Reduce overwhelm at work with a calm office space

Today's hyper-connected way of life is a balancing act that seems to be touching down heavily on the side of overwhelm. We're in an age of information overload and non-stop "productivity", and too often we don't balance that out with down time to relax, recharge, and fully connect with nature and with the people and the world around us. Work is frequently a major contributor to our feeling of overwhelm, and let's face it, we spend a large part of our lives at work, on the way to and from work, and even responding to work issues on non-work time, which The Atlantic says in non-existent. The article on "hyperemployment"  says that our continued connected work lifestyle takes "an emotional toll (that includes a) sense of inundation, of being trounced by demands whose completion yields only their continuance, and a feeling of resignation that any other scenario is likely or even possible."

While we may not be able to change the new world around us, we can change our thoughts, behaviours and actions to create better balance in our lives.

reduce overwhelm at work with a calm office space

One of the changes that can decrease the amount of overwhelm we feel is finding ways to simplify our workspace and the environments in which we work. Simplifying our spaces will lead to better time management and a state of being more present and mindful. Admittedly, simplification can feel like an overwhelming task within itself. But the payoff will be the peace and vitalization we need to be not only be happier and less stressed, but also to be even more productive. Work smarter, not harder, right?  

Here are the steps you can take to simplify your workspace and stress less. 

1. Clear off the top of your desk.

Pile everything that was on your desk onto the floor, and then one by one, process the pile so that it's all put into its own place or gets completed and discarded. Keep one basket for papers or notes that you need to get to at a designated later time. Designated, meaning mark it into your calendar when you will complete it, and then promptly remove it from your basket. I'm a big fan of decluttering because I operate best when I have space around me to expand my thoughts. But don't get too hung up on this. Declutter to a level where you feel comfortable and then repeat the process again later to purge even more. 

reduce overwhelm with a calm office space

2. Intentionally put a couple of things back on your clean desktop that are both functional and serenely beautiful.  

Perhaps a vintage jar as a pencil holder and a pretty bowl or two to keep paper clips and other do-dads at your fingertips. Flowers and plants, for me, are a must. Keep electronics cords neat by taping them together and hooking them behind the desk or to the wall. Have them handy so you can quickly plug and unplug your devices (I keep an extra power cord with me and have one that stays on my office desk). Intentionally creating a space that is convenient and that nurtures and soothes will encourage success. 

pretty desk stuff

3. Don't keep a ton of family and other personal photos in your office space, but make it yours with one or two meaningful things. 

Whether you work from home or in a cubicle, hanging a photo or a piece of art that you love on the wall, or even tacking up a couple of meaningful note cards from friends with push pins will help you relax and feel more at ease in your space. A framed inspiration board with your favourite quotes and stirring photos contains everything in one place so it doesn't feel messy. 

4. Make your office spacious but also more comfortable. 

Don't have so many boxes and paper and equipment on the floor that you don't have room to stand up and move around every now and then to let your blood flow and your creativity expand. But do consider bringing in a pillow for the floor or even a comfy chair if you have the floorspace. Use this as a dedicated space to sit comfortably away from your desk to take a few minutes every hour or so and breathe deeply and meditate. 

comfy bright and serene office

5. Brighten up your space. 

OK, you may not be able to control this if you're in the middle of a building nowhere near a window, but if possible, get your desk as close to natural light as possible. Supplement with a lamp that adjusts the level of lighting (like this one) or even try a sunlight desk lamp! And if you can, paint the walls white. I'm a huge fan of white walls to induce a calming effect. I've got a helpful guide on choosing the right white. 

6. Have a clean and calm computer desktop.

Sift through your desktop icons and make sure to keep only the ones that are useful to you on a daily basis. Move essentials to your task bar, and keep the rest in folders. Install a graceful background photo - perhaps something natural to connect to the outdoors. Or use a background that helps you sort and organize your icons. A clean and calm desktop will help your mind stay clean and calm as well! 

Bonus - subscribe here to my Resource Den for free desktop backgrounds that will help you organize and de-stress. 

create a serene home office

7. If you need to bring work home sometimes, designate a specific spot in the house for it, and don't let it creep into your bedroom or family areas.

Do not use the bedroom  for work - this is your sanctuary and it's not to be disturbed. If you can designate a room for a home office, that's great. If not, carve out a corner in the living room or a dead-end hallway or even a closet that's being underutilized. Set up systems and rules that you don't break, such as: only do work at your designated desk area at home; only pay bills there; have one drawer in this space to put all financial and work papers; keep your phone and tablet chargers in one spot and keep them there - don't take them to bed or the dinner table with you; turn phone notifications off at 9pm every night.  

These few space modifications, simple organizational hacks, and good habits should help you reduce your stress level and increase your focus, resulting in improved satisfaction and success. 

For even more ways to create a healthy and calm office space, see this post

Kelly Anderson

Refreshed Designs

A re-designer focused on natural, sustainable and holistic design.