Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Zen in My New 2010 Clutter-free Home Office

I'm a productivity geek and I love tweaking my home office space. In the past three years I've moved three times and each time I had to build my home office from scratch and each time I learned something new. 

I started with a small office space powered by Ikea cabinet in the corner of our living room in our small condo in Warsaw. When we moved to a new apartment I finally had an entire room dedicated to my home office so I built a really nice one with a big long Apple-store-kinda desk and I loved it.

Now we moved again. Different house, city and country. So I had to build it from scratch. Luckily there was an Ikea nearby so I came up with something like this:
Home-office
There it is - my new home office built entirely out of Ikea furniture (ok, the chair does not come from Ikea) and it's clean, bright and white... and I love getting stuff done here.

It's all about what you see... and what you don't see.

If you take a closer look, you'll see that I have quite a few computers on my desk... but still I have lots of free space and everything is quite clutter-free. It took a significant while to build it all that way, but if you have a few minutes, let me show you the entire process with all the spicy details. Here we go:

Step 1 - Start with a clean slate

The first thing I did was to plan how the desks will look like. Bought two pieces of wood-like desks from Ikea with legs and attached all together to form an "L" letter and there was my desk. Now, before I started to put cables and all these small things, I started with this question:

"How I want my office to look like when I'm done?"... and I put a sculpture from my friend Miguel Guia, my Macbook Air and my external monitor in portrait mode .... and an Ikea lamp behind the monitor. And it started to look really "clean" and nice:
Home-office-clean

Step 2 - Figure out Power Management

This is a tough and lengthy step. I needed to figure out what I'm going to use around my computer gear and how I'm going to put it all together.

I started with putting the gear on the table and attaching cables to it:
Beginnings

I knew I didn't want to see any of my cables (no distractions, please!) so I figured out I should mount the cables and stuff right below the desk. I decided to use a thin board with small holes to serve as my cable management hub:
Preparation
As always - when I started counting I realized I'm going to need close to 20 power sockets so I had them prepared before the board arrived.

This kind of board is very flexible and you can easily mount stuff to it with plastic "belts" and then you can mount the board to the desk with simple hooks. Here are some details:
Details

I liked this "cable management" concept and kept on adding stuff to the board. I started with power sockets and later went on with LAN router, VoIP box, laptop chargers, USB hard drives, etc. Here's the process along the way:
Adding

As mentioned earlier, I had to prepare special hooks and install them below the desk. It was fairly easy - 5 hooks should be all I need to keep the board with my entire gear in place:
Hooks

Once I've added everything and mounted the board, it all looked really promising. I've got all my sockets in one place and all my chargers and most of my gear "out-of-sight" right below my desk:
Below-breakdown

Step 3 - What you see (and don't see) is what you get

Now, as you can see, although I've got plenty of gear mounted to my desk, I hardly see any of it. This helps me focus and get stuff done and I'm never worried about my cables.
What-see

Closer look at my office

Here's what I see when I just work - on the right side I have my external monitor in portrait mode for web browsing, writing and coding. The display is attached to my Macbook Air and on the left hand side I have my trusted iPad which I use for video-watching and news-reading. Right next to my Air there is my Magic mouse, iPhone dock and Pomodoro :-)
Front-office

To make sure I don't look at my other laptop (IBM Thinkpad X60T) - which serves as my home-server and all the documents and inboxes, I've moved them to the side. When I need them, they are there, but they remain out-of-sight.

All my phones and chargers are here, my USB hub, Inbox, document shredder and folders are on the side - I like it that way - don't have to look at all this when I don't need to:
Side-office

To make sure I have as few objects to look at as possible, I've moved my document cabinet (Ikea made as well) and my laser printer-copier-scan machine to my "back". This is my "back office" and since the multi-fuctional device is connected to my router and then to my wireless router, I can print and scan from any place in my home:
Back-office

I love my new home office - here it is in a nutshell

I've learned a lot building this new home office and I'm happy it's exactly how I want it to be. I'll probably record a Productive! Show episode about it to explain more about why I built the office the way I did. Hope you like it, too, and hopefully I inspired you to make your home office also a great place to work. Here it is, once again, with more details explained:
Home-office-explained

Do you also work from home? How does your office look like?
--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Macbook Air week - new mobile office, new show

This week has been all about the new Apple's Macbook Air laptop. I posted my thoughts on it yesterday and although I'm disappointed to hear it doesn't have the backlit keyboard and it doesn't work with the Apple remote, I might still upgrade my old Air just to get longer battery life and instant-on with 4GB or RAM.

Speaking of my current Macbook Air, here's my new Productive! Show video featuring a perfect mobile-office bag for the Air and all the accessories I use with it that help me get stuff done with my ultraportable laptop:

You can always browse my past Productive! Shows (I recorded more than 25 of them by now) on the new Productive! Firm web site.

