Working from home is great. Besides the freedom to work in pajamas (because no one cares, especially you) you also have the freedom to create your own little work haven. A dedicated space where you feel comfortable, inspired, and get things done. I believe that a home office has to be three things: functional, inspiring, and tailored to your needs.
No matter whether your office is a dedicated separate room or a desk in the corner of your living room, it should be a place that inspires you and where you want to be. It should be comfortable and fully equipped with items you need to get your work done. It should be a dedicated and distraction-free zone.
This post is partially inspired by my own home office crisis a few months back. In a nutshell, I felt like I had fully outgrown my tiny and modest office space and equipment. I’ve made a huge leap from a student and part-time freelancer to running a full-time business in the past few years. So naturally, the desk, space, tools and even decorations were outdated and no longer relevant to my life. Everything needed a serious upgrade and facelift.
A month of planning later I completely transformed my office to reflect my current life and work needs. And guess what? I got my work mojo back. I love spending time here in my office and even miss it when I’m traveling. Is that weird? Anyway, that just confirmed that a tailored workspace is so necessary for productivity and creativity.
Whether you have a separate room for your office, work from the couch, or are like Fred Armisen in Portlandia, you can do so much to make that space a place where you want to be. Here are some tips to get you started.
INVEST IN A GOOD CHAIR AND DESK
Okay, you couch dwellers might disagree but that’s okay. I totally get where you’re coming from. The couch life is a good life (just not for everybody).
I’ve always admired Sarah from XO Sarah for being able to work from her couch all this time. That being said, I don’t know how she does it. Once upon a time many moons ago I worked from my kitchen table and it got uncomfortable after the first 10 minutes. 10 minutes! Then I tried the couch but crouching on the couch the whole day was even worse. Plus I got way too comfy and got sleepy. So I got a proper desk and a soft and cozy ergonomic chair to support my back. Goodbye, aches!
It’s up to you, though. If you’re more like me than Sarah, then I seriously suggest investing in a good chair and a desk. Feeling uncomfortable or achy (even worse when it’s both at the same time) is not functional nor inspiring. A flimsy desk is no good either. Getting an ergonomic chair has been the best thing for my health in terms of working from home. The good ones can get expensive but it’s worth keeping an eye out for deals.
TIP: get a wider desk and place the monitor further away so it’s not as intensive on your eyes. Also, if you have a tendency to work into the night, install f.lux, free software that adapts your computer display to the time of day to reduce eyestrain and so you’re not blinded by your screen at night.
GOOD LIGHT IS EVERYTHING
There’s nothing quite as unmotivating and depressing as working in a space with no windows and natural light.
If possible, move your desk (or whole workspace) somewhere close to the window and take advantage of the good natural light. For evenings, get a desk lamp with a soft light (warm white, around 2700K). Personally, I’m a fan of fairy lights and candles, too. Anything that makes your space feel cozier – especially in late autumn and wintertime when it gets dark early.
GET A BIGGER (SECONDARY) SCREEN
If you have space for it, invest in a secondary bigger monitor (or just a desktop computer in general). My recommendation is no smaller than 24″.
Honestly, it makes your life easier and better. The day my 24″ monitor arrived my productivity and efficiency got a massive boost. Until that day I had worked from my 15.6″ laptop and 19″ desktop. It was a life riddled with constant tab switching, desktop switching, getting distracted by all the tabs I had open, and endless scrolling. Now I can’t imagine constantly working from a laptop screen! Bigger screen = more room, bigger picture. It also means you’ll spend less time managing tabs, windows, and programs = more time spent focused on the task at hand.
GET YOURSELF ORGANIZED, YO
This is the fun part (at least for those of you who love anything organization related. I see you, sister!).
Declutter. I get it, life goes on and junk accumulates but that doesn’t mean you should let it get wild. Before doing anything else, go through everything (and I mean everything) in your office space and evaluate whether it’s needed or not. You might be surprised what you’ll find… Get rid of everything that doesn’t serve a purpose (sell or donate).
Get some storage. The rest should be organized in a way that makes sense to you. If you have drawers, get some organizers and assign a space for everything. Get file folders for paperwork, a cup for pens and container for paper clips. Also, if you have lots of nitty-gritty stationery that clutters up your space but no drawers to store it, get some pretty boxes (or decorate an old shoe box) and hide that stuff in there. Just make sure it’s easily accessible so you’ll actually use it.
Keep your job essentials in sight. Your planner, notebook, pens, camera – whatever it is, keep it where you can see it and use it (not under a pile of paperwork). Everything else can be put away. Most people can’t focus in a cluttered environment. The clearer your desk, the better you’ll be able to focus on the task at hand.
Remove distracting elements. If anything keeps distracting you, remove it from the space. This is especially true for decorative items that are not essential to the job.
