Friday, January 15, 2016

Creating A Blended Office Space For A Productive 2016


As a way to kick-start 2016 on a fresh slate, I spent the past week cleaning my home office and rearranging the furniture to create a comfortable work environment.

View of my office from the door

I'm very pleased with the result - it has the tools I need to brainstorm, write and track projects. It also provides me with the space to organise my life and hobby projects.


I'm one of those people who are curious about where my favourite creatives work: do their spaces affect their output, or can they do what they do anywhere? What do they need to have at hand to be able to get into flow?

I've written  and continue to do so in a variety of places - at my home office in Johannesburg and here in Phokeng, news conferences and events with a laptop on my lap or table back when I worked as a journalist fulltime, in numerous corporate reception rooms while waiting for my appointment, in coffee shops, restaurants and airports. There was even a job where I loved writing in an underground parking garage. The  security people were kind enough to put a metal garden table and chair there and it was very quiet and peaceful when I needed my fingers to fly.

Anyway, without knocking any of those spaces, I have to say I love the current version of my home office best. I also enjoy the outdoor space I periodically move to when it's too hot in the house (we've been getting up to 43 degrees Celsius/ 104 degrees Fahrenheit this summer and the fan dries my skin).  So here are my reasons I love my current space:


1. It's a room with a door and well away from the traffic of daily life in my house

This means I can keep the door open while I work, if I don't mind the sounds and interruptions, or I can close the door if I need to focus or don't want to be interrupted or just feel like cocooning in the room to work.

2. It has plenty of cupboard space

It's a former bedroom, so double-wardrobe serves very well as a storage area for my research and project material.

My best storage solution for documents
It also has a great hanging file cabinet which I got from OLX for a song. The cabinet is a treasure: I can file business and client papers in there, of course, as well as character and setting profiles and whatever information is relevant for my projects.

3. A table to write by hand

Some story drafts start out by hand. I find that the words flow quickly then. It's a great way to silence the internal editor: I know I can't physically delete anything, so I have to run with the idea at hand and wait improve things later when I write the second draft into the computer.
A table to sit, write by hand, edit, brainstorm ideas

The table is also necessary for reading documents (on my laptop) and print copies of manuscripts  when I edit. I'm still old-fashioned like that, needing to look at the paper version and write on it with a red pen and colourful markers.

4. Boards to de-clutter the poor brain

Sometimes there is too much clutter in my head; too many ideas for stories and articles, gardening and craft projects I want to work on, admin work I need to do, stuff I need to say or do for family, grocery lists - it's just too much stuff to remember.  At first a plain notebook seemed to work, but looking for the information when I needed it was time-consuming. Or I would forget the task because there is no reminder coming from my notebook. And ja, in case you missed it, sometimes I'm like a cat chasing its tail. The boards help - if it's written down somewhere, I can focus on the task at hand and not have to worry about it.

The board  is for handy for unsorted info
So, I cut square pieces of paper from old documents  and dump all the stuff happening in my head on them.   There is no particular order to the info dump. Just one idea per piece of paper. Then I stick the paper to the board (I have two). I then set aside time to sort through the information to decide:
a) What fits in with my immediate project goals and has firm deadlines goes into Google Diary and on the chalkboard wall to give me reminders
b) Story information goes into appropriate story files, to be dealt with when I write that story, article, web copy etc
c) Hobby and life information (e.g gardening, volunteering projects, groceries) go into appropriate files and the lifestyle diary
d) Long-term stuff that needs to happen but I have no idea how to do it/don't have the resources stays on the board.

5. It has plenty of seating

My main chair - the navy one - is very comfy, but I also have a sofa for when I'm reading or a family member needs to chat about something. Usually they just stand, but if it's a long conversation it's nice to be able to offer them seating.
A comfortable chair is crucial when you spend hours sitting down

There is also a very nice footstool (see maroon space near the grey board at the corner, with a black/yellow/red laptop bag on top of it). Sometimes I put it under my table as I type; sometimes I climb on it to write on the chalkboard.

The mat is mostly for the cats, which lie down on it during the day while I work.

6. My main writing area

My PC box has outlived 3 brand new laptops. I bought it in 2010. Refurbished. 
It's arranged for my comfort : the PC and printer for work, my hard copy lifestyle diary (an annual Christmas gift from my younger sister), pieces of paper and pens to scribble ideas, chalk to write on the board, an old notebook or two from my old files before I began to use the small papers, space for my mug and water, really good speakers for music and videos. We have WiFi, but I also have a wireless modem for redundancy and when I travel.

The chalkboard area, which covers most of the wall I face when at my desk, is handy for outlining a story/project, so I can just look up from my seat and get an idea of what I need to do next.

7. More storage area for craft projects

This is where I store my craft  materials. Usually, when I need a break from work, I just grab the basket, sit on the sofa and sew, knit or crochet. It's very relaxing. Weather permitting though, I also spend time outside in the garden when I take breaks.



Basically, I'd say the office space is not fancy and except for the electronics, nothing in the office came new. Most items are gifts from family and friend or I scored them cheap online or from a secondhand store. Still, I love this space. It's not only a good tool that allows me to blend various aspects of my creative self, but a space that I look forward to coming to.

P.S. My nephew, who also works from home, has an office down the passage aka he's within harassing  shouting distance when I need to bounce some ideas.

And when it's too hot stay indoors?

This is the back stoep I escape to. There are big trees nearby and a cooling breeze that makes exremely hot days bearable. The stoep is also hidden away from the main entrances, so people find me here because they want to, not because they were passing through.


The colourful mat on the floor was crocheted with strings of plastic cut from used supermarket bags


Anyhoo, that's my space. The post was mostly inspired by WeWork, a co-working office space. Also please feel free to share about your own creative space in the comments below.

1 comment:

jemglendinning said...

I am trying to turn my home workspace into a comportable inspiring place to be/work. It always seems to get put aside. Thanks for the inspiration.

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