This Is Why Having A Nice Work Space Matters

I’ve developed a bit of a nasty habit: I leave piles of things on my desk and I do all my work in my bed.

I don’t think I’ve used a desk for its intended purpose since my early high school days, and as a result, my desk has become a sort of dumping area for all sorts of things. Bills, notebooks, snacks, clothes, everything. Of course, there’s no way this is really conducive to me getting work done, even as a so-called “creative”. Slouching under the covers while I design logos and come up with ad copy is keeping my mind and body in the entirely wrong mindset. I tell myself that I’m supposed to be working, but my body and mind is ready for sleep.

Deep down, I’ve been wishing I actually made use of my desk space for awhile, especially after seeing so many pictures of gorgeous work spaces splashed all over home decor sites, but I haven’t brought myself to get my desk together until today.

I realized I needed to take the plunge as I was lying in bed reading an article about people who work from home. I’m a full time student, but all the time I spend doing homework in my apartment is akin to what it is like to work from home, so I figured the principles would easily apply to myself. Most stay at home workers strongly recommend that you keep a clean (upright) work space so you don’t find yourself getting distracted. Imagine your room as a metaphor for your mind. If your room is a mess, your mind will become equally messy. Your thoughts will get tripped up and trapped between mounds of clutter and piles of paper. It might seem silly to think this way, but if so many stay at home workers agree on this as a universal truth, I figured it can’t be far from reality.

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Of course, being a highly aesthetic person, I believe there is more to the equation than cleanliness. When building a productive work space, you must not only make it neat, presentable, and easy to use, but also inviting. A work space that does not fit your aesthetic tastes will not draw you in. You’ll inevitably retreat back to your bed or wherever you are most comfortable.

You can brighten up an otherwise cold work area by adding warm lighting and pops of color. You can do this fairly cheaply with some fabric and a DIY attitude. A couple of my favorite ways to add pops of color is by adding fabric to boxes or push pin boards. These are items that are used for decluttering and make your work space more efficient, so why not make them an attractive focal point while you’re at it?

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Of course, as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. I knew I needed to walk before I could run. I decided to start overhauling my workspace by cleaning up all my clutter. I’ll tackle the DIY projects next time. Stay tuned.

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Ancient bottles of water were dumped. Nail polishes were returned to their assigned seats. Piles of mail were organized. Loose change made it back into my wallet. I have to say, it was all pretty darn satisfying. But the most powerful part of the process? Sitting down at my desk to work for the first time in years. And honestly, I have to wonder if the reason I had enough time to write a post today was entirely a result of my space change. I found myself flying through my work today at breakneck speed. Maybe it was just a fluke, but I’m certainly not going to find out by climbing back into bed.

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Tips For Waking Up Earlier (Naturally)

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Like most people in their early 20s, I have a roommate. We share a loft apartment with absolutely no privacy, so we know all about one another’s sleep habits. I tend to wake up around 7:30-8:00 am naturally and I usually lie in my bed dreading the moment my alarm clock goes off. My roommate wakes up closer to 6:45 and as soon as she’s conscious, she’s wide awake. While part of me relishes my early morning half-awake, half-asleep phase, a larger part of me is jealous that my roommate has such an easy time waking up and getting started with the day.

It’s hard not to be jealous of natural morning people. Waking up early has a lot of benefits! For example, if you wake up earlier in the morning, you won’t feel as rushed and stressed as you’re getting into the office. Feeling less stressed makes it easier to start the day in an organized fashion that makes you more efficient on the job. You’ll also have more time to complete important morning activities like eating a healthy breakfast so you can make it through the day with energy.

After observing my roommate for the last couple of weeks and doing some research I’ve worked out some of the differences between us and figured out why I wake up groggy and late while she wakes up early and refreshed.

At first I thought that my roommate wakes up earlier than I do because she just doesn’t need as much sleep. In order to investigate, I began tracking the number of hours between my head first hitting the pillow and my first moment of early morning consciousness. She did the same. We found that we actually sleep for about the same length of time, but I wake up feeling more tired, which could suggest that I need more sleep than she does. Of course this is by no means scientific, but I also know that some people sleep naturally longer than others, so it’s best to track your sleep and figure out what your natural sleep time is. Then, base your bedtime and wake-up time around that rather than an arbitrary number of hours. This way, you can set up a natural schedule that results in an earlier wake-up time.

Next I found that you should be wary of your caffeine and nap habits. I’m not a big coffee or soda drinker myself, but cutting down on caffeine (even earlier in the day) can make it easier to keep your natural circadian rhythm. In the same vein, taking a nap after work can throw your sleep schedule off balance and make it harder to fall asleep later in the evening — meaning it will be more difficult to wake up early in the morning. In order to fix this problem, replace caffeine and naps with fruit, water, and exercise. These replacements will give your body a more natural boost that will subside by bedtime (As long as you don’t workout right before bed).

Once you set your body up to start waking up earlier naturally, you can then set up your mind. If you have trouble waking up early, you have to teach yourself that mornings aren’t the enemy. I noticed that I have a bad attitude about mornings whereas my roommate enjoys them, so I figured I needed to change my mindset. I started this process by changing my alarm sound. I used to use a loud beeping noise, but I switched it to a softer, more musical bell chime. I also turned the volume on my alarm clock down. By making my wake-up sound more gentle and calm, I stopped waking up with automatic anxiety towards the alarm clock. When I stopped waking up feeling stressed in general, it was easier to wake up early and calm.

After I established the morning as a less stressful time, I wanted to also give it an element of enjoyment. I found that choosing to do something I enjoy every morning made it a lot easier to wake up early naturally because I had something to look forward to. Since I like writing, I chose to move my journaling time from evening to the early morning and that made me feel more excited to wake up! So, if you have a hobby or activity that you wish you had more time to do, try setting up a time for that activity first thing in the morning, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. This can give your morning the positive spin that it needs to help you wake up early, refreshed, and excited for the day.

One of my favorite things about waking up earlier is that I get two things: 1. More “me” time and 2. More mindful time. When I wake up earlier, not only do I get to write in the morning, but I also get a few minutes to myself in the office to get in the zone without having to listen to cubicle conversation. I also get the chance to enjoy under appreciated things like sunrises and the lovely food smells on the walk to work. Waking up without a rush allows me to enjoy all the little things that I would otherwise miss. I wouldn’t say I’m a 100% early riser just yet, but I’m definitely starting to see how my roommate does it. It turns out this healthy habit is totally achievable.