Build a Productive Workstation

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Sleek, Modern Workspace

We’d all like to have a sprawling home office like this. Unfortunately not everybody has the finances or the space to pull off that kind of setup, and many of us have to make do with a desk in the corner. So how do you make the best use of the space that you’ve got?

Make Your Workstation Just for Work.

You’ve probably heard this one before. After all, anybody who works from home is familiar with the perils of procrastination. When your home is your office you can do your work whenever, right? Plus, you need to go to the store and pick up some more dryer sheets, and your car needs its oil changed…you see where I’m going. And while all this stuff is important, it’s equally important to make sure that your work day is on a serious schedule, which means making your workstation all about your job.

Unfortunately that isn’t quite as easy as it sounds. You still have to contend with the everyday needs of your house, and the to-do list of your ordinary life. So I would have to say the absolute best thing you can buy for your workspace is a simple calendar. I prefer a weekly dry-erase calendar myself, mostly because monthly calendars don’t leave you with much room to organize your day. The Board Dudes have lots of great stuff, and this one is my preference for a simple weekly layout. You should also make a run to Office Depot and check out anything else they’ve got as far as calendars and personal organizers go. Don’t be afraid to deck out your desk in the name of staying on task.

Try this: write down the time every day that you want to start working, and as soon as you sit down at your desk, make that your clock-in time. Get ready for the day just like you would to go to a regular job, fix yourself some coffee, and get in the mindset to get stuff done from the moment you pull up your chair.

Make Room for the Tools of the Trade.

It’s the song of the self-employed designer. What to do with my art supplies? Do you simply keep them in a box under your desk, never to see the light of day? Do you put up with them constantly cluttering up your desk and getting in your way? Nay, says this designer. I found a great solution for this problem at the Container Store, which incidentally you should also make a trip to for your office organization needs.

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Behold the Polytherm Grid System. It’s original intent is for use in the kitchen, but it’s also ideal for organizing your everyday art and drafting supplies while keeping them within easy reach. There are several grid sizes to choose from, and you can buy additional shelves, bins, cups and hooks to place on the grid and give you virtually unlimited places to store your stuff. Installation is quick (just a few drywall screws), and I got mine in place in just a few minutes. It’s also pretty cheap, so you really can’t go wrong. Voilà! Never let your art supplies hide under your desk again.

If you don’t have quite enough wall space at your desk, then at least get yourself some stacking bins or small shelves to put on your desk (again, the Container Store can hook you up), so that you can have all your supplies in view. For me, I find that it’s best to put the actual everyday supplies as close as possible, and keep files, client information, and anything else paper related under my desk in a filing system.

Keep it Simple.

I always have a problem with keeping unnecessary clutter off of my desk. This goes back to making your workstation just for work, and the solution is largely up to you. Decide what’s really necessary and what you’ll use on a daily basis, and try to move everything else onto a shelf or under your desk. For example: on my desktop I keep one stand-up filing drawer containing client business cards, a notebook, and small stocks of various papers that get everyday use. Everything else that’s paperbound goes in a filing cabinet under my desk for when I need it.

Everybody Needs inspiration.

I also find that it’s important to at least make a little bit of room for something that inspires you to stay busy. Whether that’s a poster of some kind, or just a small collectible from your favorite movie/TV show, it’s good to keep a personal touch to your workstation. My personal centerpiece is a map of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, which I’ve had since I was ten. I’m also fortunate to have a large cabinet above my desk, where I keep all my favorite art/design related books so I have inspiration within easy reach.

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It’s not much, but it’s a start, and it makes for a great home office. As long as everything is in a place that makes sense to you, and your workstation actively contributes to keeping you on task, then you really can’t go wrong.

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