if there is one thing that i have learned about getting stuff done (other than needing to have a daily routine), it is that having a designated space to call my own is a must. in order to create things, work, write, and focus, it is a really good idea to have a place to go to. a place that where you know that “this is where i make shit happen”.
to be honest, i’m not the best at-home worker, though i love to be at home. but, since i’m not the most disciplined person in the world, i need a place that i know i my place to get down to business. and i need that place to be nothing else. what i mean, is, i cannot work in bed. i cannot work on the sofa. perhaps i can work at the kitchen table, but it’s not quite as effective or fun as working at my special place.
my love + i have always had a place that we’ve designated as our work space. in our first apartment together, it was a desk that we shared. the desk was in our bedroom. not ideal, but all we could muster in our tiny apartment. in our second place together in asheville, we had a whole entire room dedicated to work and we called it our studio. lina practically lived there since she was studying then. it was a huge space and so inspiring.
our current place, a cozy, loft-feeling apartment in sweden, is quite small, so we have a corner that we share. i was a little skeptical about sharing space with my wife after having a studio with two desks, but, it actually works just fine. besides, it has helped me focus on simplifying, minimizing, and being creative.
you really don’t need that much space to create your own creative work area. and, the less stuff you have, the better.
with that said, i though i’d share with you my tips for a zen, minimalistic, inspiring creative/work station. my ideas work for tiny corners, basement offices, outside studios, and everything in-between, even your office at work. anywhere you need to have to focus and make things happen: art, studying, bill paying, writing, reading, business deals, computer work, photography, making jewelry… you get the idea. even if you don’t think of yourself as an artist, this kind of space is perfect for everyone.
1. seek simplicity
i highly recommend clean minimalism. if there is one thing i have learned from the swedes, is that this minimalist look makes you feel calm. when things are decluttered and organized, there is a sense of freedom. yes, it is practical. but that doesn’t mean that it can’t still be fun + personal. so, wherever your space is, keep it clean. every night reorganize and put away the things you’ve been working on. i guarantee that in the morning, or the next time you have to sit down + do something, your space will make you smile.
as for organization + stuff, you really don’t need a ton of things on your desk. a couple of boxes or baskets, your computer, some pens, perhaps a notepad of some sort. that’s it. all of your important papers + things can be stored in other places. closets, bookshelves. use binders + boxes/baskets to put paper, mail, envelops, etc. in. and then place them in different areas of the room. just not on your desk. save that area for doing your work. and, if it is empty + clean + ready for you to use, it’s much easier to get started on what you need to do.
2. be comfortable + cozy
if you’re going to spend lots of time in your work space, then by all means, make it comfy. my love is a graphic designer + i am a writer/blogger, so computers are a big deal in our home. and we sit at the desk very, very often.
make sure that, if you are sitting, your desk and chair are the right height for you. we have a vintage green chair that is not the best desk chair available. but, for us, it was all about style. well, actually, we didn’t choose the chair. it was left in the apartment. and, in order to save money, we decided to go with it. however, we did purchase a cozy, soft (fake) sheep skin cover to throw over the chair. it helps out a lot!
the other thing to be aware of is where you place things on your desk. make sure you can reach things easily, and that everything is streamlined within an arm’s reach. there’s nothing more annoying than having to stand up to reach a pen or bend far over to pic up a notebook off of the floor.
it’s ok if the work space gets messy while you are working. i hope that is happening to you! just remember to re-organize it when you are done.
3. create rituals
rituals are little acts that we engage in to help make us aware. they also alert us that something important is about to take place – something that deserves our attention, something that is important + worthy. really what rituals do is to create atmosphere.
i have a few rituals that i use every time i sit down at my work space. i always, always, always light a candle. that’s first. it helps me slow down and remember that what i am about to do is something that i choose to do from my soul. it’s not some mindless activity, but something sacred. at night, the candle glows along with the lamp in the room. during the day, the candle burns, even as the natural sunlight beams into the space. no matter what time of day i sit down, the candle is lit.
i also open up spotify and listen to music. my music depends on my mood. often i choose my playlist of the month, but not always. some days the music reflects the weather – gray + rainy, or bright sunshine. i don’t listen to it very loudly, but just in the background. it’s like having a comforting friend nearby. plus, it’s inspiring!
and lastly, i have something to drink beside me. if you know me, you know that it is usually coffee. almost always coffee. but, if i write/work at night, then i may have a glass of wine or a beer sitting on the desk. and, if i find myself working for a very long period of time, i grab my water bottle and sip on it. hydration is very, very important. not to mention, it perks you up. but, honestly, it’s like 97% of the time coffee that i enjoy. hehe.
all of these rituals keep me calm. they create an atmosphere of peace and quiet, then i can focus on what is most important. give it a try!
