Would you like to be able to get more work done every day?

Since for freelancers getting more done usually means earning more money, you’re probably looking for ways to increase your productivity. There’s one quick and easy way to get more work done–eliminate clutter.

Many freelancers are creative, and creative people are sometimes known for being a bit disorderly. But it’s all too easy for your office clutter to spiral out of control–slowing you down and maybe even costing you money.

Dealing with the Paper Clutter

Paper clutter can really make your office seem disorganized quickly. Here are four sources of paper clutter and some tips for dealing with each:

  1. The Mail. Do you have a stack of unopened mail sitting on the corner of your desk? If you do, you’re probably not alone. But not dealing with your mail can cause some serious problems (such as unpaid bills). Rather than let the mail stack up like this, make a point to deal with it on a regular basis. Answer anything that needs answering. Shred anything that you are done with that contains personal information. And throw junk mail away.
  2. Printouts. If you’re like me, you sometimes print your work out to review it. Or, you may want to print some of your design samples out to show to a client. If you print out hard copies of your work, be sure to destroy them when you are done with them. There’s no reason a printout needs to stay on your desk after a project is complete.
  3. Advertisements. If your desk has become a magnet for advertisements, ask yourself what’s really going on. Are you saving the advertisements in case you might respond and buy the product, or are you using them for design inspiration? Get the advertisements off your desk by creating two files: one for offers you want to take advantage of and a second for ads that inspire you.
  4. Receipts. Those pesky paper receipts–they can really contribute to a messy office. But, do you really need them? Sort your paper receipts into two piles. In one pile, place receipts for your freelancing business. You’ll want to keep these for tax purposes, but they belong in a file and not on your desk. In the other pile, place receipts that are for personal items–these can usually be discarded, but be sure to shred them if they contain any personal information.

Now that we’ve dealt with the paper clutter, let’s look at your electronic files.

Dealing with Messy Electronic Files

Clearing up the clutter in your electronic files will also help you to become more productive.

Here are three sources of electronic clutter:

  1. Email. Is your email inbox overflowing? Do you fail to respond to client emails in a timely fashion? If you answered yes, then it’s time to declutter your email inbox. The best way to declutter your inbox is through using folders (most email packages allow you to create custom folders). Create a folder for each client as well as a folder for each subscription that you have. In most email systems, you can set up filters that presort your email into the appropriate folder. Delete junk email right away and be sure to invest in a good spam filtering system to minimize the amount of junk mail that you get.
  2. Client Files. Client work should be kept in a folder as long as the project is open. If the same client assigns you multiple projects, you may wish to create a subfolder for each project. Once the project is over, you can back the files up and store them in a secure location where they can be retrieved. There’s no need to keep them on your hard drive forever.
  3. Personal Files. Personal files can also cause clutter in your electronic files. Create a separate folder for your personal files and subfolders for each category (taxes, budget, personal records, etc.). Remember, if information is not current, you can also archive it and save the archive in a secure location.

Physical objects are another thing that can create clutter in your freelancing workspace.

Dealing with Books and Other Things

Do you have stack of books on the corner of your desk? Is there a pile of CDs on the corner?

Books, CDs, and other miscellaneous junk can really make a mess. Plus, keeping your stuff in stacks on your desk increases the likelihood of them getting damaged.

Invest in the proper storage unit for each item–this means bookshelves for books, CD storage space for CDs, and other storage containers for other items.

You’ll be amazed at the difference in your office when you get the clutter off your desk.

Maintaining Your Organized Space

The key to keeping an organized space is to straighten it up regularly. If you’re like me, you tend to procrastinate when it comes to dealing with clutter.

But, the sooner you deal with your clutter the more manageable it will be. If you let clutter build up, it will be harder to manage.

Schedule a little bit of time every day to put things away and you’ll be able to maintain your organized freelancing office.

Your Turn

Implement some of these tips and you’re bound to see an improvement in your productivity.

How do you deal with clutter? Provide your best tips in the comments.

Image by Katerha

Posted by Laura Spencer

Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 20 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy Laura’s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts. Laura is also on Google+.

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