Last year was awash with calamity after calamity. Even if you weren’t too heavily affected by any of these events, chances are the peripheral stress was enough to put a perpetual tick in your heartbeat.
It was incredibly stressful, is what I’m trying to say here.
So, many of us are approaching the New Year with somewhat more vigour than we usually would, seeing it as a chance to refresh, renew, and begin again in light of a new date on the calendar. You might be the type to make New Year’s resolutions, or you might not, but I’m hazarding a guess that you breathed a sigh of relief as soon as that clock ticked past midnight on the 31st. I sure as hell did.
How does this apply to work? Well, gig workers, 9-to-5ers, freelancers, and creatives alike all have one thing in common: a place where we conquer the daily to-dos. In our collective mission to wash away the stress of 2020 and replace it with brighter things, we can’t miss out on these spaces in which we spend so much time.
If we’re taking the time to renew other aspects of our lives—our relationships, our connection to the world, our outlooks, our mindsets—then it only makes sense to apply this same principle to our workspaces.
In pursuit of a cleaner, brighter, more inspiring workspace, this article will focus on four fundamental principles demonstrated to improve your outlook and productivity. Let’s begin.
First on the list is ‘space.’ When it comes to your workspace, physical and psychological space is crucial in the fight for motivation. These are weapons to wield against the ever-looming threat of burnout, your armour against procrastination, the wind beneath your creative wings.
When I say, ‘physical space,’ I mean how much space you have free on your desk, at your worktable, or wherever it is you do the daily grind. They say geniuses inhabit messy areas, but I believe that a jumble of unhelpful papers only leads to despair. Mess clutters your mind as well as your environment, catching in the corner of your eye every time you begin a new task.
So, it’s essential to clean out your work environment before sitting down to begin the new year. Ask yourself what you need to get through the day well; what offers you something helpful? If something fails the test, remove it.
Consider what kind of person you are. Are you happy to work in an open-plan environment, or do you need the comfort of four walls to draw your focus to the task at hand? Is music helpful or a hindrance? Can you lose yourself in your work, or do you need the motivation of multiple small breaks throughout the day?
There are no wrong answers here. The goal is to figure out how you work best and then create space for these realities.
For example, I’m the kind of person who gets derailed by external distractions easily. However, I work in an open-plan office. At first, this really held me back, but eventually, I discovered that meditation, a walk at lunch, many little breaks, and a set of good headphones were all that I needed to stay on track.
We all need colour.
Now, before I lose you, I don’t mean you need to turn your office space into an explosion of rainbows! I do mean that colour has a significant impact on our mental state and can even help us with our focus, creativity, and motivation.
According to the London Image Institute, different colours can contribute to various aspects of your workplace. Their breakdown of colour psychology is below.
This step can be as simple as asking yourself, “what is your favourite colour?” and integrating that into your workspace. A dyed pillow, a change in post-it notes, even something as simple as changing your desktop wallpaper can have an impact on your mental state when you sit down to work.
There’s a growing (ha) body of research that demonstrates how plants at your desk can improve productivity. According to John Patykowski of the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at Deakin University,
“Good indoor plants can positively affect air quality and reliably reduce [Volatile Organic Compounds] by up to 75% and increase oxygen to carbon dioxide ratios.’
In other words, keeping a plant at your desk will change the air around you, breathing a sense of life into your space where it may have previously been missing. Some suitable plant types for circulating oxygen include crotons, gloxinia, rubber plants, yucca plants, and basil.
You know what? I get that. But don’t worry; even having fake foliage in your workspace can have positive psychological benefits. According to Psychology Today, even looking at a green, leafy plant can ‘help us to destress and restock our stores of mental processing power.’
In fact, having a plant on your desk can also help you tap into a more creative mindset, inspiring you to come at any stubborn tasks from a new angle.
Organisation has been swept into mainstream media over the past few years, taking Instagram and Pinterest by storm. You can’t take a left turn online without seeing someone discussing how Marie Kondo changed their life, and honestly? Good for them. But I’m of the firm belief that having too much to organise at work adds more mental stress rather than taking it away.
My recommendation? Have a planner, a calendar, something you can call your central operating point. This “brain” is where your appointments, your tasks, your meetings, and your ideas should all go. Create a habit in which you go through your central operating point at the end of each day, cataloguing what went well, what you missed, and what needs to happen the next day. That way, you’re not chasing a hundred different Post-It Notes to piece together your to-do list for the following morning.
Also, don’t let YouTube trick you into thinking you need to spend hours making the planner pretty! If that’s something you want to do, then go right ahead, but it’s OK just to put pen to paper. With the assurance that you can find everything you need to accomplish your given tasks in one place, you’ll have the mental clarity to tackle any unexpected twists your day has to offer.
Do you have any thoughts on these tips? What are you doing to renew your workspace after 2020’s calamitous performance? Let us know below.
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