Suddenly Home FOUR: How Supplies will Save you
As I said in Suddenly Home ONE, it’s best to approach the home office as if you are in it for the long run. The more makeshift things around you are, the more you will feel out of your element and go searching elsewhere for relief.
So once you’ve “staked out your territory,” found a place to work without distractions and gotten your desk, chair, shelves and lighting set up, you need to gather supplies.
The goal is simple: avoiding distractions. Your office is a life raft and you need to make sure you can stay in it long enough to get your work done.
For me, the necessary supplies include pens, pencils and highlighters, notepaper, cords and paper clips, USB keys, stamps and envelopes. In a pinch, these items can (and have been) all be organized in a couple of Mason jars, a shoebox and some plastic food containers.
Whether you need more or less than this to work, the guiding principle is the same: make sure what you need is within arm’s reach so you won’t have go wandering around the house looking for it.
Don’t be fooled by the comfort and familiarity of your home: you won’t believe how many news distractions you’ll find there when you’re trying to work. Searching and rummaging ruin your concentration long before you’ve found whatever you’re looking for.
I even keep a stapler and scotch tape within arms reach. I don’t use them often, but my kids do. If I don’t lock them down I know I’ll never see them again.
Everywhere I have worked, even during my short stints in France, I have devised makeshift filing systems for my research folders and documents. I just convert filing boxes into filing cabinets and slip them under my desk.
It’s not elegant, but it keeps me in my chair.
I always plug my smart phone near my desk so I will never have to wander around the house looking for it, or looking for a place to charge it, or looking for the charger itself. My husband and I label everyone’s chargers to avoid midday hostage negotiations with our daughters.
But I keep my actual phone out of range of vision while I work. Otherwise it supplies new distractions every ten seconds. I don’t use phone or computer alarms for that matter. They alarm me.
I also keep my recycling box and a wastepaper basket sit right by my side, like guard dogs.
Sound like a self-imposed prison? I think of it as a safe house. I have everything I need to survive from 9 to 5 so I only have to leave when strictly necessary (for coffee, washroom breaks and lunch).
Office ergonomists would certainly object to my self-sufficient-fortress-style home office. Last time I checked they were still recommending people who work at computers avoid inflamed wrists and backaches by taking frequent small breaks.
In my experience, a good chair and a keyboard tray stave off joint problems with the added bonus of conserving my concentration.
As for breaks, as I explain in the next post, one good, long one is a must.