And which bag do you use to carry your mobile office with you?

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Office in a Bag - Macbook Air & Accessories for Road Warrior - Episode #26

How to fit an entire mobile office in one bag? In this new episode of Productive! Show I'm sharing with you how I manage to fit my Apple Macbook Air and all of the accessories into one small bag.

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Question: How does your Road Warrior bag look like? Do you fit everything in there?

P.S. This video was inspired by Chris Brogan and Michael Hyatt.

If you have enjoyed this episode of the Productive! Show, please subscribe:

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Zen Home-Working Environment - a cool business idea

Recently I just stumbled upon a great web site and business idea... of a British company that offers beautiful, zen-like office spaces for home workers... to put in their gardens (OfficePOD):
Employers_-_gallery
Bare-bones office with cool design

Actually what more do you need. If you have a garden where you can put this kind of office, it seems for me a perfect place to work. Lots of fresh air when you need it, because of the glass feels spacious and the design creates a very nice environment.

Teleworking (Telecommuting) at its best

They don't sell these things - they lease them to companies who want their employees to work remotely. It's a great idea, because this nice office helps overcome the most important problems of teleworking:

- office in the same place where you sleep - not anymore, you actually have to leave the house to go to your "office"

- office environment not properly set up - again, the employer can prepare the office setup the way he wants so the employee has everything they need to get the job done, even furniture :-)

- lack of office feel to the home office - again, not anymore, this office feels like office... but then again, because it's located in a garden, feels like a "nice office" - so you switch to a nicer work environment than your good old cubicle in the old building.

The only problem I see here is if... well... you don't have a garden. Other than that it's really cool.

Congratulations to creators of this office space for this fantastic business idea. Hope it spreads the idea of working remotely from home.

By the way, the new Productive! Magazine is all about working from home, so grab your free PDF issue.

What do you think? Would you like to work in a home office like this?

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

3 productivity tips and tricks for open space workers in California's Silicon Valley offices

If you've been following my Twitter feed lately, you can see I've been traveling in Silicon Valley in California, visiting headquarters of the companies like FacebookYahooGoogleTechcrunchPlug and Play Tech Center and others... and most of these companies have office spaces that look like this:

Iphoto-1

"Open to everyone"... and everything - including distractions

All of the companies say this kind of office setup is cool and promotes openness... but what they don't tell you is that it's really hard to concentrate and get things done in a setup like this. The funny thing is that most of the guys who designed offices like this are brilliant people who might have even read the book "Peopleware" but they somehow forgot about the key advice from this book...

How to get stuff done in an "Open" environment?

OK, let's be constructive about this situation and embrace the "openness" and give some solutions as to how to be effective and productive in this kind of environment:

"Solution" 1 - use headphones

Yes, I've heard that before - developers and office workers use headphones to clear the noise, but many studies have already shown that programmers do a better and more creative code when they are sitting in silence than listening to the music. Music is usually a distraction as well.

"Solution" 2 - use 3 display monitors... or more!

The problem with working in a place like this is the fact that even if you've cleared the noise with headphones, you can still see everyone around you. To make sure you won't be tempted to look around and stare at other people, get as many display monitors as you can... and as big screen displays as can be - this way you won't be able to see people around all that much.

Using multiple monitor setup is actually a great productivity booster as such, but in an open environment it gives an additional benefit of being a barrier between you and the guy in front of you.

"Solution" 3 - embrace it (like you have a choice)

That's right, embrace the fact that most (if not all) companies in Silicon Valley prefer open spaces. That Venture Capital firms which invest in startups don't want them to "waste" money on private offices. Be proud of the fact that you work for Facebook in an open environment - after all it's the most over-valued and over-hyped startup in the world and they are allowed not to care about your working environment.

Finally, enjoy the good weather in California, maybe other programmers at companies like Fog Creek have great private offices, Aeron chairs and a overall fantastic environment (I know, I was there)... but they are located in the cold New York City.

The "solutions" described above won't help all that much

This is why they are written with ' " ' sign - these are not solutions but key problems I have with open spaces. Aha, and did I mention that it's really hard to get stuff done in an office because people can poke you and distract you all of the time? Well, in an "open" office constant poking is guaranteed.

I don't like open spaces and I think they're a contradiction to productivity. I'm just not THAT open - what do you think?

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Cleaning: Clutter-free Productive Home Office

Update (30 Nov 2010): I've moved again and I have a new home office now. Make sure to check it out.

