Why You Should Invest In a Minimalist Office

The shopping list for a new home office gets bigger and bigger every year, with more technology invading our desks and forcing us to divide our attention even further. From new phones to do-all PC applications, the average design office is absolutely packed with technology, most of it largely unnecessary.

However, despite the wave of endless technology a lot of entrepreneurs, designers, and programmers are seeing the light, quite literally. Minimalist offices aren’t about making things more difficult – although they occasionally can – but about changing the dynamics around work. From eliminating needless comforts to boosting overall work output, investing in a minimalist office can have a number of interesting, inspiring, and unusual effects for your business.

A Minimalist Office Setup

Less Technology = Fewer Distractions

While technology is often sold as a way for us to help ourselves work, once it hits the tipping point it can become nothing but an unwanted and unnecessary distraction. An office stocked with a desk phone, cell phone, and VOIP program is no more able than one without, but it’s packed with distractions just waiting to rob you of your time.

Instead of having an application, appliance, or utility for anything and everything, invest in gear that covers you in 90% of all situations. You’ll quickly find that a lot of gear, both physical and virtual, allows you to do almost anything in your regular office routine without cluttering your desk space and PC desktop. Cut down on technology and you’ll become less distracted, more productive, and much better at your work.

Single-tasking cuts down on wasted time

Five screens are great for trading currencies, but they’re not particularly worthwhile for most digital workers. As online workers, we have a tendency to pick up everything we need for our PCs (or Macs, if you prefer) without thinking about the utility. As a result, applications stack up in the taskbar and we quickly lose track of just how much there is that’s robbing us of time.

A Simple Desktop - Uncluttered

Instead of having everything open at once, with your attention constantly divided between them, why not stick with the same three basic applications at once? Instead of keeping your instant messenger open 24/7, why not cut it out of your work routine entirely and focus on single-tasking alone? When you take distractions out of the equation altogether, you’re free to focus on the task at hand.

You don’t need that much technology to work

Really, you don’t. Even as web designers, the bulk of our work is carried out in the same catalog of five programs. From coding to graphics, flash animation to on-site testing, the vast majority of web design work can be performed on a PC that’s almost freshly set up. Outside of the core graphics suites and coding applications, software quickly becomes overkill.

Workstation Setups
Jon Phillips’s workstation. (see on Workstation Setups)

It’s a similar situation on the hardware side of the equation. Multiple monitors are gold for productivity, but extra technology in other places doesn’t really serve any purpose. Take a ‘technology audit’ of your office, and cut out anything that takes up space but doesn’t provide any direct application.

Technology robs you of energy

Ever get off your computer and feel sleep-starved, uncomfortable, and overwhelmingly tired? Staring at a computer screen isn’t just boring, but energy-zapping and somewhat unhealthy. Night owls are especially at risk – staring at a computer screen well into the night tricks the body into believing that it’s day, which makes the post-work sleep even more difficult. Instead of nodding off instantly, you lie there sleep starved and still convinced it’s 2pm.

Too Much Computer - Sleep Starved

If you’re a late-night worker, there’s one simple way you can make the transition from work to sleep easier: get off the computer earlier. Cut your computer time out an hour before you begin sleep, and spend the time in low light, still working. A break from the computer screen isn’t just about switching into night mode, but inspiring productivity and creativity – some of the best business ideas and innovations happen when we’re slightly tired and free from technology (at least that’s the case for many of us).

Improvisation keeps work fresh and interesting

It’s much more fun to have to think on your feet than to be able to fall back on the same old tools and applications. A desktop toolbar loaded with fix-all programs and do-everything applications certainly helps with efficiency and workload, but it steals away creativity and makes work, quite frankly, boring.

Instead of having everything at your fingertips, set up your office so tasks require improvisation and occasional analytical thinking. With the elimination of just a few tools, you workday can become more interesting, significantly more creative, and switch your mind from office-drone mode to that of an inspired, innovative entrepreneur. Challenges aren’t always bad, and sometimes it’s best to embrace them somewhere as comfortable as the office.

Your Turn To Talk

So, how is your office? Are you the ‘stuff everywhere’ type or do you embrace minimalism? Please take a minute to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Comments

  1. says

    As far as using less apps goes, I have stuff I use for personal usage on another user. I have three logins – personal, business and music recording. Having apps like Ableton Live available while I’m working would kill my entire workday! So all I get to play with (at work)is the Adobe suite. Yea I know, poor me…!

