When you work from home, it is important to set up your workstation properly to have the same convenient space that you would have at the office. But what about the digital space? This should be no less important to have your notifications under control, have regular breaks, and keep your documents organized in a way that does not require you to look for them for a long time.
That’s why we bring you 10 tips on how to organize your digital workspace, loaded with helpful productivity tools and suggestions that will serve you well even when this home-office era ends.
1Keep your documents clean and organized
Do you have a system to organize your files in folders? If not, it is a good time to get one. Yes, no one wants to spend that much time moving files and inventing an organization system but when you finish, we believe that you will find everything in its place and that will help you to have all your thoughts in order as well.
If you can’t put aside time for that right now, here are some helpful habits for file management that you can apply right away:
- Delete every file you receive as soon you don’t need it anymore.
- Organize the files you create in folders right away, when you come back to the old file place it in the right folder as well. This will only take a second, but in a two-week period you will notice how systematic your order begins to run your documents.
- Have an archive folder for old work. If you don’t like to delete the file right away, put in an archive folder, so that you can find it later.
- Use numbers or symbols in the document names to keep important ones on the top.
When you do have some free time on your hands and want to dive into organizing, start by revising what you have (folders and documents) and archive everything you don’t need. Give your files and folders clear names.
Did you know that almost 42% of employees complain that they can’t find files quickly enough, due to incorrect naming? So, don’t be amongst them. You can also set your folders in an intuitive hierarchy to quickly find the path to the documents you need.
Unsubscribe from the documents in the cloud as you would from unwanted mail. If the document owner wants you to see this document again, they can re-send you the permission. Alternatively, when you work in the same office, share files with colleagues temporarily.
Dedicate certain time for document organization, if you do it regularly, for example on Monday morning or Friday evening, it will take you no more than 5 minutes!
Now that you have a perfect system for digital document organization, why not add your paper documents to it? It can take a mind-blowing amount of time to find a paper document you need among others.
According to the National Association of Professional Organizers, employees spend 4.3 hours on average each week just searching for relevant papers and documents, which only adds to their stress. With this, it’s obvious that paper clutter is not as trivial as it seems.
Make sure you choose a right name for your documents when you scan them and you will never have to waste time going through piles of papers again. Many of us do not have a scanner at home but that is not a reason to stop digitizing your documents.
You can use mobile scanners that are so advanced and evolved by now. Moreover, you can even use text recognition, not just PDFs but text documents or specific fragments of them.
The good news is that with the invention of e-signature and digital signature, we will hardly have to print out paper documents anymore.
3Back up your documents
Have you ever been in a situation when your computer burns out and you hope to save all the data accumulated on it? Believe us, it is not pleasant, especially when a business is pending and your hard drive needs to be restored.
Modern technology is very powerful and quite reliable, but it still fails us regularly due to hardware or software issues, not mentioning the possibility of being hacked. It is a good idea to have a flash drive or an encrypted folder in a cloud or a company’s in-house server so that you can backup data regularly and make another useful habit of it.
4Keep your digital desktop clean
Are you the type to have a minimalistic desktop space, clear of folders and documents?
Instead of saving every file to the desktop and having to stare at that mess, try to create shortcuts to your most used folders and refer to them once you need to find a document.
If you are the type to have all your go-to materials at sight, just make sure you delete or archive whatever you do not use anymore and make space for new files to come.
Technology helps you succeed in this! Some modern office suite apps completely manage your documents within itself, allowing better control over them and shedding you of that clutter on the desktop.
5Don’t mix professional and personal files
Another good way to organize is by separating personal items from work. If you use the same device for your work and personal affairs, separate them properly. Make sure your shopping lists and family photos are in different folders from your work documents. Avoid any unpleasant surprises when you are presenting an assignment that instead of your highly professional presentation, it’s your photos from your vacation popping up.
Beyond creating different folders, your can use different software for your private life and your business life. For example, you open Mozilla Firefox only to take care of your domestic duties. When you have all your bookmarks, passwords and browser history exclusively there, it will make much easier to close one part of your life and concentrate on another when you need to make that switch.
