Inspiring desks

This topic becomes larger on my horizon every day. Since I started working from home, I’ve really come to appreciate how important it is to enjoy the space in which you work.

I have always enjoyed decorating the places I live in, but when I was going out to work, I was really only spending about 5 or 6 (conscious) hours in my home a day. Now that I spend all day at home, I’m finding it really interesting to watch the obstacles that appear.

My desk got a lot of use for the first couple of weeks I owned it, & then as I got more into working on iCiNG, I found myself spending less & less time there. I would take my Macbook into the bedroom & write from bed, I’d move my things to the kitchen table & work there, curl up on the daybed in the sitting room… almost anything to avoid working at my desk. It was bizarre.

Then I realised what the problem was — I was facing the wrong way, with my back to the best view! I rearranged the living room, swapping the position of the daybed & my desk, & now I absolutely love to sit where I’m supposed to be. Instead of looking out across suburbia, I have a great view of downtown Melbourne, with a really interesting building right in front of me (at night, the tower on the top of it changes colours every 30 seconds or so). It is amazing how this changed my level of productivity.

This is my view at night (when there are fireworks).

The area I work in is very multi-purpose. It serves as my workspace, an entertaining area, an exercise space & a guest bedroom. The room contains a day-bed, a couch & two comfortable chairs, three bookshelves, a kitchen table with two chairs, my stereo unit, a miniature trampoline & the kitchen itself. I use the room for different things throughout the day. It has taken some juggling to get it how I like it.

One thing I am a stickler for is good light. I love natural light & the last two places I have lived have had an abundance of it — almost too much, though that’s why they invented curtains, right? Good light is really energising & I always work better by a window. Like a plant! At night-time, I will NEVER use an overhead light, I am a lamp kinda girl. I have a matching pair from my parents’ house — one on my desk & one across the room on top of a speaker. I also have a string of fairy lights going diagonally across the room. It creates beautiful ambience at night, & I clip pictures I like to the string with pegs, which helps divide the room up too.

Sites like Steve Pavlina & 43 Folders have done the productivity thing to death. I can’t do better than them, & plus, it’s not my area! What I really care about is aesthetics.

For me, the perfect workspace is one that balances inspiration & stimulation with organisation, but this is going to be different depending on what it is that you do. Programmers have different requirements to photographers. The more coherent your space is with what you’re trying to do, the more effective you will be & the better you’ll work.

How To Clear Out Your Workspace

Work out what your end goal is.
When you sit at your desk, do you want to feel inspired, uplifted, calm, angry, energetic? The main thing I require when I’m working is visual stimulus — pictures that spark my creativity & make me feel good. I like organised clutter VERY much.

Look objectively at your work area.
Figure out whether it is doing what you want it to. Remove all the things that are glaring inconsistencies — the uncomfortable chair, the old boxes of cereal, the half-finished letter & the melted candles.

Examine the details.
When I lived in Auckland & had strings of pictures everywhere, I realised that some of them made me feel bad when I looked at them, or they just weren’t consistent with who I was or what I wanted to achieve. I looked at every single picture I had hanging & put it into one of two categories — either makes me feel good or makes me feel neutral/bad. I scrapped everything in the latter category. It was hard, actually. Just because something didn’t uplift me didn’t mean I didn’t like it. Somewhat akin to those people who like, I guess.

Sit at your desk again & re-evaluate.
How does it feel now? What could you do to make it more ergonomically-sound? What does it need? What do you want? (Those are two very different issues.) Make lists. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a rubbish bin & a lamp — IKEA is your friend — but if you want interesting things, try flea markets & the perennial favourite, Ebay.

(I love Flickr. If any of these are yours, let me know so I can credit you.)

Thomas O’Brien’s workspace.
From Melt