How workstations are an artist lifesaver

Sheila Chandra - Thursday, August 09, 2018

Workstations can save artists time, energy and sometimes their sanity. Learn to embrace this useful tool…

What is a workstation?

A workstation is an area where you do a specific task and keep all the items for that task literally within arms’ reach in order of frequency of use. Chances are that you have at least one workstation already – though it may not be as efficiently arranged as it might be. It can be any size. Your workstation could be a small shelf containing all you need to prune your Bonsai plant.  A workstation brings all these items together in an organized way and makes them easily accessible – thus inviting you to do that task in hand.

A workstation is a living system

You’ve probably been taught to use space efficiently by storing all your pens or paper in one place – for instance. Or all your books in one place. This is only useful if you're arranging a storage area. You need to let go of that old concept and begin thinking differently about being organized. Ideally, a workstation should reflect your unique way of working – and it can reflect your leisure activities too. Your workstations need to fit with how you work. So if you read a certain kind of book in bed e.g. romances or sci-fi, to help you drop off, then it’s better to keep those kinds of books in your bedside cabinet while your non-fiction and reference collection remain on bookshelves in your living space.

A workstation is a physical extension of your body

You need to be able to reach for all the items you need to complete a specific task - without thinking. No searching time. No moving from room to room to find an stray item. When you treat your workstations as an extension of your body then you’ll tend to keep items physically closer to you. You’ll recognize that people are lazy (and that this is a very good thing!). For that reason a workstation needs to contain everything you need within an easy arms’ reach – no stretching required… This kind of quick and easy access to everything you need for the particular task you’re doing allows your work to flow. When the flow from brain to body is smooth and efficient - everything is easier, faster, better!

A workstation only contains things you’ll actually use

You’ll need to start from scratch when you build your workstations. All the clutter has to be removed at the beginning. Begin by making a list of your most frequent tasks on some record cards – one per card. Then underneath that task, list all the items you need to complete it. This is what needs to be in the workstation for that task.

Once you’ve gathered the items needed for a specific task they need to be arranged with the most frequently used ones placed closest to you. This is so that when you reach for the things you use most often, you spend the least amount of time accessing them. Items and workstations for tasks that you do less frequently can live ‘further away’ from your main working areas because you’re not going to spend as much time using them overall. There is no point in putting an attractive stapler on your desk if you’ll only use it once a week. The less you use it, the further away it can ‘live’.

Maintaining your workstations is effortless

Have you made changes to your environment, only to have it become messy within a few days? Once set up properly and consciously, your workstations will become self-tidying. That’s because, if the item is literally within arms’ reach, then it’s a breeze to plonk it down in the same place after use. Doing that becomes a habit very quickly – and you should encourage yourself in this. That habit means you never need to tidy up because things are always in their places. You can save so much time and energy this way! It makes a huge difference to work – saving you up to 20% of your time – by using an efficient system.


If you want to start setting up your own workstations today, I explain exactly how to in my book ‘Organizing for Creative People’ – or come and do some artist coaching with me. Contact me for a free coaching consultation at

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