104: How to organize your workspace to fit your style and increase productivity

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How to organize your work space to fit your style and increase productivity

Read the episode transcript:

How organized is your workspace?

How organized is your workspace?

This first season of the Simplify & Multiply show is all about getting organization and focus into your solopreneur life. The inspiration came to me as the calendar got changed out and I launched the show in January—a month filled with purging, dieting, new resolutions and goals. I love the turn of the calendar. After all of the holiday mayhem has ended and the new year takes hold, it’s a great time to kick of new projects, new thinking and new surroundings.

In this episode, I want to help you take a fresh look at your workspace and assess if it does two things: 1) encourages creativity and productivity and 2) fits your personality and style. As a solopreneur, we have the beautiful opportunity to create workspaces we love, as opposed to decorating an institutional setting like cube city or the sterile, echoey surroundings of a co-working space. Many of us work out of our homes. Many of us have to use a space that serves multiple purposes. For example, my boyfriend Doug. When he’s not traveling the globe for his J-O-B, he is on the phone working from home. His workspace is in his man cave, also known as the den, and he sits at the bar with his laptop or if he’s on a call, he’ll pace a racetrack around the sofa and foosball table. Meanwhile, off to the side of the den is a perfectly suitable desk he could work at. But he prefers the bar. That works for him. Me? It just does not. I have to have my dedicated space with my desk set up with everything I need within reach.

Doug’s “home office” working on a Saturday. He’s a busy Bear these days.

Doug’s “home office” working on a Saturday. He’s a busy Bear these days.

When I moved from Orlando to Palm Beach Gardens, the home I chose was one that I knew would accommodate a home office. It’s a three-story townhome, and my entire first floor is my office. It works great. I have it set up to fit my style and personality, from a streamlined desk that’s on coasters so I can slide it around the rug to different positions—I like to change the layout of my office often. It helps keep the energy flowing and gives me new perspectives and variety. I also have original artwork that is bold and colorful and crazy and I just love it. I have these two oil paintings both done by the same artist, Sharon Erbe, that I bought in Taos, New Mexico quite a while ago. The one on the left is a brunette with an oversized white cowboy hat, big gold hoop earrings, white puffy blouse and colorful full skirt and she’s holding a blanket filled with colorful bell peppers. Sharon named that painting, “Pepper pot.” The one to the right is a similar style woman with a cowboy hat, sunglasses, a red kerchief tied around her neck, jeans with a gun in a holster filled with bullets and she’s outside leaning on a fence. The Taos mountains are in the background and that painting is titled, “Don’t Fence Me In.” They make me smile every day and bring so much vitality and color into my office, which is otherwise pretty brown and boring.

But that’s not my only workspace. After living here for a few months, I converted a small room on the third floor into what I call my “Zen Room.” Now my Zen room also has a desk on coasters that’s easy to reposition, a white board for ideation, a small TV for watching webinars or doing yoga videos, a chair-and-a-half with an ottoman, lots of candles and my favorite original artwork on the walls. It gets beautiful light in the morning, and when I sit up there first thing in the morning, I can watch the sun rise over the ocean. It is sublime and a great way to start every day. I reserve my most creative moments for my Zen Room. It’s where I journal, write, ideate for a client or just sit and read. It’s a more relaxed, creative space than my office downstairs. I love that I have both places to exercise different creative activities and that also suit the mood I’m in.

That’s just a little peek into my workspaces. Let’s talk about yours now.

My office on the first floor

My office on the first floor

When it comes to working from home, I am lucky. I don’t have kids doing kid things or a co-working spouse to navigate around. Although when Doug is visiting, we both try to be considerate of one another, especially if we’re both on conference calls at the same time. It can turn into a corporate office rather quickly. So I’m pretty lucky that way. But it’s what was important to me—to have my own space that I call my own, decorate and furnish the way I want, and to make it work for the way I like to work. I like that freedom, that creative control, and the ability to adjust it as I see fit.

If you are a solopreneur, you’re likely working at home as well. Especially if you deliver your service to your clients at their sites, such as a consultant or speaker who travels a good bit. You also could be like some of my clients who have a work place, such as a physical therapist or clinician who sees clients at an office location. However, in many of their cases, they still don’t really have a true workspace that they can hunker down and do their best work. If they have an office to deliver their hands-on or one-on-one services, it may be dedicated to that practice only, and not have a space for them to work on their website or develop new products or even do bookkeeping.

Having a home office has been a growing trend for several decades now, with more and more people starting their own businesses from their homes. Many younger people are choosing the unconventional life and either traveling the globe working remotely as a freelancer or they’re just hunkered down in their apartment home working remotely for any variety of clients. Builders, interior designers and architects know this trend and are designing and incorporating the at-home worker into their buildings and interior design. The days of the formal dining room and the formal living room and partitioned home plans are fading into the past. New homes are having in-home office spaces or flex spaces designed right into the blueprints from the start, and people love it. Even for those who still have J-O-Bs are taking great pleasure in having a home office to do work when they are away from cubicle city or airport lounges.