  2. says

    I like to keep a minimal workspace. There is nothing like sitting down to a clean desk in the morning. Somehow it helps me focus and encourages creativity

  3. says

    Thanks for the article. This is so true. Usually, the basic applications are enough. This also applies to your desk – you don’t need 20 different fancy pens to be creative.

  4. says

    The same goes for me, I’ve been trying to cut out both physical and virtual clutter, like reducing printed documents and keeping my Twitter client closed. Really feels nice to come to a clean desk everyday and frees up valuable time.

  5. says

    I much prefer having a tidy workspace – I always try to keep it as tidy as possible. I’m very restricted to space as I currently share my office with my bedroom (still living with parents at the moment whilst raising the funds to move out) so it’s not easy – I use a 24″ iMac on a desk that only has a depth of about 600mm, so it’s sitting diagonal whilst I’m sitting further up. Other than that, all I have is an iPhone Dock, a Wacom Bamboo Tablet and a wireless Apple (Mini) Keyboard and Magic Mouse – I felt they were absolutely necessary because wires get in the way so much if they’re on show!

    When I move out though I will most definitely have a very minimalistic office and I can’t wait!

    Great article!

  6. says

    @Christiane Thanks for your comments :)

    @Amber I completely agree with you.

    @Callum Why don’t you use that sexy iPhone to show us some pictures of your office?

    :)

  7. pedro says

    Totally agree. It’s so true… I have a minimalist work space… Today after reading your post my desk became 2 books, a PC and a smashed laptop hardrive just to hold the some phone number paper…Feels good!

  8. says

    Great article !

    I will absolutely take the advice about leaving monitor one hour before going to sleep, maybe can spend that hour doing some sketches or mockups on paper.

  9. says

    “If you’re a late-night worker, there’s one simple way you can make the transition from work to sleep easier: get off the computer earlier. Cut your computer time out an hour before you begin sleep, and spend the time in low light, still working. A break from the computer screen isn’t just about switching into night mode, but inspiring productivity and creativity – some of the best business ideas and innovations happen when we’re slightly tired and free from technology (at least that’s the case for many of us).

    This completely fits my lifestyle! My brain is way to active when i go from the pc directly to my bed. The only thing is that it’s active in an useless way, by thinking about the last task i did on the pc and it just keeps on looping in my brains :D

    But when I’m tired and didn’t use the pc for some hours, the few minutes i’m awake in my bed are the most creative. I always come up with my best designs at that point.

  10. says

    Great post! I find my best ideas come away from my computer. Usually on holiday or something. Make sure you always have a pen and paper though to write them down!

  11. says

    Great article… I am working on creating a minimalist workspace for myself and will certainly take some of your advice on cutting down on tech as they can be very distracting..

  12. says

    Great ideas in this post, My desk is to small to really get much clutter (mostly due to the dual screens) but I try to keep phones and whatever else away while I work. Also a half hour before I goto sleep I try to write down things I have done earlier that day, sometimes these notes are great for future blog posts.

  13. says

    I disagree. I love my work place to be cluttered with gadgets and toys. I feel far more comfortable and there is nothing like taking a quick break to play some guitar hero or build lego.

    You’re most likely going to be working your whole life so productivity is overrated.

    I go to work to have fun. Not work.

  14. says

    I agree with this completely. The first office I worked at had a very open, minimalistic atmosphere. There were lots of windows, glass desks, great colors, and very little on the desks (laptop, ex. monitor, mouse…and of course coffee). I was able to concentrate incredibly well at that place. The new place I am at has the beautiful cube walls, and I can see a window, but am not near it. I love the place, but I get very distracted by things here.

    My home office is my muse. Glass desk, external monitor, wireless magic mouse, macbook, and a desk lamp. Then on the wall in front of me i have a giant dry erase board, and a push-pin board next to me so when I start a new project, I can practically change the mood of the room by changing those boards. Great writeup today!

  15. says

    @matcarpenter Greta article! But just to be sure I am reading your bio right – you are 17 years old and are running your own successful design agency??

  16. says

    virtual and real desk clutter really does have a psychological effect to some degree, and it’s usually a case towards organization. the simplicity of having a clean desk is secretly prefaced by better organizational skills (where does all that clutter file into?).

