5 Inspiring Changes to Your Workspace That Boost Focus

Work-Life Balance on 01.07.13
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Photo: Nick Keppol / Creative Commons

Whether you’re dealing with a home office, or a grey, corporate cube, it can be hard to feel motivated when your workspace doesn’t make you feel good. It’s no secret that taking control over the setup and appearance of your workspace can make you feel happier and more productive.

Here are 5 ways to take control of your office space so you can boost focus and feel great while you work.

1. Decide how you want to feel while you work.

Photo: kpi / Creative Commons

Do you want to feel relaxed? Inspired? Passionate? Peaceful? Choose a theme and color that makes you feel like you can spend time in your workspace and actually feel good about being there.

Natural views provide feelings of serenity. If you don’t have an inspiring view of the great outdoors, consider putting up a beach scene or a photo of a verdant wood. Or you can take the easy way out and use a screen saver of a natural setting. Better yet, get a plant.

If you want to feel fired up, look for décor with colors or images that excite you and make you feel driven. Whether your passion is New York City, hot air ballooning, or kittens, figure how you can decorate using items or images that wake you up.

2. Make it homey.

Photo: Maegan Tintari / Creative Commons

When I worked in a corporate office, two changes made an enormous difference in how I felt about being there: an area rug and a lamp from home. Adding a regular light bulb to a corporate office cuts the horror-show lighting of fluorescent bulbs, while having a patterned textile like a rug in the room instantly changed the space into something livable and attractive. Perfect strangers would stop in the doorway and gape – and I know it was the combination of soft lighting and a rug that did it.

I have an area rug on order for my home office space right now. Not to get all stuck on rugs – the point is to personalize your space. Go beyond the drab. Add photographs. Put a throw blanket and a small pillow on your chair. Add a decorative item like a vase, candle, or a mini Zen rock garden. I keep a small set of books on my desk that I love and refer to often. Even if it’s your home office we’re talking about, go the distance to make it feel like home.

3. Get comfortable.

Photo: mind on fire / Creative Commons

Of course the ideal is that you have a set up that can support you comfortably for hours and hours on end, but that’s a tall order. I notice that when I’ve been sitting for any length of time – no matter my setup – I get distracted because I’m uncomfortable. My solution to that problem is to have more than one setup so that when I get uncomfortable in one position, there are a few different ways I can shift in order to maintain comfort. You might consider some of these ideas.

I have a memory foam pad on my chair and a step to put my feet on. Most commonly, I like to sit cross-legged in my chair, but eventually my ankles and feet fall asleep. When I’ve exhausted my chair, I have an exercise ball I can move to, which wakes me up and provides a fun change. I also occasionally move my laptop from my desk over to my couch or an easy chair.

I’m in the process of modifying my space to accommodate the setup of a standing desk. I’ve ordered two adjustable laptop tables that are 12” high that I will place on my desk to accommodate a standing position without the expense and commitment of buying a standing desk; that way I can still sit in my low desk chair to work whenever I want. I will place a keyboard on one table and a monitor on the other for an ergonomically friendly setup. I will place an anti-fatigue mat on the floor with a cute area rug over it so that I’ll be able to stand comfortably (and in style) for long periods of time.

4. Problem-solve your clutter.

Photo: Cory Doctorow / Creative Commons

Clutter is obviously a huge distraction for a lot of people, myself included. If you’ve got clutter, the chances are that, like me, you haven’t taken the time to problem-solve your clutter. There are a few different reasons why you might have some clutter. Maybe each category of clutter – bills, paperwork or clippings you might need to reference later – need a specific home that you have yet to designate. Or maybe your current storage system is inconvenient, overflowing, or needs maintenance more often than you’re willing to do. Or maybe you are afraid that if you put it away, you’ll forget about it and it will never get done -- that’s my big one.

Take each problem that produced the clutter and solve it. Establish a system so that the home for each item is clear and obvious. Employ a “task capture” system, whether that’s an electronic or paper to-do list or a calendar; record any reminders you need so that you can put items away without worrying that you’ll forget about them. Maybe your storage or filing system needs to be moved to a more convenient location, expanded, or updated. Fix your systems so that clutter doesn’t have a way to collect.

5. Get focused.

Photo: Nick Keppol / Creative Commons

What items can help you focus on the work you need to do? In addition to all the normal calendaring and to-do lists that people use, I have a few additional secret weapons that help me focus when I’m at my desk. These are all hung on the wall above my desk in plain view to pull my focus back when I get distracted:

  • Dry-erase monthly and weekly calendars .That way I can see at a glance what I need to do –without the temptations provided by accessing calendars and task lists via technology.
  • My list of yearly goals, chunked out into smaller goals and action steps. I use a dry-erase board for this, but you could easily tape up a piece of paper, or frame it if you’re feeling fancy.
  • A vision board: I use a cheap 11x14 frame to place pictures that inspire me and remind me of what I’m working to achieve.
  • I keep a clear space on my desk that comfortably accommodates an open notebook or planner with my list of things to do with boxes I can check off as I go. (So satisfying!)

My hope is that if you follow a few of these tips, your workspace will feel inviting, homey, comfortable, and a place where you actually enjoy spending time. And hey, maybe we’ll even get some work done.

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