Entrepreneurs and small business owners may have the freedom of working from home, but because many of us don’t take the time to design our home office spaces to suit our needs, we end up venturing out to find more productivity at coffee shops or cowork spaces. We may know our home office spaces don’t inspire us to action, but we don’t always know what to do about that.
TIP 1: EMPTY IT OUT
The more daunting this sounds, the more you will benefit from it.
Grab a box or a big bag and pretend you’re moving. Clear your workspace of everything other than the furniture. This is usually when people say things like, “It feels so good, I don’t want to bring any of it back in!”
TIP 2: CHANGE IT UP
Now that all the bits and bobs are out of sight, take a look at your workspace with fresh eyes. How do you feel about the furniture that’s left? Don’t like it? Take a picture now and post it online for a modest price and make plans to find something that works better for you.
How do you feel about the wall color? Check out this guide to colors. Pick one that perks you up and gets you working. If you live in a smaller space, paint is a great way to zone your space. One accent wall may be enough to delineate a workspace.
How about the floor? Throw rugs can also help zone your workspace.
TIP 3: IMAGINE YOUR FUTURE
Having a vision is like a superfood when it comes to growth. Take the time to imagine yourself at the next stage of your career.
What are you doing with your time? Can you do that in this space? If not, what do you need to make space for? Growing piles of paperwork? Audio or video recording? Research? Writing?
Take a moment to imagine yourself living a typical day in the next stage of your career.
TIP 4: MAKE SPACE FOR YOUR VISION
This is my favorite part because this is when I get to move furniture. Grab some post-its and designate areas for each of the tasks you will be performing in your new space.
If you want to make more videos for your blog, where do you have the best lighting or background? If it’s where your file cabinet is, then move the file cabinet. Now put up your “filming area” post-it. If you want to record audio, designate a “sound booth” area (closets full of clothes are actually great for this).
If you know you need to get more on top of your papers, designate a “paper flow” area for your inbox, outbox, and filing system.
TIP 6: GO VERTICAL
Walls are basically free real estate--use them!
Converting a wall to shelving, mounting your inbox and outbox, and installing hooks are all great ways to buy back precious work space while also keeping your daily things off the back of your chair or, let’s be honest, the floor.
TIP 5: PUT BACK ONLY WHAT YOU USE
You guessed it. It’s time to ask “Does this bring me joy?” about all of that office stuff you unearthed earlier. If you don’t like the way you feel when you’re handling something, let it go!
Remember: Your environment is constantly triggering you into your behavior. If we want to work in our home offices, we have to enjoy the stuff that’s in them. If you don’t like something but you need to hang onto it for practical purposes, start a list of the things you will replace, and get the depressing stuff out as soon as possible.
TIP 7: MAKE IT PRETTY
Bring as much beauty to your workspace as you can. Update your storage solutions. If you think the printer is ugly, hide it. If your pens are annoying you because they’re rolling all over the place inside your drawers, find a container you love and put them in it.
Cord clutter is visual noise and I encourage you to hide cords however you can. I like using long strips to wrap multiple cords together. Make a list of all the organizers you will need to find as you put your things back in.
The rest of it? Donate! There’s places other than Goodwill to take things you no longer need.
TIP 8: ANTICIPATE NEEDING INSPIRATION
We all get bored at work. What inspires you? Inject that into your space!
For me, a framed quote from Amelia Earhart near my desk gets me back on track. Thank you cards on a bulletin board remind me of my “why”. What puts you in a good mood?
I love my plants. They’re beautiful, I feel more peaceful around them, and I see their growth as a metaphor for my own--invisible day to day, and more significant across time. I also think everyone should have a vision board, but if you don’t have time for magazine cutting or glue stick nonsense, this app is a must.
TIP 9: BRING IN SOME RITUALS
Working from home can test our self-discipline at the best of times. Rituals can help us delineate between when we are relaxing and when we are working.
I have a lamp next to my desk that I turn on when my work hours start. When my working hours are done for the day, I turn it off. It helps me find my rhythm and it reminds me to get back on track when I get distracted after lunch and need to put in a few more hours.
Handling paper can also be a ritual. Things enter my inbox during the week, on Friday I go through it all, by Sunday the paper has been dealt with, and by Monday my inbox is empty again and ready for another week.
As a professional organizer and interior redecorator, I can tell you: Environment really does matter. New science in the study of habit formation suggests that our environment is by far the most influential factor over our behavior--even more influential than our genes. Change your environment, and how you behave will change with it. Want to elevate your life? Start by elevating where you spend it.