Reset your Workspace by Jennifer Murphy, MPA

As we say goodbye to the year that seemed it would never end, I am looking forward to 2021 with renewed hope. In the spirit of new beginnings, our January blog series is focused on resetting. Be it working from home, adjusting offices to allow for social distancing, or changing jobs altogether, a lot of us unexpectedly found ourselves working in new spaces over the course of the last year. Even as someone who works from home in non-pandemic times, I’m used to only sharing my workspace with four-legged office mates who sleep most of the day. The pandemic forced me to explore new places to work within my house to cope with my new two-legged office mate that no longer left the house every morning. If you’re like me, your new workspace might not be what most people consider “permanent” (maybe because, also like me, you were hoping it would be a more temporary solution). Or perhaps you’ve weathered the storm that was 2020 in the same space you’ve worked for years. Either way, the start of the new year is a great excuse to reset, rethink, and reclaim your workspace so you can prepare to take on a new year of possibilities.

  • First, focus on decluttering your space. Go through that pile of sticky notes you have at the corner of your desk and recycle anything that’s already been resolved. Set aside some time to manage whatever is leftover – send that email, digitally file that important funder note, schedule that appointment. Same goes for loose papers – determine what’s important, file it appropriately, and recycle the rest. Throw out those pens that basically don’t work anymore (or, better yet, replace the spent ink with a refill). Enjoy the thrill of letting go!
  • Now that you’ve eliminated the noise of unnecessary clutter, take a look at your workspace and ask yourself what’s working and what isn’t. Is your desk space adequate for the daily work you do? Does your storage solution allow easy access to the things you need? What about ergonomics? If you’re working in a temporary home office, consider investing in furniture that you can use as a desk now and eventually use for a different purpose later. For example, I upgraded my temporary workspace with a dining room table that I could easily repurpose as non-office furniture in the future. Same goes for office chairs: there are lumbar attachments and seat cushions you can buy to turn your existing chairs into something you can work in without having to invest in an office chair that will just sit in a closet once you’re no longer working from home. I love rolling carts for storage – it makes rearranging super simple!
  • Finally, make your newly optimized space your own! Surround yourself with things that make you happy – pictures of family, gifts from friends, items that help you set your daily intention, and things that are just plain fun! Whether you spend 5 hours a week or 40 hours a week in your workspace, it’s important for it to be a comfortable place that reflects your values.

As grant professionals, we often write about eliminating barriers to benefit target populations. Think of optimizing your workspace as eliminating barriers to productivity and inspiration in your grant writing practice!