Have you ever found yourself dreading sitting at your workspace?
It might not be you. It might be the desk.
I found myself more and more often working on the couch sometime last year. Frequently I found myself complaining that I didn’t feel comfortable. I had trouble focusing. Then I realized I did not really have a workspace in my house that made me feel good. There was no space to create. My workspace was cluttered with mail and library books. There was a thick layer of dust covering just about everything on the desk. I could never find a working pen.
This was just not going to happen.
If you are a creative like me, you thrive on aesthetics. People who write, design, produce, and create for a living are drawn to beauty, patterns, colors, and layouts that inspire. Your desk should represent your best work. So today we’re going to review the steps you can take to start uncluttering and start crafting a workspace that primes you to be your most productive and aligned self.
First, the overhaul.
The least fun part about redesigning your space is the uncluttering, but trust me, on the other side it feels sooooo good. Here’s the first steps.
Divide and conquer. Create a few piles on the floor for your papers. Put into “Throw away” “Store” and “Organize” groups.
- Throw away are the old bills that you don’t need because you went paperless ages ago, or the 3-month old cards you got on your birthday, or whatever is not essential to your work in any way.
- Store are items that you need but you by no means need on a regular basis. That manual for how to use that camera you use very infrequently. That contract that you don’t need to review but also don’t want to lose. These items should go into a file cabinet or file box.
- Organize are items you genuinely want or need nearby. That book on design that you are reading a little of every day. This week’s invoices (if you haven’t gone fully paperless) you need to have on hand. Your sketchbook and planner. These items can go between two bookends or a tiered paper organizer at the corner of your desk. If you go with a paper organizer, put tabs on each level so that you know what goes where.
Uncluttering is usually the task that gets people stuck. It’s a bit boring and depending on how long you’ve been putting this off, perhaps a bit daunting too.
Make it fun.
Put on your favorite music, wear a cute outfit, set the rest of the environment up for success. The desk looks messy, but that doesn’t mean you need to look messy too. The higher vibe you can make the process, the better! My clients working with me on text based coaching (link) will check in for encouragement as they go through this process and I’ll send them lots of virtual high fives, hold them accountable, and help them make the experience fun.
Once things are uncluttered it’s time to redesign your space. In the companion freebie to this blog, Space to Create, I go into so much more depth about color psychology and how to intentionally create a space that feels good to you. For now I’ll touch base on a few things to consider.
Have two, and ONLY two, non-functional items on your desk.
Everything on the desk should serve a clear purpose. You can check this the next time you are sitting at your desk. Look around and ask, does every item on this desk serve a clear function? If not, it’s just clutter, and physical clutter becomes mental clutter, so it’s got to go.
Here’s the two exceptions.
Have a talisman.
A talisman is a small item that represents something you want to feel. I’ll dive into talismans in more detail in a future entry, but basically, this is something that cues your brain to shift into a certain emotional frequency. My talisman is a tiny Buddha statue sitting on a lotus flower. He reminds me of how I want to feel as I work: fully alive, peaceful, intuitive.
Have a physical reminder of your vision, your WHY.
This can be a small poster with a phrase or quote on it you love (ever notice all the stock photos of desks have this? This is why!) Or it can be an image that reminds you of why you care about your work, perhaps a family photo or a photo of somewhere you traveled in the past. Or it can be an image from your vision board.
On my desk, I have a digital photo frame my partner bought me a few years ago. It has images of the two of us and images from my travels, images of accomplishments like receiving my doctoral hood or receiving my yoga certification – but peppered amongst these memories are images directly from my vision board, of beautiful places I want to go, a beautiful home I envision upgrading to, and so on. This keeps me going throughout the day, and I love that I can set the images to rotate periodically or stay on one image that is particularly inspiring to me for the day!
Keep your space the way you want to keep your mind.
Once you put together a space you love, remember to take care of it the way you would take care of your mind. At the end of the workday, taking just a couple minutes to wipe away crumbs and take dirty coffee cups away will make a huge difference. This small act of self care alone can make a huge difference. If you aren’t ready to do anything else, try just the act of dusting off the desk everyday for a week, and see what happens. The first time you do it, you’ll probably be a bit stunned by the black layers of dust you pick up when you wipe things clean. After that, keep wiping things down every single day for just 7 days. Trust me. You’ll be amazed how much mental energy you’ll free up with this small habit.
Want to go deeper and learn about how you can utilize color psychology to create a desk that inspires you to do your best work every day? The companion worksheet, Space to Create, will help you create your most inspiring workspace in four simple steps. Get it here.
What will you choose as your productivity talisman for your desk?