By Matthew Encina, Source: Medium.com
My home office was a mess. Boxes everywhere. Bunches of tangled wires and old devices. And tons of papers and files crammed in every free space. This was the state of my workspace, and I didn’t want to do any work in there. I was feeling unproductive at home because I felt like I didn’t have a place that promoted deep focus. So late last year I decided to overhaul and redesign the space.
I’m a designer and content creator, so I wanted to optimize the space for my creative needs. My overall goal was to have a home office that is clean and minimal in design. I tried to make it as comfortable as possible so that I can focus for long periods. And I wanted to develop a system that gave me better access to my gear.
Here are the steps I took to turn my mess into a space for ultimate focus and productivity.
1. Get rid of everything you don’t need or aren’t using anymore.
When I first started this project, I realized I had more stuff than I had space. I know I’d been hoarding a lot of old things from the past: legacy computers, old devices, and books I didn’t use anymore. Amidst the mess, I had stuff I was still using. I needed a systematic approach to sorting through my stuff.
I took inspiration from the minimalist movement, and took a hard look at every object in the room and asked myself:
“Does this object bring me joy?”
“Do I use this often?”
“Have I used this in the last year?”
“Is this important to keep?”
If it wasn’t an emphatic “yes” to any of those questions, then I sent them to donation or the trash. In the past, I’ve always held onto things because I thought “I might use it later.” If I held onto that belief I would’ve kept everything. But if I didn’t use it in recent history, I just got rid of it. I’d rather have the extra space free now, even if it means having to buy that item again in the future. I ended up getting rid of a third of the stuff in my office.
2. Organize everything based on how often you use it.
Because I switch tasks between shooting, designing, and writing — I needed a good way to organize my gear. I wanted my most used items to be within arms reach, so I arranged everything based off of that.
I bought a modular pegboard system to organize loose cables and accessories that I needed access to often. This included writing materials, headphones, adapters, camera batteries, and cards.
Over my desk I installed a shelf, to make use of the vertical space in my room. This is where I stored secondary gear, when not in use– my backup camera, lights, and microphone.
Across the room, I used an Ikea shelf to organize my books and attractively display my collectibles. For the things I rarely accessed, I tucked them away in clearly labeled boxes, in the closet, and on shelves further away from my desk.
Now I had a defined spot for all of my things. It became effortless to access frequently used gear. Speeding up my overall process, because I spent less time looking for stuff.
3. Manage those wires.
I don’t know about you, but seeing a bunch of dangling, tangled wires is so distracting. It’s also a massive headache if you ever need to unplug something to move it elsewhere. To keep my space looking clean, I decided to hide my wires from sight. I also organized them in a way that made sense based off of use. I’ll explain below.
I used some cable ties and adhesive hooks to route and manage all of my cables. I bunched related wires together and utilized multiple power strips to make access easy.
For the things that would rarely be unplugged– like my monitor, lamp, and PC — I tucked a power strip on the floor behind my desk. Then I bunched and routed those cables behind my desk.
For things I’d need to unplug often, I installed another power strip on the side of my desk, using simple adhesive strips. This gave me available power while still keeping the wires visually hidden.
I use a laptop and connect it to a large monitor when I’m at home. To hold the loose dongles and chargers for it, I used a weighted cable organizer to keep them at the edge of my desk, and readily available.
By making sense of all of my cables, I no longer found my self fishing for plugs or frustrated trying to detangle wires. I can pack up or set up in seconds.
4. Get comfy.
To work comfortably and stay focused for many hours at a time. I invested in a few things: A good chair, a footrest, and a monitor stand.
The chair was probably my most important purchase since I spend a lot of my time in it at home. I had been using a beat-up Ikea chair for the past decade and found myself sitting in it (or on it) in weird ways. I was way overdue for an upgrade.
I was told: good chairs aren’t cheap. They were right. With the sticker shock out of the way, I was ready to spend up to two grand if it meant I’d be floating on a cloud, doing my best work.
I was looking for the right balance of comfort and a minimal style. After much deliberation, I opted to get the Herman Miller Lino chair. Which was incredibly comfortable, and surprisingly not that expensive. It’s adjustable in all the right places and comes in some nice material finishes.
To re-enforce good posture, I bought a wooden monitor stand to keep my eye-line looking up and straight. I also got an angled footrest to help me sit back in my chair.
Don’t underestimate the effect of comfort relative to productivity. When you don’t have to think about it, you stay focused and can work uninterrupted for long periods of time.
5. Don’t make your space boring.
While I enjoy minimal design and open space, I wanted to make sure my office still some character to it. A space that was embellished for me, and provided a little inspiration whenever I looked around.
I follow a lot of artists on Instagram, and whenever I can I purchase their work. So I had my favorite ones framed to add some visual interest to my space.
I also have a small collection of toys and pins from conventions and events. I like to keep these here to remind myself not to grow up too quickly, and to add some color to space.
All of these quirky bits of my personality made my space feel cozier and made me feel at home. It’s a constant reminder of who I am and provides a layer of joy when I’m in my office.
Those are the five things that have radically transformed my workspace.
What I’ve noticed is that all the little things add up. Having everything when you need it, avoiding the frustration of looking for things and being comfortable in your surroundings. These have a compound effect. After working in my space for a few weeks now, I have seen a significant jump in my productivity and focus.
Yes, it does get a little cluttered from time to time, but because I’ve developed a better standard and system to keep things organized, I find it fairly easy to maintain.
This was a big project for me and took about two months on the weekends for me to complete. I didn’t know half of the things I know now about designing a good workspace. If you have a question about anything, leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to answer it. If you’ve enjoyed this article, leave me a like so I know who’s reading and what kind of content you enjoy.