The average American spends 38.7 hours working each week. That translates into roughly one-third of your life. So I ask you, “Why wouldn’t you want to make your workspace the most productive, creative, relaxing, and focused space that is specifically customized to your needs?” The answer is obvious, so the next question is – “How?”
How do you create the ultimate workspace?
Let me back up a little bit, recently I moved to a different house and in the many preparations for the move, it occurred to me that I would be starting with a blank space in the garage, and I would need to set up a work area. Just to be clear, my profession is library work, but I’m a hobbyist woodworker and spend a lot of time in the garage working on all sorts of household projects. This rare opportunity to create something specific to my needs birthed the idea of making myself the ultimate workspace I had always wanted: an organized, efficient and enjoyable place to work.
I always felt like I wasted too much time looking for the right tool or making space for the next project. Of course, no one could tell me what to do to make MY workbench work for ME, but I did find in my research a series of questions to ask that will help you create a workspace that better meets your needs. And the great news is that these questions can help you no matter what type of space you have or the work you do!
Whether your workspace is an office cubicle, a garage or your car, these questions can help you to make smart choices.
What is the primary purpose of my workspace?
This answer might seem obvious, but you should get specific here. Identify the main activities you'll be doing in your workspace, whether it's focused, or creative, or a combination of many different tasks. Keep reminding yourself of what you are trying to improve upon and keep asking yourself what changes will get you closer to that goal. For my garage workspace, I wanted it to be organized, efficient and a joy to be in so I spent some time figuring out what tools I used most, and created a space for them that was easily accessible.
What lighting is best for my tasks?
You might not have too many options depending on your situation but get creative. Maybe it means reorganizing furniture to get closer to a window or getting a better lamp, but don’t underestimate the importance of the proper lighting for your workspace. Natural light is ideal, but if that's not possible, invest in good-quality artificial lighting to reduce eye strain. Since my garage didn’t have windows, I found an inexpensive hanging shop light. It was easy to install, and it provides lots of light, which is a great idea when you are working with sharp metal, spinning tools!
What tools and/or equipment do I need in my workspace?
My father always said, “A good craftsman never blames his tools,” but what he didn’t mention was that most craftsmen (or professionals) usually have the best tools. Take a look at what you are doing in your space and if you find yourself cursing that crummy stapler 50 times a day because it won’t work right, maybe it’s time for an upgrade. Now apply this logic to everything you touch or use. Make a list of the tools and equipment essential for your work. This may include computer equipment, or any specialized tools required for your tasks. Obviously, you can spread out the upgrades as your finances allow. Here’s an extra “Pro” tip – Get rid of the things you replace if possible, so they don’t cause any clutter.
What are my ergonomic needs?
Ergonomics refers to the design and arrangement of the things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely. This might seem like a small area to improve, but there have been a tremendous number of studies done on the subject and the results all demonstrate that an ergonomic workspace can substantially increase productivity. Take some time to evaluate the ergonomics of your workspace. Your goal is to promote comfort and reduce the risk of strain or injury. This includes chair height, desk height, and monitor placement. Or, in my case, workbench height. I won’t go into details here, but based on my standing height, there is an ideal height for my workbench. Since I was building from scratch, I took the time to figure this out and – Wow, what a game changer for my comfort and work ability.
Is my workspace easily adaptable?
Expect changes in your future work routine or tasks and design your workspace to be flexible and adaptable. This might involve movable furniture or modular storage. But for me, it meant leaving a big space in the middle of my tool wall. I don’t know what I should put there, but I’m confident that it will be filled as “nature abhors a vacuum,” at least according to Aristotle. I also put these tool bags that hold some smaller tools on sticks. This utilized the vertical space that would normally be out of reach without a ladder. They are now easy to reach, and I can change what tools I put in them when needed.
How can I personalize my space?
Knickknacks, vacation pictures, or cat clocks – this is the chance to bring a little serenity and calm into your workspace. Add some elements that reflect your personality and inspire your creativity. These things will make your workspace feel more comfortable and inviting. I have two small items on my bench that serve this purpose (pictured below). The aluminum cone is a tool to balance a lawnmower blade when you are sharpening it, and the other is “Bitin’ Bullets.” Both things were on my dad’s workbench growing up and he would give them to me to play when I was little to keep my hands occupied and away from the sharp metal, spinning things. And while I’ve never sharpened a lawn mower blade or bit those bullets specifically, they make me smile when I see them and remind me that I should enjoy the time I spend in my “Ultimate Workspace.”
I hope you enjoy the process of upgrading your space as much as I have. I thought I would leave you with some great quotes I found about the places where we work.
"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." - Leonardo da Vinci
"Your desk is a statement of your work style, your habits, and even your work priorities." - Forbes
"The way we design our workspace can have a huge impact on the way we work and think." - Nilofer Merchant
"The more you can get people to take responsibility for their workspace, the more effective you'll be in accomplishing your goals." - Barbara Hemphill
"Your office should be a place where you feel comfortable and productive. It's your space - make it work for you." - Unattributed