Read the intro to the "Work From Home Tips" series here.
It would be nice if we all could have the office of our dreams, of course, but sometimes you have limitations. Maybe you still live with your parents, share the office space with a partner or room mates, or maybe you just don't have the cash or space to make your office as cool as you'd like. I've been at all of these places at some point, so my own philosophy is doing the best you can with what you have.
When I was recovering from burn-out, I remember waking up from an afternoon nap absolutely dreading to get back into the office. I took a mental step back and thought, "why?" and came to the conclusion that the office space I had was cramped, as it was in a 10' x 10' bedroom in my house, and I shared it with my partner. Our bedroom, meanwhile, was 15' x 15', nearly twice as much floor space, as is typical for a master bedroom in Southern California. We decided to swap the rooms and we both have found more enjoyment in both our office space and our work.
Not everyone has the ability to swap whole rooms like this, but I'm still a firm believer that less-than-ideal spaces can be made more ideal. Take a good look at your office space. Is it uncomfortable somehow? What could you do with what you have to make it better? Even small things, like rearranging furniture, displaying a plant or a beloved collectible, or a keyboard pad can make your space better. And if you can afford it, nicer furniture like a high quality chair is worth the investment. A tip: if you want high quality office furniture on a budget, look for used office furniture liquidator. They often get furniture from businesses that move or shut down, and you can get your hands on a used Steelcase or a Herman Miller office chair for a fraction of the cost.
I acknowledge a lot of this stuff sounds extremely obvious, but some may not believe the investment or care of an office space is worth it. I'm giving you permission to invest in your space, whether with money or time. Your work will be better as a result.
Another thing to make an office space enjoyable is keeping it tidy. It is certainly a task easier said than done, but I can summarize how this is best done:
- Only keep tools you use every day and only your favorite decorations on your desk. Store everything else. Other than computer equipment, I keep my Nintendo Switch, my favorite teacup, three potted plants, a notebook and pen, a rock, a little Spyro the Dragon figure, and a small model airplane on my desk. Other people will have less or more, and it's up to you to find what items on your desk makes you happy and do your best work. I know people who love having nothing at all on their desk, and I know people who love having their entire figurine and comic collection proudly displayed near their computer. Both are valid.
- Keep like things with like things. This is a very basic organization principle, but it took me an absurd amount of time to learn. On my desk, my top drawer has pens, paper pads, and other miscellaneous office supplies. Below that, is a drawer with art supplies that aren't paints, brushes, pencils, nor pens, which are below that. Below that, my paints and art paper pads. Below that, are electronic accessories. The few paper material I have are in vertical paper dividers (which you can easily make out of cereal boxes) on a bookshelf behind the desk. Merchandise and convention supplies are organized in similar ways in the closet. I used to store art supplies both in my office, garage, guest room, and even the bathroom at some point (don't ask.) Now, all art supplies are in my office drawers, so I know where they are if I'm looking for something, and not in one of those other areas.
- Don't keep things you don't like or need. Essentially, the "Konmari" method. It's definitely worth looking into her ideas, as they've changed me to be more organized and only keep what I love or need--not just with office supplies, but with basically everything, really. The best part about this principle is the fewer stuff you have, the less you have to deal with and maintain, which means more time available for other things.
Next week, I'll talk about the idea of clocking in and out at home.