How to Improve your Workspace in 7 Steps

When was the last time you considered how your workspace supported or hindered your work?

If you’re like most people who are creative at their work areas, your workspace could benefit greatly from some intelligent consideration. In fact, almost everyone would benefit greatly from a complete reevaluation of their entire workspace. Do you feel stressed, unmotivated, or frustrated in your workspace? Ever feel as if your workspace is working against you or even sapping your energy? Perhaps your workspace is helping to perpetuate these negative emotions. Your workspace has a profound impact on your creative attitude, ease of habit creation and reinforcement, and productivity.

When traveling, surroundings change constantly and can provide a constant combination of stress and inspiration. Since this magnifies any organizational problems you might have, it’s especially helpful to keep your life organized while on the move.

Optimizing the surroundings in your home and workspace is even more powerful because these environments can be refined and improved upon over time. Through smart arrangement of your surroundings you can:

  1. Feel as if your living space is bigger (with the same amount of stuff)
  2. Be more productive and at ease while working
  3. Be more efficient in using and cleaning your equipment

Spring Cleaning

Around this time of year many people in the Northern Hemisphere of Earth practice the ageold tradition of spring cleaning. This practice probably dates back to the Persian new year which falls on the first day of Spring, but I didn’t want to wait so long. Around early January, I decided to completely reevaluate my workspace, and I’m so grateful that I did.

Let’s begin to cover how you too can transmogrify your workspace.

Commanding Position

Having read Steve Pavlina’s singular work “Creating a Productive Workspace”, I understood the importance of creating a commanding position for myself. If you’re not familiar, the concept is from feng shui and it basically states that being supported from behind and open in the front creates a feeling of security. In the back of your mind, if you think someone could approach you from behind at any time, you’re less at ease and therefore less productive — even if you have a locking door. (It’s a psychological and reptilian brain type-thing.) The primary strength of having a commanding position is knowing that no one can approach you from behind — you always know where to direct your attention: forward. Many executives arrange their offices in commanding position because of this.

At first thought, it may seem awkward to face the door, but don’t knock it till you try it. Like many powerful life hacks, having commanding position is something that should be experienced to be truly appreciated and evaluated. Simply reading about it isn’t nearly enough. If you actually try a commanding position, you won’t ever want to go back to the way it used to be.

How to Inspire your Workspace in 7 Steps

Before the beginning of this year, my workspace felt as if it was literally sucking energy from me. I had been feeling it for a while, like a stuffiness that wouldn’t dissipate. The layout was cramped and not efficient at all, but I didn’t realize how inefficient it really was until later. So, I decided to reorganize my environment to create a more peaceful, relaxing, and productive workspace. As I typically like to start from a clean slate, I decided to approach the room from a completely new perspective by starting from scratch. Here are the steps I took as I literally ripped apart my home office piece by piece:

  1. Imagine the Ideal Outcome. (including commanding position)
    • It can be helpful to quickly sketch out a plan for the room
  2. Prepare and Disassemble room.
    • Unplug all electrical cables
    • Clear any desks
    • Move any chairs to another room
    • The more you move out of the room, the easier it is to visualize a new arrangement
  3. Clear an area and Place your first object
  4. Observe room and Visualize intuitive placing for your next object.
  5. Place your next object in the most natural place.
    • Don’t just pay attention to what it looks like.
    • Pay attention to what it feels like.
    • Most of feng shui boils down to this.
  6. Repeat steps 4-5, until the remainder of your furniture is replaced. • Always give yourself the option to decide to throw something out
  7. Reassemble and Reconstitute Room.
    • Bring any chairs back in
    • Test to see how functional they are in the new setup
    • Rewire room (which results in cleaner cable arrangement in the process)
    • Hope to God your network cables still reach. (Mine did. Yay!)

5 Tips for Computer Ergonomics

If you have a computer in your workspace (and I know you do), you should also know it’s very important for your long term health to have an ergonomic computer setup. Below I’ve compiled a short list of things to keep in mind to use your computer in healthy way:

  1. Position your screen slightly below eye level.
  2. Adjust your chair height so that your forearms and wrists are about desktop height when your elbows are at 90 degrees.
  3. Use a footrest if your feet dangle.
  4. Make sure your body, monitor, and keyboard form a straight line. (so you don’t have to turn your head to read your screen)
  5. For the least stress on the eyes, place your monitor 45 to 60 cm (18 to 24 inches) away from your eyes, or farther if there’s room. (If necessary, enlarge your screen text size to compensate.)

(More information is available at Macworld Magazine.)

4 Tips for Workspace Lighting

Onto lighting. Lighting your workspace properly is also critical; and unfortunately, many articles on workspace optimization do not mention this at all. Here are some tips to keep in mind while lighting a room:

  1. Shield your screen from direct sunlight!
    • Direct sunlight damages all kinds of equipment, including a screen
  2. Avoid overhead light & light behind your screen
    • These are an eye strains and thus hurt productivity
    • Use lamps to either side of you instead
  3. Avoid brightness extremes!
    • Working with a bright screen in a dark room strains the eyes. If you’re working in darkness, try dimming the brightness of your screen, which will be comfortable for a short while.
  4. Try some task lights which generate quality light and reduce glare.

The Result: A Completely New Experience

Through this process I ended up throwing out some things I once thought I needed, and I was also able to assemble my desk into its complete L shape for first time. I expected the outcome of this product to change how my workspace felt to me, but the full magnitude of the change was surprising. I had no idea I could get more walking room and more desk space at same time. Being in a commanding position also contributes greatly to my peace of mind and seems to give me more energy. By reevaluating the arrangement of my workspace, taking into account a commanding position, ergonomics, and lighting, my workspace feels inestimably more empowering to work in now. And it only took me one afternoon.

You can do it!

I encourage you consider the possibility that you’re only using perhaps 10% of that space’s productive potential. Unless you experience it yourself, it’s hard to describe the feeling of relief one gets when being in a supportive, productive, and inspired workspace. It’s inspiring and definitely improves the ease in which I am able to create quality content. Don’t deprive yourself of this feeling of relief and empowerment.

Why not draw up some plans on a napkin right now?

Post-publishing note: Thanks to Balanced Living Carnival, The Carnival for Creative Growth, and the Living by Design Blog Carnival for including this article in their carnivals.

6 bits on How to Improve your Workspace in 7 Steps

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  2. This is a great post. I moved my desk (used to have my back to the window…it was rather eerie at times.) Now I am in a commanding spot, can look out the window, and with the help of a little feng shui, chi can flow and generate creativity.

    I hate clutter, so when I get rid of it, I feel like a ton of bricks is lifted.

    I’m happy to hear you’re back to blogging. I like your mission statement too.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Blogging – Year One – Lesson 3

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  4. These are some great tips for expressing yourself in your work space. They remind me a bit of what Jill Butler has to say in her book Create the Space You Deserve, about making your living space reflect your life. Since we all seem to spend so much time at work these days, it’s not a stretch to adapt her ideas to workspace as well.

  5. Barbara,
    Great to hear that you’re in a commanding position now. Congratulations on your newfound shui!

    Exactly. I today’s information-based world, deliberately designing your workspace is a requirement to be highly productive.

  6. Nice post. I believe Feng Shui can be very helpful for those who want to design their workplace. You can always hire an interior designer, but a feng shui consultant can give you and unique and different approach.