Work the Space

“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.” -Mary Shelley

You may have identified the space where you are most productive and can focus your work time. But what if that space is really messy and disorganized? In that case, what you’ll need to do first and foremost is…

Work the Space!

One of my recurring resolutions is to regularly reorganize the area where I work to maximize productivity, to wrangle the clutter and chaos within that space so I can truly concentrate and create. For me, that means two different spaces: my home office and the film production office at the home of my business partner. For the latter space, we then have the added complication that the very same room for our production office also doubles as his bedroom. So making this an effective and efficient work space has been extra challenging, hence the continuous goal to stay really focused on it.

In order to tackle this, I am utilizing one of my 10 Productivity Tactics to break up this resolution into smaller, actionable steps. I set aside one whole day to start breaking it all down:

1. The first of these was to sort all the clutter in our production office space into individual piles, to get a good condensed look at just how much and what range of clutter I’m dealing with.

2. From there, it was easier to sort out and categorize the clutter based on the function it serves or the action it requires. For example, I ended up with a lot of loose paperwork that needed a better system for sorting & filing. Previously, these papers had ended up just getting left out and scattered about so that it was difficult to know what to do with them and they often got forgotten about.

3. So I created a new space for these papers, which is the next step for each of the categories of clutter. I sorted the papers into filing cabinets, giving the folders new labels according to the purpose or action associated with each group of papers. Now these loose papers have a better home than in piles on the dresser, and will be much easier to find when I need them. But beyond that, I also now have a new easy & accessible means of putting away more loose papers as they come up.

Now if I can impart one piece of wisdom, it would be this: don’t force yourself into a new system of organization that doesn’t feel natural just because others say it’s the best way. You need to develop a system that works with how you already naturally operate, so that as you accumulate more things, it’s not a huge chore to continue putting stuff away.

Personally, I work better when things are categorized and put away out of sight. I hate having too much stuff lying around. If I don’t have a good system for where to put everything away, I will just end up shoving stuff in random drawers – which eventually catches up with me. So what I need is a better way to put things away so that they don’t get lost later on.

However, I also have the out-of-sight, out-of-mind problem – in that once I shove stuff away, I am in danger of completely forgetting about it. So I organized my new paperwork filing system into tall, obvious filing cabinets so I don’t forget where they are. I then created a paperwork tray system on my desk for the important papers that need immediate attention & action, which helps to keep them front of mind.

Then with the less important or urgent items, I found better places to store them where they wouldn’t need to be as visually obvious. For example, I also found that we had a lot of film equipment and props lying around the home office that are quite bulky and take up valuable space. These items also don’t have much frequent use, since we only bring them out when we are ready to film another project.

So for these items, I chose the basement storage space below the apartment. I identified what didn’t need to be out in the open for frequent use and moved it down under there to be stored similarly in bins based on category and function, and keeping the most frequently used items toward the front.

Lastly, I encountered a great many nick knacks and miscellaneous items lying around that either are too small to keep filed or stored, or simply don’t belong to any larger group or have an obvious “home.” For these, I’ve discovered a love for cute containers. By this, I mean small woven baskets, old mugs, unused vases, decorative pencil trays, lids from old boxes (like the one your latest jewelry purchase or new checks came in) – take any old or odd containers you were going to throw away and put them to good use instead.

The box you bought that pack of Christmas cards in makes a good holder for the loose receipts that you’ll need to go through later. An old mason jar is the perfect place to collect loose change. Clean out that tin can you had dinner from last night and put your pencils and pens in it. That fun little box your mother bought you at the flea market can be a great place to toss extra paperclips, tacks, rubber bands and other misc. items on your desk.

You can’t avoid having some amount of small, loose clutter – so having different little containers to put them in keeps them easier to keep track of and more pleasant to look at.

Now that I’ve started getting my work stuff better categorized and put away, I know I’ll be able to quickly locate anything I need at any time, even if it is put away out of sight. And if it’s something urgent that I need to not let myself forget, I know I’ve got it at the front of the pile or in the properly visible place on my desk, so I’ll be sure to see it first thing.

This is the system I’ve discovered I need for my work space. Now you’ve got to figure out what kind of system you need, and what would work best for you, based on your work habits and preferences.

And it doesn’t stop there either. I’ve set up the start of a new and improved system, but it’s always going to take some initial effort to remember to maintain it. As much as I was focused on setting up a system that works well for me particularly, it still requires some small changes of habit and self-discipline to keep it up, if I don’t want to sink back into the mess I ended up with before. So I’m giving myself the rest of the year to get completely comfortable with my newly organized work space, and make sure I don’t muck it up.

Why don’t you do the same? Happy organizing and systematizing!

Questions? Comments? Absurd Ideas? Please comment below and tell me how you can organize your workspace for easier use, or how I can help you figure out the best system for YOU.

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4 thoughts on “Work the Space

  1. Pingback: How To Identify Your Goals « The Chaos Whisperer

  2. Pingback: Work It Out | The Productive Artist

  3. Pingback: Keep the Clutter Clear | The Productive Artist

  4. Pingback: Your Weekly Sanity Hour | The Productive Artist

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