Four Principles I Live By to Create a Paperless, Clutter-Free Home Office or Study

Principle #1: A place for everything, and everything in its place. 

There should be a designated place for EVERY. SINGLE. THING. Down to the last paperclip. It's best if designated places for things "make sense"--and by this I mean, the places you assign for mail, books, props, etc. should be a complement to your workflow. Sometimes this may require buying an unexpected piece of furniture or moving around somethings in a way that wasn't our first choice, however these moves pay dividends when it comes to productivity and organization.

 Photo Courtesy of Sarah Dorweiler

Photo Courtesy of Sarah Dorweiler

Principle #2: Only keep papers that are difficult to replace and store them in a safe. 

After decluttering my paper, I am left with some important documents. Perhaps a mortgage, a deed, birth certificates, passports--all these things that are paper and require an arduous process to replace. Because these papers are THAT important, having them on a shelf in my office doesn't do their importance justice. So I stow and lock them away in a safe. 

 Photo Courtesy of Sarah Dorweiler

Photo Courtesy of Sarah Dorweiler

Principle #3: Do it now, or calendar time to do it later. 

Every time I am confronted with an "action required," do NOT put it off for later. Take care of it immediately. Even for myself, this can take a conscious "push" at times and a reminder that not giving into my desire to put it off will be in my best interest later. 

I have a weekly "date" with myself (some point during Monday, depending on what my schedule looks like) to go through e-mail/snail mail and other random papers. I ONLY go through them once a week, and communicate to people to not expect a response. This way I have a time carved out for task bulking, which ultimately reduces cognitive load and increases productivity. 

I'm still facing this electronic vs. paper calendar thing and have a system that's been working, but with every new project, Google admin login I get, I've had to refine my systems. 

My personal rules for checking e-mail (which usually gives plenty of action items): 

  • Personal e-mail: A quick swipe daily to grab anything day-of urgent (like a retail Other than that, I fully clean, calendar and respond to personal e-mail every 72 hours (excluding weekends and holidays). 
  • Client/Project/Work e-mails: I have too many Google admin accounts to keep track of sometimes. For these accounts, I have them some connected to dump into my personal e-mail account. Others I keep separate (these tend to be the more "stressful" projects that I put clear boundaries on so I don't get carried away in work). For ongoing projects I check my e-mail at least once, but no more than twice per day. Stopping projects to respond to e-mails is one of the biggest productivity killers EVER because your brain has to stop, respond, then refocus on what it was working on. It's always about reducing cognitive load (cognitive load = how many "tabs" are open in your brain, at any given time and how often you are switching between them). For more isolated projects, I choose one day per week to take some time to read and respond to e-mails. 
 Photo Courtesy of Alex Loup

Photo Courtesy of Alex Loup

Principle #4: Keep it simple. 

There are so many productivity apps and, of course, I've downloaded and played with them all, but nothing beats keeping it to 1-2 trusted and proven apps. For me, that's my Dropbox-Evernote system. Dropbox for scanning and file storage, Evernote as my virtual notebook. I am not a fan of separate project calendar/work management apps (like Asana) because it creates too much of a separation between "work" and life and is just not practical (at least for me). I end up spending more time worrying about updating the app, than actually working. 

An organization system shouldn't take considerable amounts of effort or time to maintain.

Which is exactly why I'm not a fan of organization "hacks" like a receipt jar. Instead of scanning and discarding the receipt as soon as you've received it, now you are creating another task for yourself of cleaning out the receipt jar and scanning every so often. 

Allow systems to evolve with your life and be wary of the new app bandwagon. Two apps. There’s always a new app. Find a system and stick with it. Have an intentional review of your systems every quarter, semi-annually or annual and change only if it significantly increases your productivity. 

 Photo Courtesy of Sophie Sollmann

Photo Courtesy of Sophie Sollmann

I'm kind of obsessed with productivity and doing the most in the least time possible. What are some of your productivity hacks? I'd love to know! Comment below or catch me on the 'gram. Have a fabulous day!

Jackie Boylhart | Mozart & Shiplap, A LIfestyle Blog