6Use gadgets only for your work!
By separating your personal and work gadgets, it will be even easier to “turn off” one part of your life and fully tend to another. If you use the same phone for both, try, for example, to use different messengers. It will become easier to manage notifications and stay focused.
If you’re afraid to miss an important call, while also being distracted by social media notifications, turn off the internet connection for a while and focus more on your job. By using off-line tools for collaboration, you can keep working together with your team.
The previously mentioned ad-hoc technology brings professional co-editing of documents to your phones as well. Now you can collaborate with your mates on the go, for example on the train, while you are traveling to meet a client.
7Automate what you can and find shortcuts
Have you ever wondered why some of your colleagues are much more productive than others? Below we uncover some of their secrets:
- Automate most parts of the job. Use tech tools to manage tasks and create alerts, for example, to send a follow up e-mail. Jira, Basecamp or Asana are the leaders in task tracking.
- “Outsource” your work from the Internet. Do not try to reinvent a bicycle, you will only waste your time. Office suites provide helpful templates for different purposes, which can reduce the amount of work you’ll need to do dramatically. All major apps offering these are — Google Docs, Microsoft Office or Collabio Spaces.
- Don’t ever do the same thing twice when it could have been done just once and copied infinitely. If you find yourself sending the same answer to different people, save its draft and just make adjustments.
- Use technology to eliminate work. For example, you can use client management services to collect and keep clients’ contact information or use automated email marketing systems that send messages and collect statistics for you. Hubspot, Zoho, Salesforce or another CRM of your choice can help you to keep everything in one place.
8Collaborate safely and conveniently
When it comes to collaboration, there are several aspects to consider. We already spoke about the confusion that can be created by sharing documents in cloud and how to deal with it, but there is more to know.
Stop putting documents you need to co-edit in mail attachments. It uses up space in your mailbox and then it occupies space on your computer when you save all the versions of the document. If you need to collaborate with someone, whom you can only reach online, put the document in cloud, in case you need more people to edit the same thing.
This way, you will not end up with multiple versions of the same thing. Also, use track changes, if your cloud editor allows it, so you will quickly know who made what changes and can ask them about it if necessary.
When you use cloud to collaborate, the whole team can only be as efficient as the strength of the internet connection of each member. Besides, when your upload your data to a commercial cloud, you have to trust the service to manage and protect it. That is why we recommend to consider other options as well.
For example, ad-hoc collaboration is conducted offline and you only need a hotspot to run it. Here is how it works: let’s say a team leader creates a document, for example, “Meeting Agenda”. He shares this document with the rest of the members so that everyone can make edits simultaneously. By the time the meeting is over, there will be just one version of it, saved to the team leader’s device.
Bad communication in the company can be a source of anxiety and may result in poor work conditions. Remote work can make it even harder to communicate with your colleagues. Thankfully, there are ways to overcome this difficulties:
- Prefer video chats to phone calls and phone calls to text messages. Hearing the tone of the voice and seeing the face expressions will significantly decrease possibilities for miscommunication.
- Use technology to transfer work processes you normally hold offline to an online space.
- Presentation matters. Make sure you have your space in order, you’re presentable in your appearance, and there are no domestic noises to interrupt your video call.
10Have a rest from your work!
Finally, when your work digital space is sorted and functional, get some rest from it. It is good to set some regular alerts for breaks throughout the day, a regular 5-minute break to make a tea or meditate will go a long way. Make a ritual of having a cup of coffee with a friend or favorite colleague to chit-chat and talk about something besides business.
Try not to eat in front of your computer since it is not beneficial for your gut health. Lunch should be the time when you enjoy food and, preferably in the company of others. It’s definitely not that time when you spill soup on your keyboard.
If you can, make a habit of turning off notifications on your work phone after working hours and enjoy uninterrupted personal life. After all, we work to live, not the opposite!
Which of these recommendations did you find the most useful? Do you have tricks of your own that help you to organize and keep order of your digital space? Feel free to share in the comments below!