m.