Have a junk drawer/box. In an ideal world, you’d file everything right away but we don’t live in an ideal world. My tip is to limit yourself to one junk space (either a drawer or a box) where you’re allowed to let things pile up and get messy. Go through it on a regular basis and throw out or file away everything that’s in there.
CONTAIN YOUR CABLE MESS
Urgh, cables are the worst. They’re messy, distracting and hard to make look nice, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! There are a few ways you can tame that mess.
First, keep items you don’t need every day in storage space (if the thought of hunting through a drawer for it makes you anxious, it means that you need to either declutter or organize better). Obvious, right? Avoid that cluttery look by only taking them out when you need them.
The second way to lessen cable clutter is to get wireless or Bluetooth devices (keyboard, mouse, printer, speakers – you name it).
And the third and easiest way (doesn’t involve spending a lot of money) is to organize and (make an attempt to) hide your cables. Hide them real good! Zip them up with cable ties, get them off the ground and up in the air, cover multi-colored cables with a cover strip and hide that hideous extension cord in a pretty minimal cable box. That should look a lot better.
TIP: if you opt for wireless battery-powered devices, I suggest investing in rechargeable batteries and a charger. Single-use batteries are expensive (in the long run), horribly wasteful and so not good for the environment (especially if they’re not disposed of properly).
TIP: if you use many USB devices and ports every day, get a USB dock that lives on the table. It makes for quick and easy access.
KEEP IT LIGHT
We’re not just talking about keeping stuff minimal. This tip is for those of us who have small spaces to work with. One way to make your space larger and airier (is that a word??) is to keep the furniture and big bulky things light-colored or white.
For example, I replaced my small dark desk with a big white IKEA desk. It’s a lot bigger than my old desk but looks and feels cleaner, lighter and less cluttered. My space also feels more open.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THINGS THAT INSPIRE YOU
Your office is a place for getting in tune with your work, getting inspired and creative. Create the space to reflect you, your brand and business. The moment you step into your office, you should feel inspired, energized and ready to kick ass. #girlbossmoments
Get a board for your business goals. Or just tape it on your wall. I just started doing this recently and it has been a game-changer! Yeah, that business goals board in Asana is cool but it feels – at least in my opinion – less real. Like it’s easier to dismiss. Once you write those goals out in a bold font and put it where you can see it every day, it instantly up levels your productivity. There is just something about seeing your monthly/quarterly/yearly goals typed out. It’s a great way to always be reminded of what you’re working for.
Create a vision board. In addition to business goals it’s a good idea to put your vision board somewhere you can see it all the time.
Brand documents. Another way to remind yourself to keep going is to print out your brand documents. Type out your why, your brand’s core values and mission and make it into a poster. Maybe even print out your brand board and mood board to keep your brand aesthetic in mind at all times. Just an idea!
Inspiring posters, pictures, and graphics. What about some motivational quotes and pictures that resonate with you or speak to you? What’s your mantra or words you live by? Hang it up!
MAKE USE OF NOTEBOOKS
Raise your hand if you have way too many notebooks lying around. *raises hand*
I mean everyone loves stationery. And if you’re like me and tend to hoard pretty notebooks, don’t just let them sit there unused! The greatest honor you can give to a notebook is to use it. I know that little perfectionist in you hates to write in it, but commit to using them anyway!
Here and here are ideas for using up notebooks. I use two notebooks on a daily basis. One is for scribbling, lists and project planning. It’s always open on my desk. The other is for learning new business-related things (notes from courses and webinars, blog posts, etc).
TIP: Here’s my tip for getting stationery shopping under control. Instead of buying every pretty notebook that comes my way, I make sure it a) fits my office decor and b) matches my brand mood board. It’s got to tick both boxes, otherwise, I just get brave and walk away. To be honest, it only works about 90% of the time but still worth a try.
Bring greenery indoors and use plants to decorate the space. I’m a full-on houseplant lady so I’m definitely biased, but plants make any space look way better and cozier. Plus, some plants clean the air and increase the humidity around them. Apparently owning plants is also hip nowadays – makes sense why millennials are so obsessed with plants.
If you’re totally new to caring for plants, try a snake plant, pothos (these two could live in a closet), rubber tree or dracaena.
KEEP IT CLEAN
To keep your space clean, make cleaning up a habit. At the end of the day clean up your desk, put paperwork and stationery away. A minimal desk is helpful. Don’t overload your desk with things, only keep out what you need and store the rest away in a drawer or a box. Boom – already easier to keep it clean!
TIP: before you shut off the computer, close any tabs, windows, and programs you don’t need and open up necessary ones for the next day. This way you’ll start the next workday from a fresh slate. Yesterday’s loose ends have been tied up and you’re ready to seize the day.
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