Rearranging the Office

In my home office I have a window with a warm, wooden roman shade installed on it. As I like to let as much natural light in as possible the shade is usually up during daylight hours. With the days getting shorter now the shade is open less which makes me appreciate the opportunity to use natural light even more.

The problem is that the window faces almost due West. This means that in times of warmer weather there is almost a direct line of sight to the sun, (at least through the left pane of the window—tilt of the Earth and all that). During the winter months the sun is not so direct but still puts a good amount of light on the North wall. Why is that a problem? Well, in my office I have five monitors and when the sun is bright it can be difficult to see what is on some of those displays. Sure, I can close the shade and get on with my business, but that makes me unhappy.

(Now, some may be asking why in the world I have five monitors in my office. That is little hard to explain so I won’t.)

The other day after having to block out the sun so I could work I decided that I needed to rearrange my office. So after work when I was supposed to be doing other things I was instead in my office with a tape measure thinking about the most ideal way to arrange things.

After maybe three hours of moving filing cabinets, computers, desks and other assorted things around, (not to mention making a complete mess of my office), I had what I had envisioned as a good solution to the sun problem as well as some other minor issues I had like not being able to easily get to the back panel or innards of my personal computer. Plus I now had a nice, open space in the middle of my office and things were quite symmetrical. The only problem was that since I had moved things to hug the walls I had no place to put the all-important whiteboard without having to reach over something to reach it.

So, back to the tape measure and planning.

In the end, (another hour or two later), I stepped back and declared victory. Then I looked at what changed along with the hours I had spent on this project and realized that it really looked pretty much the same way it had before. A couple things moved around a few inches and a few things swapped places, but it was pretty much the same layout with some minor adjustment that would have taken maybe 15 minutes to do if I had just made those minor tweaks from the start.

Are things more efficient? I think so. Can I leave my shade up during daylight hours all year? Probably not, but more than before.

The strange thing is that even with just some minor tweaks I have found that I am so conditioned to things being in a certain place that it gives me a jolt when I go to find something and then realize that it has moved.

I think that’s a good thing.

As a counter example, I have conditioned myself to put my car keys in a certain spot when I enter the house. This is due to several times in the past when I would be frantically searching all over for the keys. I think it came to a head when I was patting down pants in the dirty laundry hamper right before realizing that the keys were in a packet of the pants that I was wearing. From that point on I made an effort to always put my keys in the same spot so I could find them.

(What is funny is that my daughter, who now can take the keys does—without any coaching from me—put the keys back in the same spot. She just sort of internalized that the keys go in a certain spot.)

The problem is—in my view—that if you get stuck in some idea that this is the way things are you get mentally stuck. Does the arrangement of my office really matter? No. Does it matter that I would “waste” several hours totally destroying my office then putting it back together in a way that was pretty much the same with some minor changes that cause internal disruptions? Yes; it keeps the brain working and keeps you on your toes.

Why do I not just throw my keys wherever? I guess that there is something to say about consistency as well.

I think that this weird see-saw is important. Be comfortable in your environment, but also be comfortable with change. Sure, the environment will change, but also do not be afraid to make the environment work for you. Keep your mind engaged.

There are several cases where I would have retreated into the ways that I would have felt most comfortable, but ended up doing something different. I am grateful for those moments and they make for great experiences. But at the same time I expect my keys to be in a certain place. I rely on that. (Until I decide that where I put the keys is not efficient…)

Maybe I should just replace the Roman shade with some new technology with dimming skills or “open from the top” options. But I really like the contrast of this low-tech wooden thing against all the plastic cords and metal things that make up my office.

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