4. surround yourself with inspiration
while i completely support creating a minimalist work space, i am in no way a minimalist person. i love color, warmth, natural tones, wood, metal, funky stuff, vintage stuff. i’ve got a little gypsy heart. but i do also love the simplicity of monochromatic pallets, cleanliness, and organization. so, my personal style is a little mix of scandinavian simplicity + american hippie-ness. let’s call it urban boho.
and while i completely believe that we should not clutter up our work areas either, we should most definitely surround ourselves with things that inspire us. that may be artsy things, mottos, photos, trinkets, gadgets – anything that makes us smile and can potentially spark creativity. if i want to create something, i cannot have a blank canvas in front of me. when i get stuck writing, i look around. seeing something beautiful, i feel renewed. seeing something that sparks a memory gives me a sense of peace + calm. plus, looking at these little things around me, remind me who i am, what my goal is, and encourage me to keep on working.
this is where we can infuse a little personality into our work area. now, if i am honest, i could really go overboard with this. it is highly likely that i find lots of little mementoes to put out around me, creating a little altar. but then, things can get a bit messy + clutterd. so, i have learned to select just a few very meaningful things at a time. besides, there is no rule that says that i can’t re-arrange my personal/inspirational items every now + then!
for now, we have a candle (that changes very often), some twinkle lights in a jar from north carolina, a little blue bird that was my grandmothers and has been displayed in every home that i have lived in, a wooden art figurine, cans with pens, a little wooden box from my brother’s home, a painting of the mountains of north carolina, an elvis coaster from our honeymoon road trip across the states, a basket beside the desk with maps + arrows from the cherokee indian reservation, my camera bag, and a simple calendar that my love gave me on the wall above. really the bluebird is mine and the wooden figure is lina’s, the painting of the mountains is actually hers too… i gave it to her for christmas this year. and that’s it. the rest of it is all stuff we’ve chosen together because they are important mementoes to both of us. the only thing that i want to add is a little art on the wall.
so, get creative with your space. keep it simple. but express yourself. pick things that make you feel like you. and let the creativity flow!
5. BE INTENTIONAL
ok, friends. at one time multi-tasking seemed to be the thing. but, it’s out. intentional, focused work is now in. that means, do one thing at a time. creating specific times to do specific things.
sometimes i feel like i am all over the place. looking for jobs, writing a blog, taking photos, working on a book. it feels like i am never giving 100% to anything that i do. and i pretty much stink at multi-tasking. i need an extended period of uninterrupted time to be effective + productive. so, i have started trying to give myself permission to do one thing at a time. i may do all of those things in one day, but when i am writing, i am writing. when i am job-hunting, i am job hunting.
being intentional is really about being present. being in the here + now. not letting our minds fly all over the place, wondering if we should have done something else earlier or stressing out about the next task that comes in the day. it’s all about living in the moment. and giving ourselves that permission to be soaked into what we are engaged in.
the best way that i ensure that i am intentional about my work, giving it all the time that it needs, is that i schedule it. my daily routine includes chunks of time that i do certain things. ultimately, right now in my life, mornings are for creating and afternoons are for networking/job-searching. so, all of my writing, blogging/phtography takes part in the morning. and all of my practical things are taken care ofin the afternoon. of course, it’s not like that every day. i have created big chunks of time so i can be flexible. and i allow myself to be just that. life sometimes requires that i change things around or skip something all together.
the main thing is that i try my best (and am definitely not always successful) to make the main thing of the moment my main thing. no apologies. no regrets. hopefully no stress. if i want to get done what i want to get done in a day, or even in a year, i simply must take care of all of these things. i must intentionally decide to make the things that i love to do and need to do a priority.
how are you feeling now? inspired? tired? overwhelmed? i know, it’s like doing work before you actually sit down to do work. but, i fully and wholeheartedly believe in creating a zen work space. one that expresses who i am. one that inspires me. on that helps to keep me focused + on track. one that makes doing work just a little bit more fun. i can honestly say that i truly look forward to sitting down to my little creative corner. when i am here, i know that i must focus. and, more importantly, i know that i am doing something to help make my dreams come true. this is where the magic happens… where i begin to follow my bliss.
share with me your ideas + thoughts about your work space. what do you need to have around you? what does your space look like? do you want to change anything? i’d love to hear from you!
you can read about my daily routine –> here
Trying this again — it didn’t post the last time.
I love these tips and looking around at my desktop, I realize I’ve let it get all cluttered up again!
time to minimize and get intentional.
thanks for the inspiration Liz!
It worked! So glad that you were inspired! Happy weekend to you! xoxo
I would add that your work space needs to have good lighting. This becomes more important as one ages, so it may not affect you yet, but it has a major effect on my ability to be productive with the part of my job that is not on the computer. Because there is such inadequate general lighting in the office I work in, I am limited to a useful work area that is as large as the spread of the illumination from the task lamp I brought from home. The rest of the large U shaped desk includes a beverage section, file folder storage and my desk tools arrayed on quilted squares. I have quilts and other sentimental artwork on my walls, along with pictures of family. I am looking forward to moving into our new building this fall. Excited to have windows again and anticipating that the lighting situation will be much improved!
Oh yes, I totally understand what you are saying, and I almost put something about lighting in. But, at the last minute, I decided against it, since I was going for a more atmospheric set of tips, rather than a practical one. I wanted to give tips on how to make one’s space more calming + inspiring, hoping that each person would simply choose the lighting of their preference. Of course, I thought that the lighting could have been mentioned in the comfortable section too. So, I went back + forth with it. 🙂 But, I need good lighting too! My eyes do not do well in the dark! Luckily, we have an extremely bright apartment, so natural light is what I rely on most. And I don’t work so much in the evenings. 🙂
I love the idea of lighting a candle as a reminder that your work is something that you choose to do from your soul. Beautiful!
Hi Meg! It truly is a mood setter for me. Glad the symbolism resonated with you too! xx