How can one person mompreneur, stay on top of it all? ZONING!
By taking the time to set up repeatable systems in your business and your personal life, you create many benefits! One way to create easy systems is through zoning.
How To Create Zones
The ‘zone’ concept was coined by Julie Morgenstern (Organizing from the Inside Out).
In her book, Julie introduces what she refers to as the ‘Kindergarten Concept’ – where a classroom has areas set aside for certain types of “play”.
Because children’s brains work more efficiently when categories are established, most young learning centers are designed with zoning as a key concept. Zones are established by putting like things with other like things. Therefore, building toys are grouped together, play kitchen items are placed together, puzzles are found in the same location, and arts and crafts are located in a separate space. By zoning items, children are much more able to track, play, and of course put items back in place at cleanup time.
[Tweet “Need to create systems that work? Give zoning a try. #organize”]
Zones At Home
This concept is often used with clients as we work to keep like items together, and reduce the number of redundant storage spaces to simplify their home spaces. An easy example can be found in the different rooms in a home. In your bathroom for instance – there are certain tasks that are generally completed there… and as such, certain supplies lend themselves to that zone. The same holds true for your kitchen, and for many other rooms in your home. For a quick test, look around any given room and see if there are items that really ‘should’ live somewhere else… Often items are carried from one zone to another, (and with kids at home – this may happen more frequently than you wish!) A general rule of thumb is to use these general questions to determine if you’re zoned for success:
- Do you know what you have?
- Do you have what you need?
- Are you able to find what you need, when you need it?
IF you can NOT answer yes – its time to start zoning!
Zones At Work
To apply this concept to your office or work location, let’s refer to a factory or production line. On a production line, an item progresses down an assembly line and is ‘added’ or ‘finished’ or ‘processed’ in each zone of production. At the end of the line, the item or product has been added to along the way and the output of the process is the finished product.
If you can create zones where different work results are accomplished in your office, zones can work for you too.
In my office, I have a place where I process papers, a place where I work on my computer, and a place where I read and take phone calls. The results I create in each of these zones require me to use different materials and supplies. As such, I store certain supplies conveniently near where the desired results are produced. By considering each area as a zone, (or place where a certain result is produced), and by locating required supplies and tools near where they are used, zones work for me!
It is really easy to apply this concept to your paper files too. A way of zoning papers is by grouping papers into broad categories. For instance, I keep ‘reference materials’, separate from ‘resources’ such as phone lists and procedures, and they are located in an altogether different place than my client files, which is also different from where I store my ‘project files’. This gives me a ‘location’ for items, and I know right where items live when I need them. When I’m done using items, I can easily return them to their homes.
One great way to get started if you’re over-run with papers is by assigning items to a home – and then labeling the homes with a naming construct that works for you.
Here’s an example of how labeling can make a big difference:
I have four file drawers in my office. I store personal folders and records in three of the four. Since I keep personal/family files in my office, my family often refers to those things in the file cabinets. It wasn’t until just a few weeks ago, (when my son flipped out that he couldn’t find anything), that I realized I had placed everything in zones… BUT no one else knew my zoned categories. Four labels later (one for each drawer) – and voila! Now, we all know where to find what we need. (HINT – when you zone – if your zones are hidden or out of sight, it’s a REALLY good practice to label those zones as soon as you create them.)
I had this client…
I once worked for a client who ‘traveled’ throughout his home to work. He had an office, but when he was bored, he’d grab one of his computers and travel up to the terrace to look out over the lake. Then when it became overcast, he’d go into his study… or perhaps plop down at the kitchen counter. As such – he had what I referred to as a ‘mobile office’ in his home.
I’m all for creating flow in your work – if you’re a mover and a shaker… Go for it! Wiggle while you work! Move around, travel, establish your own comfort zone so your work is naturally flowing and you stay motivated…
BUT – some of his challenges were:
- He stored supplies in closets throughout his home,
- He constantly shopped for ‘more supplies’ because he could never remember what he had or didn’t have…
- He had a hard time keeping inventory and the kicker…
- He had a niggly behavior which was his tendency to ‘drop and plop’ – (that’s my technical term for leaving things where you last use them… consistently). Now, I love my drop and ploppers… and truth be told, I live with a few… BUT – that habit can be difficult to manage around because inanimate objects tend to stay where you plop them.
One of the solutions to help him become more productive was to ZONE all of his supplies in one ‘supply closet’. We completely emptied one of the closets and turned it into his office storage. We placed all the printers, copier and his endless piles of supplies in there. This was GREAT because not only was he able see what he had, he could now easily maintain his inventory, and cut down on his constant shopping addiction for office supplies he already had on hand.
We then set him up with a small set of supplies near his four major work areas. By simply purchasing a small supply caddy for essentials and placing one near each of his work zones, he was able to have all the tools at his fingertips – and was able to not only consolidate his supplies into one area, but easily work with his drop-and-plop tendency and return items to their homes when he was done.
Depending on the work you do, you may find that your work systems easily dictate zones. But if not, it’s important to pay attention to a few things: any repeatable tasks in your work, any consistent frustrations with not being able to ‘find what you need when you need it.’ If you experience those emotions while working – it’s probably time to sit down, figure out a repeatable system, and then determine the supplies you need to accomplish your results.
Share your “Zoning” tips!
What works for you? Please comment in the box below to share your tips! OR – Take a picture and share it with us on my Sane Spaces Facebook page! See if you can stump me! I’ll be happy to give you free coaching over there!