Office Spaces

I think it’s super timely that Jim Nielson wrote about his office space the other day. My family recently re-rooted in Colorado and I was up late last night setting up my desk and everything around it. So late, in fact, that reading these words now bites me:

My workspace isn’t what life revolves around.

I’ve spent years trying to live up to that. I remember how important my desk was to me when I began freelancing in 2013. Remote working was an outlier then and having a desk made me feel better whenever I told someone I worked from home and I got the inevitable “Oh, you’ll get a real job one day,” look.

It doesn’t look like much, but that minimalism took me forever to figure out (circa October 2013).

That helped my ego, sure. But it didn’t stop my 6-month old daughter from climbing the stairs to find me. We lived in an open concept condo at the time, and the living room stairs bled straight into my office as the landing.

To be fair, it’s not like I was stopping her either.

That meant I sometimes had a tiny art director looking over my shoulder.

…but it also forced me to find different spots to get some work done:

Yanking the power cord from my office wall made me realize I could work anywhere I really needed to.

Thankfully, I lived in an urban downtown that had plenty of cafés I could use as an office in a pinch.

I used to love Zurb’s templates for sketching wireframes.

If I’m being honest, I’ve probably done more work outside of my office than I ever have in it. It was right around this time that I had clients plugging me into various accounts for Slack, Zoom, Dropbox, Google Drive, and other tools that we now credit for creating asynchronous working environments. Other than a new banging set of Beats, there was nothing else I really needed to invest in to work this way.

These were all things I was already using for myself, but it was my clients buying into them that really felt like the sea change that allowed me to call anywhere I was sitting “my” desk.

Fast-forward to 2019. We moved to the ‘burbs into a house that gave me the luxury of a large dedicated office space.

Check out that killer poster on the wall.

My desk started to grow into the larger space.

I was recording a lot of screencasts and lectures at the time. Thankfully, Chris had a bunch of practical recommendations for a homespun studio.

I really lucked out when we moved because the extra space came in handy when my wife, Marcia, starting working exclusively from home following the start of the pandemic. It also meant we had enough space for when my daughters (yep, we had another along the way!) needed a homeschooling hub.

So, back-of-the-napkin math tells me we had four humans in one office heading into 2020. I can’t overstate just how lucky we were to have an office like this at a time like that. It was often hectic, yes, but still gave us everything we needed (and more) to be a truly home-based family without becoming meme fodder.

All of this leads me back to Jim’s post and why his comment about life revolving around desks bit me so hard. After spending so many years unraveling my life from the office, I found myself spending too much time last night curating the desk at my new home. I was essentially letting it re-establish itself as a sacred anchor in my life.

So here I am trying to put Jim’s next piece of advice into action:

It’s ok to have a bit of humility in your space. Perhaps a dose of it is even deserved.

That means my desk is not the center of the room that it’s in. It’s a work in progress, but so far the desk is pushed off to the side up against a wall. Behind it is a reclaimed sofa I can easily retreat to. Across from that are my guitars and ukuleles for mental breaks where I get to use my hands more than my mind. Next to those is my record collection and turntable — another refuge that encourages me to step away from the screen and indulge other interests.

I’ll get some artwork up on the walls at some point.

And all of it is in a space large and welcoming enough to invite life in if it needs to — family, friends, fiddling around, whatever. It’s also conveniently located right off the family room for such distractions moments.

What’s on my desk

It feels odd to sign off without showing you what’s actually on my desk. It’s fun knowing what people use and how they’re set up. Here’s what I’ve got.

First off, the desk itself is this one from IKEA.

16″ MacBook Pro (2019)Apple Magic Keyboard (no charging or TouchID)Apple Magic Trackpad (with charging)27″ LG UltraFine 4K external monitor (2016, discontinued)27″ Dell UltraSharp 4K USB-C monitor (thank you, DigitalOcean!)Shure SM7B microphone (with mount)Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 microphone preampDBX 286s microphone preamp processorUBeesize 12’’ Ring Light with Tripod (the room is super dark)Grogu (aka Baby Yoda) and Bob Belcher figuresOrange cup for pens and a Seth Godin action figureSammy stress ball

What’s your office like?

Is it a traditional office you commute to? A room that’s a few steps away from your bedroom? Maybe it’s even in your bedroom? Where do you work when you’re not there? What’s in there?

Inquiring minds want to know (namely mine).

Office Spaces originally published on CSS-Tricks. You should get the newsletter.

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