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Organize Your Office
February 02, 2015

Starting a new business can be exciting - and overwhelming. There are so many things to do! Some of them challenging but fun. Some of the scary. And some of them downright boring. But with so much to do, it's easy to forget some of the most important things. So let's get organized before we go any further.

I am not going to presume to tell you how to organize your office. I am not familiar with your circumstances. What worked for me may not work for you. But there are some basic needs that are the same no matter what business you are in. And there are some basic principles that apply, no matter where you are working.

1. You need a space to call your own. It doesn't have to large. Just big enough to comfortably hold any equipment or tools you may need, any files you will need to keep, and provide you room to work. I started at a computer workstation in the corner of my bedroom. Having this space is important for two reasons. First, it is your workspace. This is where you run your business. When you are there, you are in work-mode. It's just like leaving the house and going to your job. You are out of reach for things like running errands, or household chores because you are at work. And when you leave it at the end of your workday, you leave your work there and go home for family and personal time. This space is the boundary that will help keep you from taking work home and home to work. If you are working from home, ideally it will have a door that closes. This will serve as a signal to family members that you are working and should not be disturbed. It will also help minimize background sounds from family members if you are on the phone with clients or prospects.

The second reason is simply that you will need a place to keep your business materials: equipment, tools, files, contacts. If you are going to be a professional then you need to be organized. A place for everything and everything in your office space.

2. Files: No matter what type of business you have, you will need a filing system of some sort. Whether it is a contract for a new customer, marketing brochures, proposals for prospects, or simply day-to-day emails and messages, you will need a place to keep them. I use a small 2-drawer filing cabinet which fits very nicely in the corner of my office. Depending on the amount of physical records you require, you can do the same. Or you can use baskets, standing file folders on a shelf, or boxes. Whatever works for you and lets you keep your records organized and easy to access when necessary is fine.

You will also be creating digital records. And you will need a place to store these as well. The easiest way to do this is to use some sort of office automation software. I use Microsoft Office Word and Excel. Using the electronic "folders" that are part of the structure of these programs makes it easy to keep track of my digital files. If you don't us Microsoft products, most office automation software, such as Open Office uses a similar structure.

3. Contacts: You will be making many new contacts as you operate your business. Customers, clients, prospects, suppliers, and service providers will all need to have their contact information readily accessible for your use. This can be done with something as simple as a Rolodex. Or you can invest in a contact management software program. I use a program called ACT simply because I became familiar with it when I had a job. It works for me. But there are many others. If you don't want to invest in a program, you can even use the address book function of your email program. The key is to have a place to store important contact information so you can find it when you need it.

This is by no means an indepth description of how to set up your office. But it will give you the basics to get you started. As we move further through the process of starting our business, we may discuss other items that will be beneficial like expense tracking programs or graphics packages. In the meantime, if you do want additional information, check out the following articles I wrote to help you get organized.

It's Time to Buy Some Christmas Presents for Yourself: You can't keep your business flowing if you don't have the tools.

6 Steps to a Stress-Free Organized Office: Follow these tips for organizing your office space, no matter how small.

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