Workspaces. It’s something that most of us don’t spend a lot of effort thinking about. After all, how many truly enjoy the very idea of work? If given the chance, we would rather kick back, relax and lie down on some beach chairs and watch the sunset. And even for those who do love work, they too don’t think much about their workspaces. They are there to work and be productive. Thinking about their workspaces is an unnecessary waste of their energy and doesn’t contribute to anything at all.
And that’s where I believe they are wrong.
Our workspaces are no different from the rooms or building we spend our time in.
Let’s take a well-designed office building located somewhere in downtown for example. Imagine for a moment how do you feel when you see it for the first time in your life? Then you stepped in and chances are the first thing you see will be the lobby. Now imagine it to feature a soothing lighting, has a clean overall look (probably minimalistic), and has some kind of music playing from the overhead speakers. How would you feel?
So if you agree that you feel great about seeing a nicely designed building with good looking yet soothing interiors, then I suspect you have the intelligence to understand why it’s important to think about your workspaces. Especially since most of us would spend hours after hours working on it.
The human brain is irrational. At its core, the limbic system and reptilian complex drives most of its actions. Ever notice why you feel disgusted after seeing certain things or simply don’t like something but can’t provide a reasonable explanation? That’s because before the neomammalian complex realised what’s going on, the rest of the brain has already made up its mind about that one thing you have seen, heard or experienced. The decision made then was the result of subjecting the input data collected by your senses through a series of filters that created your personalities, your tastes, likes and dislikes, etc.
Just as how nicely designed objects make you feel, a tidy and spacious workspace can ultimately contribute to this subconscious decision about whether you enjoy working there or not.
For me, I love a good stable wooden desk. Although glass table look cool and modern, it gives me this feeling that it’s not as stable. If it’s normal glass, it could just crack and shatter when there’s a major impact, causing potential injury. And could explode in my face any time if it’s tempered glass.
Other than a good stable desk, the desk has to be at least 1.20 meters wide for me to put my computer on it. Any smaller than 1.20 meters, it actually feel claustrophobic. Just imagine a desktop computer with monitor, keyboard and mouse sitting on such a small desk and you have to spend hours working at it. Doesn’t it feel like you are being squeezed? And you can’t seem to put anything else important on the desk? In my case, I could never focus because of this subconscious pressure. That’s one reason why I switched to using a laptop as a desktop replacement at home. It’s smaller and can give me more desk space.
Last but not least, the state of the desk matters. If the desk is messy, it can actually give you this feeling or impression of being lost and unsure what you want to do next. It can also lead to issue finding where you have placed a certain document you need for certain task. And mess can actually cause undue amount of stress even if you don’t realise it. Mess is actually no different from chaos. Chaos is detrimental to the mind since it’s unfamiliar and lack a certain kind of stability or security.
If there’s anything to understand about the mind is that it craves familiarity and stability. That’s why it, ultimately us as human, is so resistant to change.
That’s why decluttering is a big thing in minimalism and that minimalism has help people live a more meaningful and content life. The decluttering process is all about clearing out the mess and being very intentional about the role of each object you do keep on your desk and how they fit in your life, be it professional or personal.
Once your workspace is tidy, believe it or not, the mind actually will finds itself going into a neutral, possibly calm, state. Before you know it, you are off into the zone, doing highly productive work instead of procrastinating and feeling stress even when the work is so simple.
So if you find yourself feeling stress, can’t seem to do anything productive when you are at your workspace for no reason or just hate being there, maybe it’s time to evaluate how does it make you feel. If it’s not a good feeling, then maybe you need to ask yourself what you could do to improve it. If you need to clear out the desk and leave only your work computer on it, do it.
P.S. It’s probably why these past few days, I’m still evaluating, designing and thinking about my desk setup at home. I needed it to be even better, more conducive for me to do my writings.