No matter how right-brained a creative you are, instilling organization into your workspace will positively affect your productivity. Reducing clutter leads to mental clarity. Segmenting your setup by zones saves valuable time. Optimizing the color palette and textures of your space sets your brain up for premium output.
So, where to begin? Below, your guide to optimizing whatever work environment you typically use — whether it’s a large desk in a private home office or a small, portable setup depending on that day’s coworking space — for maximum productivity.
Even if you think you thrive in a messy environment, research shows that decluttering benefits both physical health and cognitive abilities. So as a first step, set aside time to purge your workspace of unnecessary items. Especially if you use the same desk every day, you’ve probably amassed way more ballpoints, paperwork and random paraphernalia than you need. Scan paperwork you don’t need a physical copy of, upload it to your server or cloud account and destroy the originals. Relegate rarely used office supplies to a central storage area so they don’t take up gratuitous space. Consider filing like items together in neat boxes or trays, organized by task (for example, the stamps with the envelopes; the pens with the notepads).
Next, mentally divide up your space into two to three zones based on how you work. A computer-based and non-computer-based division could work; or else, an administrative and creative segmentation. However you typically divide up your work time throughout the day, consider how to best apply that apportionment to your physical setup. Then shift items around based on where it makes the most sense to attack each type of work. For example, if your creative work is typically analog, set up your laptop or tablet on one side of your space along with the cords and chargers you need; on the other side of your space, stock your notepads, whatever writing or drawing implements you need and any non-digital items you use for inspiration. When you’re mentally and physically focused on one type of work at one time, you’ll be much more productive.
Depending on where you work and the nature of the work you do, you may have either limited or extensive control over the color palette and material makeup of your creative workspace. Regardless, take the time to evaluate the look and feel (literally) that sets you up for success and think about how you can apply those findings. Use color science to curate specifically hued office supplies and electronics; for example, red has been shown to elicit superior performance on detail-oriented tasks, while blue is more conducive to creativity. When it comes to materials (say, of the sweater draped over your chair or the throw rug underfoot), their softness, naturalness and patterned nature all affect your creative output. If you’re looking for quiet and privacy, thicker textiles are your best bet. If you want coziness and comfort, go for smooth, cushy fabrics.
Similar to colors and textures, lighting can greatly impact your creative productivity. Research indicates that dimmer lighting is better for idea generation, and brighter lighting is better for analytical thinking. If it’s not possible to install a dimmer in your work setting, look into lamps, USB lights and window shades.
There’s a difference between clutter and well-curated “stuff.” Outfitting your space with a few personal trinkets can help motivate you during a creative drought, or provide you with a nugget of inspiration by sparking a memory or idea you wouldn’t have thought of without the emotional visual cue. When decluttering, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to remove every single item at your desk that doesn’t seemingly serve a function; if a knickknack makes you smile or inspires you, those are valuable functions. Bonus points if it’s a plant; they’ve been scientifically proven to make you happier and more productive.
At the end of each workday, take a few seconds to straighten up, move things back to their zones and think about if anything didn’t feel ergonomic that day when it came to your physical setup. Your workspace should be doing just that — work — for you. Pay attention, as you make the above adjustments, to what’s making you comfortable, productive and creatively fruitful, and shift accordingly.