Simplify & Multiply
Shoes and briefcase on the floor

Our environment is an important component of our success and our ability to be productive and creative. Depending on your personality, you may thrive in a slightly messy environment where things just land where they land and you roll with it. But it works for you. My sister Jane was that way, and to a large degree, so is my sister Caren. And it drove me crazy. I’m an organization freak. If I don’t know where things are and if things aren’t put away where they belong, I get stressed out. It’s just the way I’ve been my whole life. Organizing things and having order makes me happy. I can remember going to visit my sister Jane and cleaning her house, not that she was dirty, she just had kids and she was also struggling with a severe illness. I’d come through the kitchen, baths, pantry, etc. like the white tornado. She loved it, because it was one less thing for her and my brother-in-law Jeff to deal with given the situation. But invariably the next visit, which was about a 4 hour drive, I’d find the house pretty much back the way it was. But it was okay for me, because I knew I was helping and it made her happy.

Here are five actionables that you can consider when it comes to your workspace and how you can make it better and increase your creativity and productivity.

  1. The fastest way to make your office just feel better as well as look better is to simply clean it. Grab that Windex and some paper towels and clean your desk, book shelf, tables, whatever surface is collecting dust. Clean your computer screen and keyboard. Lord knows how many crumbs or coffee stains are in between my keys. I’m surprised it still works.

  2. Is your office comfortable? And when I say comfortable, does it provide for ease of movement? Are you comfortable when you sit at your desk? Is your chair supporting your back well? Do you have room to stretch or dance around (like I do) for spontaneous breaks when you’re feeling drained? Do you have little comforts like a water bottle, coffee coaster, box of tissues, back scratcher? I even have one of those goofy head massagers that I use occasionally. The most important thing I have in my office is Blue Barney. Yup. I have this super comfy sofa I got at Rooms to Go and each end has a built-in recliner that is highly conducive to napping. Here’s why it’s called Blue Barney: it’s puffy like Barney the Purple Dinosaur, but instead of purple, it’s a brilliant bold blue. When I need a break from my Balans Variable kneeling chair at my desk, I grab my MacBook Air and plop into an end of Blue Barney and flip up the recliner. Yeah, I may nap a little too.

  3. Is your office overcrowded with stuff? Maybe it’s time to do a purge. That is one of my favorite exercises is to go through and do a purge. Doesn’t have to be major, it could be just tidying things up and maybe pitching some old files I no longer need or taking some old books to the library. Purging is a great way to make room for new things and clear out some energy in a tired workspace. You can also do a staged purge where you container things. Find some cool boxes or storage containers at your local IKEA or Container Store or Target and put little odds and ends in decorative boxes you can put on bookshelves or stacked into a sort of side or end table.

  4. Don’t simply stop at the obvious things that adorn your office space—think about your digital workspace as well. How organized are your computers? Are files where they should be for easy access? Are you backing up your data on a hard drive or cloud? Be as respectful to your data as you are with your desk accessories. Nothing makes me more crazy, like going into my sister’s unorganized home, as does seeing someone’s desktop that has four hundred little icons and folders on it. I cringe and want to rip the mouse out of their hands and drag them all off the desktop. But again, that’s me. I’m an organizational freak.

  5. Lastly, and this is my favorite thing, is make your space fun, creative and a reflection of your personality and style. Whether that’s artwork, sculptures or art with inspirational sayings that keep you focused, a nice speaker for your favorite music (mine is chill music on Mixcloud), a Nerf basketball hoop you can hang on the back of your door for free-throw shots while you’re brainstorming, a whiteboard with colorful markers for creative noodling, brightly colored Post-It Notes, puzzles, tactile toys that can foster creativity and thoughtfulness, even a pillow to meditate on for those much needed stress breaks. For me, that’s comfortable furniture, lots of desk surface so I can spread out, original artwork and yes, little animals. Ever since I was a kid, I loved little animals. I had stuffed animals, rubber animals, plastic animals, they were all kinds of different types of toys but they were all animals. And I have some on my bookshelf that I’ve acquired relatively recently. I have a lizard, fish, cat, turtle and three stuffed bears. In my zen room, I have a stuffed white polar bear. Since my boyfriend’s nickname is Bear, it only seems appropriate that I have a lot of bears around me. They make me happy.

When you are on a solopreneur journey, everything you do is up to you. You are driving everything from your business strategy to who you work with to who helps you to the space in which you do your greatest work. Make it fun, organized and a reflection of your personality and you’ll find greater focus and more creative ideas come forth when you have a space you love.

Your Actionable for this Episode is:

1) Clean your office
2) Create more comfort
3) Purge and organize the space
4) Clean up your digital space
5) Make your space fun
— Terry Pappy

Terry Pappy

Terry Pappy