Turning a small closet into a productivity wonderland.
August 25, 2010 11:52 AM   Subscribe

How do I make a small storage closet of an office livable for the next year? What kind of space saving measures/organizational things can I buy to make this work and keep myself sane?

I'm a graduate student, and I've been assigned a small office to share with the other teaching fellow that teaches the same class that I do. We will be sharing the same small office for the rest of the year.

Pictures of the space: 1 2 3 4

My desk/space will be the one on the left in the first picture.

I'm a ADD, seasonal affective disorder, light lover. It's a room with brick walls and one sad fluorescent light on top. I'm doing my best to get my life together (as one can see from my past questions), but I'm worried that being in this room is going to give me just another reason to stop working and go fuck around on the internet for hours. I've just gotten used to the idea of getting into a routine and writing at my apartment, but I've got tons of windows and space to wander around and think. I'm going to be spending lots of time in here, and I can't just head back home to write due to my schedule.

What tips and tricks would you employ to make this a room I want to get work done in? What kinds of organizational techniques/supplies would you use to make this an office in which I can talk to students, research, write my thesis, and spend hours without going crazy?
posted by SNWidget to Work & Money (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Non-fluorescent desk lamp, posters/pics of nature, bright colors. If you're really motivated, you can probably find or build a frame that looks like a window frame and back-light it so it gives off light like a real window would.

Personally, I'd rearrange the furniture too...I'd feel too claustrophobic with that layout. If you can, put one desk along the back wall and one along the side wall. That'll give you more space to move around without hitting one desk or the other.
posted by specialnobodie at 12:01 PM on August 25, 2010

Best answer: Check out the LifeHacker small workspace posts. IIRC, they have some workspaces that featured natural/SAD lighting, etc.. Plus, it's just darn cool to see other creative workspaces in tight areas.
posted by webhund at 12:03 PM on August 25, 2010

In my office, slightly smaller than this, I found that getting rid of my solid shelves and installing glass shelves on brackets helped open up the space a lot.
posted by Tchad at 12:28 PM on August 25, 2010

Best answer: Consider getting rid of the bookcase or file cabinet - scan the contents or move them into a hallway or closet. You probably don't need as much reference material as you think you do.

Get a comfortable chair and a chair for your guest. Hang bookshelves higher on the walls above the desks. Take a trip through Staples or Target and get inboxes, a trash can, and other supplies in a style you like.

Also, be glad that you have walls and a door. Many of us in cubicle-land would love to have a brick wall between ourselves and our neighbors as we try to get our work done.
posted by Sukey Says at 12:34 PM on August 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help so far - that Lifehacker post is inspiring me. I realized that if I didn't jump on this right now, I'd be too late in the semester to fix anything and I'd be screwed.

Also, be glad that you have walls and a door. Many of us in cubicle-land would love to have a brick wall between ourselves and our neighbors as we try to get our work done.

Oh, I'm desperately happy. My office used to be a desk to the side of an open work room for graduate and undergraduate students. Even though the classroom that leads into our office is used by other people than ourselves sometimes, I'm still just happy to have some space to call my own.
posted by SNWidget at 12:38 PM on August 25, 2010

Best answer: I noticed a lot of your questions were on productivity and distractions. You might find that having an extra pair of eyes on you (your officemate) may help you keep focused. The occasional student popping in and offering small distractions may help your productivity as well. A lot of conventional advice for productivity is to eliminate all distractions. I think that might be a good idea, as far as email, IM or websites. However, when you're in a place where people are there to work, I've never found a person to person interaction so distracting as to eat up 3 hours, like surfing can.

As far as organization accessories go, get a tall natural light or "full spectrum" lamp. OttLite is one brand name. They're expensive, and you might find them more easily at a craft or quilting store than Home Depot. Have this lamp above you as you sit. It'll help even out the crappy lighting. Otherwise, get a tall lamp and the brightest white bulb you can.

Headphones could be good, if you're productive with music. Otherwise a white noise generator could help.
posted by fontophilic at 1:03 PM on August 25, 2010

Related to fontophilic's suggestion of a white noise generator, I've set up a playlist that acts as a (10+2)*5 dash timer. 10 minutes of brown noise (tried white & pink but found brown most helpful), a chime, 2 minutes of silence, then another chime. Repeat.
posted by Lexica at 2:20 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding specialnobodie's suggestion of pictures of nature. I can't find the info now, but I remember reading that being able to look at greenery - even in images instead of real life - made students do better in school.

I used to save nature calendars and recycle the pictures, so I had different lovely images to look at.
posted by kristi at 2:48 PM on August 25, 2010

Response by poster: I think that a lot of the suggestions in here, especially those to include nature and light, will work well. White noise might be good, considering music is generally more distracting than helpful.

The person I'm sharing with doesn't want to paperless, so the file cabinets are in there to stay for now. I tend to not hand out anything (PDFs only), so I won't be using them for the most part.

I will also admit that I'm getting excited about outfitting my office.

Thanks all.
posted by SNWidget at 9:21 PM on August 25, 2010

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