When it comes to your workspace, you know better than anyone else what works best for you. We’ve all heard that creatives often have messy spaces, but that “organized chaos” can quickly and easily inhibit productivity. If you’re the type of person who thrives in a disorderly workspace, you still need some form of organization that allows for the business portion of your work to get accomplished.
We all fall somewhere along a continuum of organization, and there are a variety of factors that play a role in where we sit. While we may never achieve that perfectly organized and decorated workspace that we fantasize about, there are a few simple steps we can take to work toward a perfectly personalized domain to let our creativity flow.
Step 1: Don’t let this task overwhelm you — focus on one area at a time.
If your whole office is in need of a little love, don’t try to tackle it all in one day. Start with the spaces you use the most and move around the room. Break it up in days, weeks or months — whatever time frame works for you. Even if you’re just looking to organize your desk, you can break this down into organizing different drawers or shelves. Plus, you don’t want your whole workspace to be in disarray when it’s time to get back to work.
Step 2: Find a place for everything, and put everything in its place.
As a child, did you ever have one of those placemats at the dinner table that outlined the proper setting of your plate, glass, fork, knife and spoon? Think of something like that, but the adult version. Everything needs to have a home that it can return to.
I like to start by taking everything out of the area that needs to be organized. This gives you a blank slate to work with. As you’re removing things, organize them with similar items. Then, grab the items you use regularly and place them in the most convenient locations. Keep working through this process until everything is organized and accessible. Then, looking back at the pile of things that are left over, decide if some of those items can be discarded or donated, or just re-homed in a more appropriate location.
This may require purchasing some shelving, storage bins or trays, but they’ll pay for themselves in short time. But before you jump out of your seat to run to the store, read on to step three, because some items can pull double-duty.
Step 3: Put “you” in your office.
What motivates you to work? Is it where you imagine yourself in 10 years? Is it the mission of the company? Is it your family you’re working so hard to support? Or is it the next travel destination you’re saving up for? Sprinkle these items around your office. By surrounding yourself with these mementos, you’re reminding yourself of why you’re in the office in the first place, continually motivating yourself to keep pushing forward.
Remember that double-duty I mentioned in step two? Well here’s where you can put your creativity to work. Select a color scheme for your shelving that invigorates you, get custom-photo office supplies, mount a canvas with an inspirational quote that speaks directly to you.
One of my favorite items on my desk is a dry-erase easel with photos from some of my favorite vacations I’ve taken so far. With “today I will” scrolled across the top of it, every day I write out the major things I want to accomplish for the day. It helps me stay organized for my day (bonus: less post-its scattered around) and reminds me why I’m doing those things — to knock out one more destination vacation each year.
Step 4: Maintain.
This is the tough part. Because honestly, if we maintained an organized office, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. The easiest way to maintain an organized workspace is to put a little effort into it every day.
At the end of your day, put everything back in its place (remember the adult placemat). Go ahead and make notes on things you didn’t finish up and need to tackle the next morning. Refrain from making the same mistakes you made before — creating piles of unorganized papers or throwing items in a drawer to get them out of the way.
Step 5: Enjoy!
No matter if you’re working from home, sharing a cubicle or have your own office, you can create a workspace that is inspiring and effective for you. You’ll have to make tweaks along the way, and you may fall off the wagon — but don’t let those bumps discourage you. Take a look back at your personal mementos and remind yourself why you’re working so hard, and how a little extra effort in organization and personalization will help you achieve those goals more easily.
In her spare time, Catherine writes about small business and entrepreneurship for TinyPrints, where you can transform your own workspace for a successful new year (here).