    I like having a clean desk because it helps to tackle projects with a fresh mindset. When it comes to work, you can just jump in deep and lay files out like crazy all over the workspace and go crazy, etc. and not worry about the mess. After the project’s done, you can then simply clean the desktop up (file the mess away) and have a clean slate for the next project.

  17. says

    Hummm, now I don’t feel like doing any work, I feel like running to the shop to buy stuff to redecorate my office place…. Not sure that reading this blog was the thing to do, first thing on a Friday morning ;)

    Anyways, my thoughts on this would be that the perfect office for me would have two sections: one side would be super messy with half-painted canvas, tubes of paint, random stuff used in arts & craft, etc. Then the other side would be white, minimalist, tidy and immaculate, That’s where the computer/scanner/printer would be.

    Both side would be flooded with light, with floor to ceiling windows, and would be divided by a massive bookcase where I could keep all the design and inspirational books that we have.

    Sounds good doesn’t? Better get back to work if I want to be able to afford this ;)

  18. says

    i just “minimized” my workspace at my day gig. it makes things A LOT easier to find. but it also takes effort. i take 5 ~ 10 minutes at the end of the day tidying up putting stuff away before i leave. it has made a big difference in my productivity.

  19. says

    I love this concept and try to declutter my office for the last two months or so. I even sold my Vaio Laptop and replaced it by a new and shiny iMac. This killed a lot of cable noise. But I make the mistake and installed to many applications, there are so many tasty apps when you finaly switchet to mac. It’s hard to resist. I have to cut that down to juste the important ones.

    Thank you for your motivating post.

  20. negs says

    nice article. Personally, my chat client *is* one of my essential tools. If I don’t have it on, people say ‘turn on yr chat so I can send you this file’, etc.

    a tip someone gave me once is, even if you are not a smoker, take smoke breaks and focus yr eyes ona far distance for a few minutes.

  21. says

    So true, ever since I got a Kindle I have been falling asleep much easier. Not looking at my Mac’s LCD in the hour before I go to bed and instead reading on an e-ink display has been a dramatic change.

    Thanks for all the great tips!

  22. says

    Good Tip Mathew!

    I’ve oftentimes thought that the less distraction you have in a workplace, the better you function, and the more gadgets and peripherals you have around you do not necessarily make you more productive. The same goes for the plethora of software offering more or less the same functions.

    The basics in a SoHo or even a good cubicle should have nothing more than a good sturdy desk {a dining table preferred for it is usually larger and can hold you if you decide to sleep at work :-D}, your main system, an all in one printer/scanner {what have you unless you’re a heavy duty graphic designer}; a tablet {no, I’m referring to the Wacom thingyamajig} only if necessary; and a good communicator {a Smarterphone or an iPhone}.

    A less cluttering desktop makes for less prying eyes, esp. when you have to leave the system unattended for more than 5 mins. I’ve also learnt throughout the years, that if you really need sleep. Go home – unless you’re working from home, then switch off and unplug everything, and then go to sleep, indulging in that pleasure.

  23. says

    Thank you for this pretty useful article, lot’s of great tips. It seems this is a big problem for me – keepin my desktop clean, this might be helpful.

  24. says

    Thats got me thinking. I reckon it’s time I stashed things like the network switch and server out of site. I think as soon as the school hols come around I must clear out my desk and get everything but a) school work and b) ongoing project completely out of site. Bring on the minimalism.

    Iv’e achieved it Digitally, now lets achieve it physically!

  25. says

    Wow some interesting comments. I agree that a clutter free desk helps create a clutter free mind. It makes it easier to think – usually because you’re knot thinking, I should really tidy up – and therefore come up with some cracking, creative ideas.

    At work I try to keep my desk tidy – my boss seems to like to leave stuff on my desk which has nothing to do with me…?

    At home, unfortunately I don’t have a designated area to work and therefore getting focused can be an issue – my new year’s resolution is to “get organised”!

    Nice read, thanks :)

  26. Chris H says

    I always had the idea of maybe forcing people to get up more often in the office environment might be healthy for the work atmosphere, maybe even have different workstaions to perform differnet tasks. This would lead to a more engaging work experience, and cause you to talk to more people around you also.

  27. says

    i so agree with your post. designing an office with all the high tech stuffs can really eat up your time without doing anything. we all know the gadgets were created mainly for entertainment sake and its second purpose is its ability to lessen task. designing an office like a home is like designing a home to live in with.

    great post and idea btw. you cited a lot of stuffs worth considering for.

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