From Dull to Efficient: Struggles of My Office and Me – Guest Post By Catherine Collins
Call it a struggle, and you have my attention.
With the many requests for guest posts I receive, plenty of which are about the office environment, I have become very particular in my choosing. In my opinion, the Internet doesn’t need more of the same articles, but those are often the kind I receive. Though written with the best intention, I am sure, but always with a safe distance from one’s personal life and experiences.
When I asked guest blogger Catherine whether she was willing to walk that extra mile, of adding the personal experience I find to be of most value, she said “yes”. Behold the result, which has been a pleasure to read, and learn from, to me!
For a long time, I felt as if something was missing in my life, or more precisely, like something was missing from within. It’s not that I wasn’t successful per se, but more like I wasn’t reaching my full potential, as if my full actualization was still beyond my reach.
Numerous times have I found myself aimlessly staring at the window, or worse, into a blank wall, thinking about everything, doing nothing, achieving little. My life, my career was a mixture of ups and downs, which I suppose is how one should build their own version of success, but the unyielding fluctuations in my performance always seemed to drag me down more than they have let me ascend towards my goals.
I needed a change. And not the “I’ll do it come Monday” type of change, no, it needed to happen immediately. That morning, almost three years ago now, I became self-aware for what seems like the first time in my life. The final transformation of my workspace would take some time though, so I’m going to lay it out successively as it happened.
Here is how I managed to transform my home office into a hub of productivity, and change my life for good.
First, I had to throw everything out
Well, almost everything. My laptop was in pretty good shape, plus all of my favorite shows were there (I later realized the importance of a separate, work computer) and some of the elements in my office were okay I guess, such as my desk lamp and the folder organizer I’ve been meaning to upgrade for quite some time. But everything else had to go.
Let me tell you, decluttering the accumulated mess in my tiny office space seemed like it would be a walk in the park, yet it was everything but. If I can share a single piece of advice, it’s that you should give away or throw out anything you didn’t use for three or more months, oh, and don’t dwell on it. Just do it.
And so, my “office” was stripped down to its bare essentials. And it looked pathetic.
I hated the color scheme
Suddenly, with all that clutter gone, I started to notice the awful offish eggshell yellow that made up most of the room’s color palette I couldn’t help but wonder at what point in my life had I lost my mind without realizing it? The paintjob had to go, for the sake of my mental well-being.
So I started repainting the room, sanded down the old paintjob, smoothed out the surface, added a coat of primer and a new coat of paint, pretty straightforward. Or at least it was after a bit of help from dear old Mr. Google. The two-day revamp project was concluded with a shiny coat of beautiful aqua blue that still radiates through my office today.
I was finally getting somewhere. And it felt good.
I had to eliminate mental and physical fatigue
Soon after, maybe a couple of days, I had to address the problem of constant fatigue I felt when I got down to work. What baffled my mind was the fact that I was full of energy when I was doing everything else, whether I was watching a movie, working out, taking my dog Edgar out for a walk… but when it came down to maintaining my mental focus for more than two hours, nothing seemed to help.
So, I got to thinking about what was missing in my office, and I soon realized that it wasn’t anything material. It was air. And light. I was missing the fundamentals of what constitutes life and what makes us living, breathing creatures.
This time, I had to call the contractors. Within a week, two completely new windows decorated the wall to the right of my computer, complementing and aiding the existing one in supplying the room with enough light to boost my mental performance.
Moreover, I had to train myself to pop open a window every hour to let new air in, but I immediately felt the change.
I had to embrace technology the best I could
I’m going to get one thing out of the way here, I’m not the best when it comes to tech. You might even say that gadgets of various kinds have lost their will to live just by being around me, let alone in my hands, so I try to use a pen and paper whenever I can.
However, I knew very well that this mindset was impairing my overall performance and that if I wanted to get things done and reach my career goals, I would have to keep up with the times. Without further ado, here is my shamelessly simple list of essential gadgets/software that have helped me immensely over the years:
God given Productivity Owl – dear god, this one was a lifesaver. This is a workflow and productivity program that has helped me cut down my procrastination times and focus on the task at hand. I still use it on a daily basis, although the owl still tends to grind my gears with its short timers.
Amazing Detox Procrastination Blocker – another cool app, but aimed at deterring me from reaching for my phone when working. I just set the timer, the screen locks, and I can concentrate in peace.
Handy Dymo LabelWriter 450 Duo – other than being a mouthful, this one is my favorite gadget of all because I am kind of an organization nut. Or at least, I have become one. This useful thingy saved me a lot of joint problems and has cut down on my labelling and address-writing times significantly. It’s connected to my laptop, so I can just print out everything I need in an instant, from package labels to my own file labels.
Simple NeatDesk Scanner – pretty basic in my opinion, but another lifesaver nonetheless. As a home design assistant, I deal with a lot of mail, contracts, quotes, business cards and what not, and being able to process all of that information into my computer is invaluable to me.
I made sure the place felt like home
Finally, I just added some greenery and flowers to my office along with a few trinkets (I’m a bobblehead doll collector, there, I said it) on the shelves and a couple of inspirational quotes on the walls. This made the office feel less like a place where I was expected to do work, and more like a place where work would happen naturally because of the warm, comfortable, and supportive feeling that permeated the office.
The road to self-actualization was not easy for me, especially because I feel I’ve wasted plenty of time doing the wrong things at the wrong time. But I guess it’s never too late to take that crucial step towards positive change. My office quickly became a hub of positivity and productivity, and I can honestly say that work has been nothing but pure pleasure ever since.
Catherine is a passionate home design consultant from Melbourne. She loves making homes beautiful and buildings sustainable, but she also like sharing her advice and knowledge with people. That is why she is also a regular contributor to the Smoothdecorator blog. Besides all this, she loves reading and enjoys a superhero movie from time to time.
Facebook: Catherine Collins