Setting up a productive work space
Published: January 15, 2010
|When I first began writing, I imagined myself scribbling away at a coffee shop, creating characters inspired by customers and settings sparked by the shop's glowing yellow lamps. But I found the chairs at the local cafe uncomfortable, the light dim, and the hiss of the cappuccino machine a major distraction.|
Writing can be a versatile, portable job, but finding a comfortable, practical and productive place to work is as important as finding the right words.
"Most home offices are in bedrooms," says Paul Edwards, self-employment expert and author or co-author of 14 books, including Working From Home. "Bedrooms work fine, as long as it's not the room you sleep in, too. If it is, you'll find it difficult to get away from work, even when you're sick in bed with the flu." His key variables in setting up your work area are: space organization, accessibility to resources and personal style.
Here are some other tips:
Work the room Sure, you can write under your back stairs or in your back yard, but how productive are you in that workspace? Robin Blakely, writer and president of Livingston Communications, organizes her writing space into designated work areas. "My office has mini-stations that are designed to help me complete a specific writing-related task quickly," she says. "The stations include the mailing station, the fax station, the bookkeeping station, etc." If you must work in super-tight quarters, then make the most of your wall space. For hot jobs, Blakely uses hanging clipboards. "The clipboards hang in rows on one wall. They are visually available for me to look at from my desk," she says. Keep piles of papers and periodicals off the floor by adding shelves or converting a closet into a giant filing cabinet. Install hooks for holding your jacket and hang framed pictures on the wall to free up desk space. "Find a place for everything," Edwards says.
Design easy access Can you find reference material quickly or pull out an editor's phone number lickety-split? Easy access limits distractions. "I use a roll-top desk that contains absolutely everything I need, and I keep a firm 'hands-off' rule so the kids don't stick their paws in my business," says freelancer Laura Velicer. "Unless I have things at arm's length, I'm afraid I won't get the work done. So my computer, printer, phone, fax, pencil sharpener and candy dish are all clustered right next to each other."
Create comfort Make your workspace a comfortable place to be by painting the walls, treating yourself to fresh flowers or adding bamboo blinds. If you need to shut out the world to eliminate distractions, add a white-noise machine or opaque shades. "Create the space that works for you, not for someone else," says author and speaker Leslie Levine, who em-phasizes the impact of physical comforts on productivity. "Some people can work with clean and clear walls. I need quotes, artwork by my kids, special notes from my husband," she says. "Lighting is key, and temperature is also essential."
Keep experimenting Attaining a space that's right for you may take several at-tempts, and change along with your writing projects. My past workspaces included a nightstand, a pantry and a basement corner, before I settled down in an oversized dressing room. Regularly taking time out to rearrange your writing space is much better than losing valuable writing time.
Sharon Miller Cindrich A freelancer in Wauwatosa, Wis., Sharon Miller Cindrich writes often for Milwaukee Home and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.