For interplanetary travelers like Captain Kirk, space may represent the “final frontier,” but for me, a humble earthbound home office business owner, space (as in, “a lack thereof”) represents something a tad less exotic and a heck of a lot more frustrating. Most home office workers initially set up camp in a small corner of a bedroom, den or kitchen pantry. And from there on, in the supreme battle for space, it’s all downhill.
Initially, due to the euphoria surrounding the birth of your newborn home business baby, you tell yourself this lovely 3 x 7 crawlspace is all the space you’ll EVER need. In fact, your home office is downright cozy, you proudly tell your friends. You’re a one person operation with simple needs. And just think of the low overhead! (Of course you’ll be reminded of the low overhead each time you bang your head on the attic beams).
But then something goes horribly awry. You start acquiring stuff. And then more stuff. And before too long, you’ve been stuffed, re-stuffed and overstuffed. Eventually, you’re clambering over crates to answer the phone, building work shelves in your daughter’s bedroom and storing miscellaneous office paraphernalia in the refrigerator salad crisper.
The same battle for space takes place in the universe of filing. Sure, we tell ourselves, this 2 drawer, X-2000 model filing cabinet will be all we ever need! Why this little puppy will keep me more organized than Martha Stewart.
Three weeks later, that same cabinet is spewing out overflowing papers, looking as disheveled and stressed as the owner who stuffed them there. Soon you’re devising creative filing strategies to avoid adding new folders to your system (and I use the word “system” loosely).
Filing strategies typically fall into one of two camps: the logical camp and the one most of the planet uses. Here’s an example. You decide that this is the best darned “funny-home-office-filing” article you’ve ever read and decide to clip it and save it. Now, the big question is, what do you file this under? You open the file drawer with trepidation and ponder the possibilities. Eventually you realize the only space to file it is under “M”, in your “contacts” folder of your marketing section. You’ll remember the article is there because when you bought this magazine you were with your friend Chris who was on her way to buy a new pair of contact lens. (The truly frightening thought is that you tell yourself this will make complete sense three years from now.)
Your next form of denial (that you need to buy a new filing cabinet and somehow find the space for it, the two are fiendishly linked) happens when you begin finding alternative filing locations. For example, there’s still room to tack on several hundred pieces of paper on your bulletin board (and conveniently, all with one tack, eventually replaced by a stiletto knife). And then there’s the top level of your book shelf, the vast space atop your printer and, when things really begin to look bleak – your office floor.
Finally the day arrives. A client phones looking for an important piece of information. “No problem, you coolly respond, “I’ve got it right here. It will just take me two seconds to dig it out . . .” Three days, 8 hours and 17 minutes later you realize that poor Mr. Hagen is still on hold. You eventually realize that the important document somehow ended up in little Dave’s school report. That is the final straw.
Once you’ve cut a hole through the floor to make room for the top three feet of your new 4-drawer filing cabinet, you head off to the nearest discount office store with steely determination. But, alas, before long, your head is reeling. As Chip the floor clerk starts reeling off dimensions, colors, drawer sizes, lock options and folder systems, you begin to realize that buying a new filing cabinet is as complicated as purchasing a new family car.
Which gives you the ultimate brainstorm. A car – the perfect filing cabinet! It’s metal, they come in 4 door models, it locks and it’s mobile. And when you visit a client, you’ll have all your important documents right there! It will be like one giant, moving briefcase. It’ll be the Starship Enterprise of filing cabinets! And finally, you’ll be able to answer that eternal question, “Now where did I put that . . .?” (As soon as you find your car keys, that is.)
Copyright Michael Kerr. Michael Kerr is a Hall of Fame international business speaker, very funny motivational speaker, trainer, and author of six books, including Inspiring Workplaces and The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank. www.HumoratWork.com
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