At a low volume, Jerry Garcia plays a riff on St. Stephen as his band heads into a five-minute jam session.  I look up from my computer for a moment to take in the music and read some quotes posted above my work station: “Resist, insist, persist,” “Ubuntu,” and “Life is a punch card, make decisions wisely.”

Sitting back in my chair, I contemplate that last one as I’m writing a proposal for a nonprofit based around a training on Essentialism, a book I just finished again that’s always on my desk.  I take a sip from the cold brew I poured myself and consider whether or not this proposal is the essential approach for the organization.  I turn the music up a bit more as I walk over to look out the window.

“Daddy,” my daughter’s lovely voice interrupts my thinking as she pitter-patters into my basement office, “are you coming up to dinner?” She is a welcome break from the musings.

“In just a minute.  I need to finish this letter.”

“Can I have a stickie note?” She rarely judges my response and gets right to the important thing: something to draw on.  I hand her a pen and a post-it note and she draws a few lines and squiggles as I hit send on the proposal. “This is for your desk at work.” She hands me the newest art piece.

“Thank you!” I take the note and post it next to “Ubuntu” on my quote wall.  She smiles triumphantly and we head upstairs to dinner.

I was warned early on that working from home could sometimes be a distracting and distressing endeavor. One mentor informed me it was best to have a home office with a door that locks (mine just has two small swinging gates, like those that could be found entering a bar in the Old West), or utilize a remote office, maybe a co-working space, to get away from the house and be disciplined on occasion.

Neither of these recommendations have mattered for me, but they were important components to consider. And that’s what has mattered: the process of considering my space has been critical to working from home.  Is it comfortable? Is it inspiring? Does it allow for ‘right’ distractions that break up the stress and allow my sub-conscious to solve problems? Do I have access to books and paperwork and things of beauty that inform my work and writing and thinking?

When seeking balance and contemplating how your physical space is affecting you, I think the same principles and questions apply, whether you’re thinking through your office (at home or at work), your back patio and garden, or your main living area. What matters is that you are considering your space.

If you’re like me and know that clutter makes you feel uneasy, then create spaces that are uncluttered, or clean those spaces up before you need to do your creative, important work.  If music keeps you moving through your work, then design a space that integrates good sound. If you like the water cooler chit chat at work, then make sure you make time for conversation with others throughout the day (or a wide-open door so your daughter can say hello any time).

Seeking balance is an active process, and it’s a process about design.  Don’t let others design your balance for you, design it for yourself.