OK, so after we've moved to our new apartment I got my very own room to set up my very own home office where I'd be productive when at home... and I wanted a true clutter-free experience. As you know, in the past I managed to pack all of my office-related stuff into an Ikea cabinet but this time around I was aiming at an Apple-style-designed big, clean, lean and clutter-free desk. This is the outcome:

Cimg4960

 

There you go, from the left there is my Canon MP110 Printer and scanner (it's so far on the left that you can't see it, but you'll see it on the other photos), a 21-inch Gateway external monitor (aligned vertically - I prefer it that way), my Macbook Air, GTD-style folders and iPhone dock, my previous main machine: X60 Thinkpad TabletPC (docked) which my wife is currently using, my Toshiba M200 TabletPC (acting as my home server) docked and accessible only with Wacom active digitizer pen, GTD-inboxes and a document shredder.

Interested? I've got more pictures for you and the setup photos below.

Step 1 - big desk with lots of free space

I started out with a big desk Apple-style without anything on it or attached to it. It even doesn't have any legs, sweet pure and beautiful place to work. So I started digging around it, making holes and putting first wires:

Cimg4916

 

Step 2 - preparing "cage" to attach to the bottom of the desk with chargers inside

I bought a clothing drawer in a local superstore and cut it to fit my space below my desk:

Cimg4923

 

Step 3 - prepare the wires and chargers

There are lots of chargers and wires we need to prepare to put "below" our desk:

Cimg4926

 

Step 4 - make sure you have enough "juice"

I need lots of "power sources" to power all these little tiny devices and all my computers, so here goes - two (eventually I ended up with 4 when I realized how many power outlets I really needed) power lines:

Cimg4925

 

And additional "chimney" for ad-hoc power on the desk (clutter-free power):

Cimg4920

 

Step 5 - put the cables and stuff into the "cage" and attach them with plastic straps

Cimg4928

 

Step 6 - install power juice and make sure all the cables are in place

Cimg4929

 

Step 7 - realize you have to few power outlets and install more, install cage

Iphoto

 

Some design details - how I attached the "cage" with all of my stuff:

Iphoto-1

 

It's nice to use a plastic pipe to make sure the details look really nice:

Cimg4954

 

Step 8 - install a "charger basket"

I got this idea from unclutterer and I liked it a lot, here's my basket with all the outlets for mobile phones, camera and digicam in one place:

Cimg4969

 

Step 9 - move everything around and attach your last cables

After I've done my initial version I had to do it all over again to make sure everything is in the right place:

Iphoto-2

 

Step 10 - enjoy your new clutter-free and beautiful office space

Here's my left side of desk:

Iphoto-3

 

And here's my right side:

Cimg4974

 

Here's what's in front of my eyes when working:

Cimg4971

 

Hope you liked my very lengthy blog post and you got inspired to get a clutter-free place to work.

And there is one more thing....

Don't try to pull it off on your own! Always get help from someone qualified to help you with this kind of setup, luckily my daughter (11 months young) gladly helped:

Img_0791

 

How is your home-office? Do you work from home? How is your real office? Enough room to be creative?

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New uncluttered space is a place for creative thinking

As I've already mentioned on my blog, we've moved to a new apartment where I'll finally have a dedicated room for a home office. I'm working currently on the whole IT-office-setup for my home office and for our house. It's a constant work in progress - but the main "theme" is to have the least clutter possible....

Img_0761

If you've been following my blog for a while know, you might know my cool clutter-free cabinet.

It's a thing I've been really proud of - takes the least amount of space and manages to pack my laptop, external monitor and another laptop (that acts as my home server)

Less space is cool, but there is no room to breathe

Now that I have a dedicated room to work, I have a big desk where I can fit all of my stuff and have lots of space to feel better... and I must tell you - having a big desk with just a few things on it and lots of "unused" space feels really fantastic... and gives you more "creative room" to breathe and think.

It's a work-in-progress but it's almost done now

I'll post next week about the results of "pimping my new desk" and you'll see the steps it took to make it really perfect.

One important hint - don't put anything on the desk unless you need it there.

The desk I have is really big... so started "littering" it with stuff... because I could :-) ... and I made it really quickly an impossible place to work... I had to get rid of everything from my desk and only put the stuff I really need there - my laptop, my other laptop and hardly anything more... and I could work again.

If you can - get a big desk and make it clean and uncluttered

Having lots of clean, uncluttered space on the desk makes you feel great.. and creative... gives you space to breathe and if you have to sit by this desk 10-12 hours a day to get stuff done, this makes a big difference.

What's your working space? What's your productive desk? Link them up! Let me know!

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Productive Office - find your best place to get stuff done

I've recorded this video a while ago, actually right before launching Nozbe 1.2 - right when I needed to get a lot of stuff done my friend let me use his office - special thanks to Krzysztof Kowalczyk of UBIK Business Consulting for letting me use the office when I needed it :-)

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Question: What's your "productive office"? Where do you get stuff done best?

If you have enjoyed this episode of the Productive! Show, please subscribe:

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