7 Simple Ways to Create a “Change of Space”

May 25, 2011 | Organization

I have a big book project I’ve been slowly chipping away at for several months now.  Even though it’s something I am really excited about, at points it has been very overwhelming.  I’ve made excuses about interruptions and schedules, but the time has come to finally get it done!  So as I evaluated my two primary work spaces, I realized I needed to make some physical changes to my spaces to encourage and facilitate more productive workflow and energy when I’m in those spaces working on my project. The seemingly small changes I’ve made have already created amazing results. So I want to share what I’ve done that you can also do to create more positive energy and productive workflow in your space.

1.  Clear EVERYTHING off of your desk (including personal photos, trinkets, clutter, etc) and start from scratch. 

  • Replace only the vital office supplies and tools that you use daily.  Evaluate if the places you had them previously are the best for workflow and productivity.  If they aren’t, try a new arrangement for a few days.
  • Evaluate the photos and trinkets and ask yourself if these things INSPIRE you when you look at them.  Or have they become clutter in the landscape that is actually draining your energy and sabotaging your productivity?  A few clutter stats to consider:
    — 80% of the clutter in your home or office is a result of disorganization, not lack of space
    — Getting rid of clutter would eliminate 40% of your housework in an average home  (Imagine what this could do for you at the office!)
  • If you must replace personal photos and effects, be conservative and give yourself a chance to experience the space without them for a week or two before you bring them back out.

2.  Create permanent homes for the paperwork and files that are cluttering your desktop.   Even the most organized among us get behind with filing.  So stop what you’re doing and spend 15-20 minutes filing or creating files for the items that need to be saved.  Toss or shred the items that you no longer need.

I know many of us suffer from perfectionist thinking when it comes to filing: if we can’t perfectly label it the moment we create the file, we put off creating the file.  Let me share two tips:

  • Get a labeling machine for your desktop. These little inventions are the most awesome tools.  You can type in the label and print it on the spot.  Done!
  • Hand written tabs on file folders identifying the contents are better than the clutter created by the piles of paper on your desk waiting to be filed.  Plus you’ll be able to find the information much more quickly when you need it if it has a “home”.  A few more stats:
    — We spend one whole year of our entire lives, just looking for lost items
    — As a whole, Americans spend 9 million hours a day looking for lost items

3.  Add a green plant or floral arrangement to your workspace.  It’s amazing what a difference this simple change can make.  Green plants are not typically that expensive.  If you want to add some color and pizzazz, add a nice pot or planter.  When you see fresh flowers for $5 a bunch, grab one for yourself. Always keep a small vase at the office so you can cut them down and drop them into the vase and freshen up your space for days at a time.  Not only do plants help clean the air in a closed office space, studies have shown that the presence of plants increases productivity and reduces stress. One of the quickest ways to achieve a happier, healthier and more productive work environment is to add plants.  Even a nice silk arrangement can perk things up. 

4. Reorganize your desk drawers and file drawers.

  • Do you have a “junk” drawer at your desk?  Empty it completely out.  Only replace the items you use daily.  Leave the other items in a box near your desk for a week until you determine if you truly need them or not.  Then pitch or donate the rest.
  • Are the files you use the most in the drawers closest to your desk?  If not, think about what you can rearrange to bring them closer to you.
  • Is it time to shred and toss some of the old stuff that you don’t need to permanently clear some space while you’re at it?  This exercise is very therapeutic!

5.  Rearrange the furniture (if you can).  This may not be practical for some office spaces, but if it is, give it a try.  Sometimes moving a small file cabinet, a floor plant, a side chair, or other small pieces near your work space can create different traffic patterns for people walking through your area and potentially reduce distractions and provide better workflow for you as you work there.  Be willing to ask for what you need if there is something you know will make you more productive.

6.  Add more light.  I never used to be a fan of desk lights, but now I can’t do without them. I’m one of the few around who actually loves fluorescent lighting.  I love light. The brighter and whiter it is, the better for me – when I’m working anyway.  But the soft, warm light of a desk lamp can cast a very welcoming glow in your work area that you may find as uplifting as I do. If I have to spend 8-10 hours a day at my desk, then I want it to be a warm and welcoming place for me to be while achieving maximum productivity. Keep in mind, bluer lights increase productivity and alertness while yellower lights promote relaxation.

7.  Go shopping! You heard me right. Pull out the office supply catalog or walk up and down the office supply aisles at your favorite retailer. You will more than likely identify some areas where you need some tools to help you complete your reworked space for maximum efficiency.  My recent shopping trip yielded an additional trash can, a desktop sorter with drawers, and a laptop stand. It wasn’t excessive, but they are the exact tools I needed to finish off my “change of space”.

By making a few small, relatively low cost changes to my work environment, I now find myself overwhelmingly energized and excited to work on my book project again.  Time seems to fly when I’m in my newly re-ordered space.  My project doesn’t seem so overwhelming.  These easy changes were just what I needed to get back on my feet and charging toward the finish line again.  So what can you do to create a real “change of space” to inspire new energy and enthusiasm in your work area?

Share your tips and ideas by commenting here on our blog!

© 2011 Julie Perrine International, LLC


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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.

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