Move your desk, change your life

A jedi mind-hack for the work-at-home professional

Where your desk is located in your home office, what it faces, what sits behind you as you create, where your office is located: All of these things affect your creative work.

I have moved my desk three times after becoming a work-at-home creative professional. The first time, I had just met feng shui and wellness designer Cheryl Janis, who chose the colors for our family’s business. I’m one of Cheryl’s biggest fans. I will follow her wherever she goes and whatever she does.

Cheryl and I chatted a bit about my goals for my home office. At the time, my biggest concern was that I wasn’t landing enough assignments and didn’t feel like I was being taken seriously by my existing clients.

After sharing stories, we immediately identified a problem in the spatial arrangement of my workspace. My desk was facing a wall, with my back to the door and the window. Because my office is in the home, and also happens to be the first room you see when you enter our house, I had come to this arrangement after a weeks-long conversation with my husband. The setup looked like this:

OFFICE #1

So, this is the office of someone who is banging their head against the wall with their work. Some writers work that way. I’ve heard writing described that way — you just bang your head against the wall until it bleeds. But that isn’t my process at all. I RACE to my desk in the morning. I have zero problems with procrastination, and I actually like the writing process. So this arrangement wasn’t working for me.

Have you ever seen a CEO’s desk, in real life or in the movies, that faced the wall? No, the worker drones face that way, either into an officer wall or the wall of a the cubicle. The CEO faces the middle of the room, or, ideally, the door.

It’s a fight or flight thing. Psychologically speaking, you need to be able to see what’s coming at you, physically and metaphorically, so your desk should, at the very least, face the door.

But as CEO of your own creative practice, you need to sit in the CEO position.

The next arrangement we came up with was this one:

OFFICE #2

You’ll see the biggest change I made was the placement of the desk. Pulling the desk away from the wall and arranging it to face the center of the room did absolute wonders for my creative practice. Here are the big changes:

  • It allowed me to place a wall of my own successes and accomplishments on the wall BEHIND me
  • It forced me to “face the world” with my work
  • It established me as the CEO of my own business, as opposed to a worker drone in somebody else’s empire

I liked it. Also, feng shui works. Within a day, I had a $1,000 assignment writing about my own town for a magazine I deeply admire.

Does feng shui always work like this? Can I expect money to just fly at me when I move my furniture?

Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?

I’m not sure how it works. I’m learning by doing. But the longer I live, the more I believe in the power of spaces to create the interaction happening within them.

Isn’t it worth trying, if only to get a change of perspective?

By the way, I’ve been experimenting with feng shui design principles for a couple of years now, and I count this moment as my first trip down the feng shui rabbit hole.

Here are a few books that have helped me along the way:

So, I kept my space like this for about three years, much to the chagrin of my dear family. I say that because there are always unintended consequences of changing spatial arrangements in your home. For me, changing the placement of my desk had one profound change that altered my family life in an unanticipated way.

NOW WHEN I ENTERED MY HOME ALL I SAW WAS MY DESK.

This was a problem. I already am a person who has had to create many jedi mind hacks for the work-at-home lifestyle. Now I had an even bigger problem than professional obscurity. My work life was dangerously close to eclipsing my home life.

My family is my #1 priority. But whenever anyone entered my home, that wasn’t clear to them. It wasn’t clear to my husband, to my kids, to the visitors who come in through the foyer and have to pass my office. And it certainly wasn’t clear to me. So just this past spring, I decided to try something different. I moved my desk again. Not to the place Cheryl and I agreed upon, but to the other corner.

No one was on board with this move. We had to completely rearranged the many cords connecting my desk to the Internet and outlets. My dear husband, who understands my need for these kinds of tweaks, didn’t want to go through this process again. But I persisted. It was important to me to try it out to see if I could realign my priorities.

OFFICE #3

So here’s what we came up with.

I am a couple months into this new setup and I completely love it. I am finding it much easier to fall into the work and out of it when it is time. I now have a gorgeous little sitting area, with a wall of inspiration above it, and you see THOSE things when you walk in the house. Also, because movement always has unintended consequences, moving my printing station to the front of the room, which is periolously close to my front door, has upped my productive output. I am up to about 5,000 word a day. That’s gangbusters for me. We’ll see if I am able to keep it up, but for now, I’m content knowing that this arrangement works for where I am right now.

So that’s the takeaway for you. Move your desk / change your life. At the very least, switching thing up can get a new perspective on your creative process.

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