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The Goal-Getter Guide: Design your workspace for creativity-and-productivity

I have been on a roll lately. Waking up at 5:30 AM to do side projects, meeting deadlines, teaching new workshops, launching new experiments left and right.

My calendar has been looking impossibly suicidal lately (especially these past 2 weeks!), but I’m surprisingly a lot more on top of my game than usual – especially since I’ve made some major life tweaks before the avalanche started.

One of those tweaks is carving out a dedicated work nook in my bedroom. I didn’t do anything major at all (except to buy a simple flat rug) — just worked with what I had.

Before that, when I was at home, I would always be working from my bed. I had a work table, but it was always cluttered with the most random stuff.

Physical spaces are physical manifestations of the state of our mind. Your environment has a large impact on your mood, what you create.

Believe me, after I made simple tweaks to my workspace – my work routine has changed a lot, and my productivity levels are through the roof, my mind is a lot clearer. Even I was surprised at the change.

Now, it feels SO GOOD to have my work desk reflect my own values on creativity-and-productivity.

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Together with stylist Love Ocampo, we worked on this little crash course to help all of you women-in-progress with designing your workspace to be more conducive for creativity and productivity.

Creativity and Productivity Tip #1:
Bring light to your work.

That is, fill your workspace (and yourself) with light. Just like no one likes to go to work with a heavy heart, it’s really difficult to get great work done if you’re working in a corner of gloom.

This has been one of my biggest discoveries – where you place your desk is SO important, before even thinking about what it should look like.

I experimented with three different desk placements in my room, before I found this perfect one next to my big windows, so I get lots of good natural light — but not right in front of it, where I’m sweating bullets and squinting my eyes from the sun.

So start with picking a good spot with ample lighting. For those of you who do not have the luxury of natural light: get yourself a lamp! A small, fun lamp can brighten up a dreary desk – even if it’s in a corporate office! Here, you can see, we used a very unobtrusive, minimal and modern desk lamp.


Creativity and Productivity Tip #2:
Make your vision VISUAL – be clear on where you are going.

I have taught a lot of goal-setting and goal-getting workshops, and one of the key things I emphasize is for people to OWN UP and BE CLEAR to what they REALLY WANT.

A lot of us do busywork without knowing where it is we really want to be headed. Do you want to just move with momentum — or move forward with meaning? 

I like vision boards, but sometimes the task of making the board becomes the task in itself — not making the dream clearer. To me, what’s most important is making your vision visual, whether with a photo or artwork or maybe even a simple handwritten phrase, made big and bold.

It should be a daily reminder to make sure your internal compass is always pointed to your true north.

Don’t make it too cluttered, though: the last thing we want is to make it too distracting! Here we used some different examples: posters by Quote Project, inspiration books from Heima, photobooth strip from Singapore & Korea postcard from Hongdae (if your vision is to travel more!).

Creativity and Productivity Tip #3:
Declutter. It’s a good way to minimize distractions.

I have a penchant for keeping papers “I might need or want to go back to in the future.” And to cut a long story short: I very rarely needed or looked back at them. So THROW THEM AWAY. Better yet, recycle them, or give them to a recycling center/junk shop.

Creatives are usually proud of a messy workspace, and I was for more than a decade, but trust me, you can increase your productivity twofold by keeping your desk spic and span.

I mean, I had so much more room to move my arms — let’s just start with that!

Three words: Properly labeled boxes. To make the task less daunting, start with only three boxes: important personal documents, important work documents, and to-sort. Every end of the week, go through the third box, sort them out to personal, work, or trash.

Creativity and Productivity Tip #4:
Set the tone: Bring the outdoors in.

When I was in NYC last spring, I passed by the building of Ford Foundation and saw their famous tropical-rainforest-inside-a-building. They literally built a tropical rainforest in the center of their building. All glass windows of the offices then faced the lush greeneries (instead of the gray concrete expanse of New York).

Productivity is more of a mindset rather than a skill. So it’s important that your mind is in a great state every time you sit down in your workspace.

Two things that can help: Plants, and nature-scented candles/scents. If your desk is in the office and candles are not an option: there are room sprays available in Heima as well. (I also some basil-scented sprays in True Value.) If anybody knows where I can get an economical sea-breeze scented candle, please let me know!

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Get FREE productivity tips e-mailed to your inbox everyday for 8 days. Each e-mail ends with a simple, easy-to-do action step, to help you create gradual daily changes that stick.

Creativity and Productivity Tip #5:
Always have a notebook with you.

No matter where you are. It doesn’t even matter if you’re in a workspace or not.

Always have a notebook with you to capture your ideas, and most importantly: capture them without judgment. 
Getting into the habit of writing down ideas makes you more aware of getting new ideas, which in turn makes you GET NEW IDEAS more frequently.

Write keywords or full paragraphs or illustrations — whatever form the idea comes, don’t judge if it’s good or bad. (This is why I still love paper over digital when it comes to this: it’s more raw, it’s less censored, I can draw.) Get it all down on paper, preferably in one notebook, not in little scraps of paper which you will DEFINITELY misplace!

And that’s it!

Think of setting up your workspace as setting up your stage. It is, after all, where you ‘perform’ — not in an actor/singer/dancer sense, but where you perform your work nonetheless.
Set your stage right, show up, and give your best performance every day.

…Of course the next challenge is KEEPING it clean and conducive (sometimes banana peels would pile up on MY desk…), but that’s all on you now ;) 

Join my FREE Productivity E-mail Course!

Get FREE productivity tips e-mailed to your inbox everyday for 8 days. Each e-mail ends with a simple, easy-to-do action step, to help you create gradual daily changes that stick.