The key to working from home successfully is to choose a designated desk area, preferably in a separate room in a quiet part of the house. The dining room table is not a good solution. Neither is a family room corner where other activities take place. The two things you do not want to share with the rest of the household, if possible, are a phone and a computer.Staying organized is essential when working from home, especially if you have customers come into your office. Some people will not want to do business with you if your desk is piled with paperwork. I can recall many years ago, walking into a doctor’s office for a consultation, where I could not see the desk under foot high piles. I took my business elsewhere. Remember, you don’t want organize for the sake of making your desk look pretty, but for the sake of efficiency. Be aware of what other people are seeing, because you only get to make a first impression once. Also be aware of what is in the background for video calling and conferencing.Putting things away when you are no longer working on them is more difficult for some people than others. I have always been a neat person, maybe I am just wired that way. Having a good filing system in place is key. There may be other options out there, but to me, filing alphabetically is the only way to retrieve information quickly. For two or more businesses working from home keep separate systems with different color folders for each business.Keeping up with paperwork and computer data entry can take a few minutes a day or it can become a nightmare if not properly kept up with. Pay your bills as they come in whether they are for the business or the home does not matter. You have just eliminated two piles and improved your credit rating. Keep up your bookkeeping as you go along and enter your data into the computer. Now, all you have to at the end of the month is hit print and attach receipts from the appropriate file. At the end of the year you have to do is hit print one more time and send a copy to your accountant. Another major stress is eliminated.It always amazes me how many people do not keep a calendar. I have no idea how you can plan anything without one. It really makes no difference whether the calendar is electronic or on paper. I still keep a big monthly paper calendar on my desk, because I like seeing the whole month at a time. Phone calls, appointments, how much and when I get paid, etc. are highlighted in different colors for a good visual.If you are not currently subscribing to a service that automates customer and prospect follow up, I highly recommend that you do. It saves a lot of time. In a pinch an index card file or three- ring binder will do the job as long as you have 1-31 and January-December dividers. Instead of having a lot of little notes all around your desk area, I like to keep an 8.5×11 notepad on my desk for ideas as they come to me, notations from phone conversations, referrals and so on. It gives me just one place to look.Keep a journal when working from home, either on paper or on your computer, as long as you can refer back to things easily. Things that are written down have a way of getting done. You cannot always control your day. Life sometimes gets in the way. But there are activities that get in the way of productivity, a lot of it electronic. I check my e mail three times a day, at 7a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. This helps me keep ahead of the junk, yet still allows me to respond in a timely manner. Unless you are blogging, keeping up with social media does not require more than one visit per day.Having a dedicated business phone when working from home is important. It really does not matter whether it is a cell or home phone, unless you do a lot of travelling. My personal cell phone number does not go to clients and vice versa. If I am speaking to a prospect or am on a conference call, I want to give that person one hundred percent of my concentration. If I am out to lunch or at a friend’s house my business phone goes to voicemail. I always marvel at the number of people who believe they are having a meaningful conversation while running through the airport.When working from home, being very organized does not make you money, but it does save you an awful lot of time when pursuing those activities that translate into a paycheck. I have a direct sales business. There are only two activities that make me money, finding new customers and finding new business partners, and then training those partners. If I was in the real estate business, it would be getting new listings and showing homes to prospective buyers. Good organization let’s you pursue those activities that make you money without distraction. If your desk does not look as neat as you would like, make it one of your goals for 2013.