Your physical space at work matters. It’s easier to be productive, creative and happy while working in a personal, interesting and playful environment. My workspace definitely has a direct impact on how I work and interact with colleagues and clients – the more inspirational and “me” it is, the better! Think about it—you work better when you’re relaxed, when you feel comfortable. The same is true for clients and colleagues who visit your office. When they feel comfortable, they’re more likely to open up, ask questions, and be themselves, which makes for more meaningful, productive communication.
I’ve got a pretty great space on the Vanderbilt campus with a nice window overlooking Nashville—space for client meetings and a Mac Pro under the desk hooked up to an inherited 30” Apple Cinema display. That display IS ginormous and it comes in handy for client meetings by swinging it around and using it like a projection screen for demos. (Our commencement director asked if I thought about putting it in the window after hours and selling ad space.)
What’s in my digital arsenal? Here are my favorites for:
- development: Coda (love how it does what I need and doesn’t get in the way) and MAMP
- task management: remember the milk (love emailing and tweeting tasks to myself and others)
- version control: Mercurial (I use MacHg for interface; Bitbucket for private/public web repositories—free unlimited accounts to .edu users!)
- email: outlook 2011 for macs (Microsoft almost got it right this time; massive improvement from Entourage, but there are still features missing)
- instant communication: iChat and Office Communicator (I can’t imagine our office without these tools; we are constantly sharing screenshots, links, files, desktop sharing, etc.)
- design: Photoshop and Illustrator
- all around awesomeness: mac spaces (truly changes how you work—being able to have multiple workspaces with applications full screen!)
- testing various browsers in various operating systems: virtualbox
- anything that isn’t an app but should be: Fluid, which creates apps based on websites (e.g. you can make remember the milk, google reader, twitter, etc. into self-contained apps on your dock!)
While I definitely don’t have the office toys market cornered (see Jeff Steven’s article from the last issue for the most unbelievable display of office toys I’ve ever seen), I do have my fair share. There’s just something fun about finger puppets, magic wands and glow-in-the-dark zombies that make each day a little sweeter. My personal favorite: a solar-powered nodding girl that I’ve had for about nine years now (as long as she gets regular sun, she nods at you all day long. It’s great having someone so agreeable around!)
You spend a lot of time in your office. It’s worth spending a little time thinking about how you can make the space work best for you. Most of us don’t have a budget for office renovations, but there are a few things you can try that are free or cheap:
- It might be as simple as rearranging furniture or equipment. Move your desk to face a different direction. In a cubicle? Move your computer to a different location.
- Lighting is the biggest thing for me. I don’t ever use the overhead lights in my office. I picked up some inexpensive sconce lights at Walmart (literally $5 a piece) for my desk and a simple floor lamp. Completely changes the feel of an office. There’s a reason it’s called “mood lighting”!
- Do you frequently have visitors in your office? Where do they sit? Is it conducive to discussion? Showing your screen? Could you rearrange things to make it work better?
- Give your olfactory system a boost: motion-activated/timed air fresheners are a must
- How could you make your office seem less cluttered even with the same amount of “stuff”? Would small accessories help you out—an inbox basket, corkboard, dry erase boards?
- Take everything off your desk. Only put back what you use on a daily basis. Everything else—organize in your desk drawers and shelves.
- Music. Need I say more? (In a cubicle? That’s what headphones are for!) I use last.fm as my personal radio station—it drowns out most of the office chatter, and introduces me to new artists FTW!