Space does matter

September 20, 2007, 10:42 PM UTC

It’s been one of those weeks where I’m doing so much at any given moment that it doesn’t seem like anything’s getting done at all. Not exactly the best psychological environment for writing, if you know what I mean. So much so that after stressing for days over how to end a story I’ve been working on, I ended up getting it done in about half an hour at 4 a.m., with some random late-night TV turned down low in the background and my feet up on the coffee table.

That — and this “Career Couch” column from The New York Times last weekend — got me to thinking about spaces. When I was struggling with the aforementioned piece, I kept trying to articulate it to my long-suffering friends by saying I wasn’t in the right “head-space.” In retrospect, it’s probably that I hadn’t found the right work space. And though I know the prevailing wisdom is that one should choose a space to work and stick to it, I’m finding that as circumstances change — the type of story, the time of year, my own mood — I need a corresponding change of scenery to work. Sometimes, it’s nice to be at the window, looking out a serene city scene. Other times, it just makes me want to be outside (or depending on how things are going, jump out the window). And with this most recent piece, I think I just needed to be removed from civilization. (Hence, the bad television.)

What does all that mean for the time we spend at our desks, in our actual offices or cubicles? If the Career Couch question is any indication, it means that we need to feel at home in our offices. (Aren’t I just so clever? ;o) The column asks, “Can you decorate your workspace any way you want?” The answer, of course, is no. But there’s much more to it than that. While it’s basically common sense that you don’t want Jenna Jameson posters or banners from your last anarchists’ meeting on your wall — at least if you want to stay employed or, say, get promoted — the way you personalize your work space says something about you to your coworkers, and more importantly, helps you feel good about being there. Which is especially important these days, as the lines between the personal and professional become increasingly blurred. So what does your office decor say about you? I’ll think about it and answer myself on Monday. And in the meantime, tell us how you get into the right “space” (head, desk, or otherwise) for work…

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