This is a tale of trial and error, an adventure in doing things the more complicated way and then simplifying.
To start, two questions:
- Why have the cords, wires, and power strips not disappeared? That tangle under our desks hasn’t gone away yet. Almost 20 years ago, I taught basic computers and spent much of my time under the student tables trying to sort out all the wires, cords, and plugs for the various pieces of equipment. I’m still having the same problem today.
- Why is everything on a computer more complicated than it should be? And why does it take twice as long to do anything that’s supposed to be simple?
I’m on a mission to simplify my home office. So far, it’s going reasonably well. It’s crazy how complicated we let things get, before we give up in disgust.
The benefits of keeping things simple, for me, are:
- Less stress. Who needs the stress of trying to untangle all those cords, or deal with something that doesn’t work right because it has overloaded your system? (I’ll explain more about that below.)
- Lower costs. Less stuff means less to pay for. Fewer apps means less monthly cost.
- Easier to focus. The fewer the distractions from all the “stuff” in my officer, the better I work.
Here’s what I have done over the past year to simplify my office (really a desk in a corner of the sun room).
Simplifying my desk
I write all day and I use a laptop computer so I can travel with it. To see better and be more efficient in my writing, I ended up with two large monitors. It was wonderful to write on one large screen and to use the other large screen for looking things up and cut-and-paste operations.
But the two monitors were overloading my computer (even after I bought a new one) and only one ever worked at one time. I spent some time on the phone with the Apple support people (who are, by the way, great) and we decided there was nothing wrong with the computer, just too many monitors. So I got rid of one monitor, opened up my laptop to use its screen for look-ups, and everything is now running smoothly. There may have been a way to get everything to work, but it was taking me away from my writing, and I’m happier now.
Getting rid of complications
I received an Alexa unit (Amazon) for Christmas and I was using it – kind of. But the kinds of tasks it performed could be done more simply. For example, I wanted it to turn on a light over my desk at night, as a night light. I had to buy a special plug (at $40!), install an app and then make Alexa work with the app. And it wouldn’t turn the light on and off automatically. I could buy an old-fashioned timer for a lot less money and stress.
Apps are a major distractor and cost. I mentioned before my attempt to minimize apps, cut back on phone costs, and find a simple backup system. All of these were distractions and unnecessary complications. They were also costing me money. I found that this ruthless approach to cutting costs and simplifying was also a major stress-buster.
Going back to the simple methods
There are a TON of productivity apps out there. I’ve tried several of them, including Trello, Todoist, IFFTTT (If Then-Then-That), Slack, and Zapier. All were too complicated for my use. Some of them are for teams (like Trello or Todoist), while others, like Zapier, don’t seem to work very well.
I decided to manage my production and research in three ways:
- I’m staying with Evernote to collect and organize information for my research and writing. I have the Evernote app, and I click on the web clipper when I want to save something I find on the web. I can highlight a section and search by title or by tabs. I can also make voice notes on it (through my Mac’s voice app). It does everything I need, and I’ve been using it for years, so I have a lot of information on it.
- For collaboration, I’ve been using Dropbox. I can set up folders and share folders and files. It’s easy and inexpensive.
- For my own to-do list, I’ve gone back to paper. I found a very simple, inexpensive, notepad. I list my to-do’s and cross them off. When I have completed everything on the page (or it looks too messy), I switch to a new page. It should last me many months at this rate.
Want to simplify your home office?
- Look around. What fancy, complicated equipment can you get rid of? What’s essential and what’s not?
- Too many cords? How can you reduce the number? Maybe a USB hub. Or find bluetooth devices that don’t need to be plugged in.
- How can you simplify productivity tools? Can you find one tool to do several tasks?
- What’s the most efficient, simplest way to collaborate with your work team and freelancers? Search for simplicity and ease of use.
Keeping only the essentials can make your home business life simpler, less costly, and less stressful.
Here’s to the Success of Your Frugal Business!