As you know, I'm all about setting spaces, doing more with less, and focusing on meaning rather than things. These are ideas that I love talking about with my friends and colleagues and I am so excited that some of these awesome people are open to me sharing with you. We can learn so much about each other and from each other as we set up spaces for work time.
This week we are going to visit the space of the Zen Teacher himself, Dan Tricarico! I had the privilege of chatting with Dan a couple of weeks ago on his podcast, "The Zen Professional Moment" regarding space and how we use it, so of course I asked him if we could have a peek into his workspaces as a successful high school teacher and educational consultant.
Me: How do you feel in your workspace? What creates this feeling?
D: "Let’s start with my classroom: I’ve been in the same classroom for 30 years, so it’s really my home away from home. Overall I feel very comfortable and safe there. But being in the same space for that long certainly has some pros and cons. It’s super easy, for example, to let clutter accumulate and easy to hang on to things that you’ve had for years. While I do try to change things up, I often tell my students that there are things on my classroom walls that are older than they are. It is important, though, to personalize things for your own emotional comfort and to express who you are and I have many artifacts and keepsakes on my desk and throughout the classroom, everything from photographs I’ve taken, pictures my daughters drew when they were kids, and pictures of my former students. These always make me smile and help me know I’m “home.”
About two years ago, though, I made a conscious decision to straighten up my desk every day before I leave. Takes less than ten minutes. And in the morning I come in and can face the day with a clean and organized space. Before I started that ritual, I would come in and sit down among the flotsam and jetsam from the previous day—papers, books, and all manner of detritus—strewn about my desk. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it made me very anxious and it wasn’t a good head space. My current reality is MUCH nicer and I’m sure my students appreciate it."
Me: You spend a lot of time in your home work space - teaching, writing, podcasting etc. How is your space set up to maximize its efficiency when you have all these different things to do?
D: "I’ll tell you about one key choice I made that maximized my efficiency: I’ve been teaching from home for over a year now and I just moved into a new apartment. In the old place, I was using the kitchen table to do my Zoom class calls (like most families, we each had our own spots for our calls). We had these old wooden chairs that were very hard to sit on. I ended up putting throw pillows down to sit on because on some days I was sitting there for hours. But when I moved into the new apartment and had to buy a new dining room table, I was specifically on the lookout for a table with soft chairs and that’s what I have now because I knew it would be doubling as my desk. And that's what I have now and it's been fantastic. I do have a second room for when my daughters come over to visit and they often have to do their own college classes online so I did actually get them a desk. So that's where I do my podcasting because when my daughters aren't here I pretend it's a recording studio and I'm Tim Ferriss or Marc Maron. :) "
Me: As someone who also seeks to simplify and find Zen, what advice would you give to someone setting up a new work area?
1. You don’t need all the things right off the bat.
2. You don’t need all the things at all.
3. After setting up, keep an eye on what you use. If you find that you don’t use it, get rid of it. For example, I had the same inbox with the same five papers in it on my desk for probably a decade. Why? For what? It just became part of my desk reality and I stopped noticing it. When I finally threw it away, I facepalmed like “Why didn’t I do that, I don’t know, like maybe some time during the Clinton Administration? So now I keep my eyes open."
I love these tidbits Dan has shared with us! Being thoughtful about our spaces is really essential for so many reasons. Let's be intentional about what we put in them.