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While it has a number of different interpretations, Zen, as a general practice, involves understanding yourself and being able to place your attention on one thing at a time. In the modern world, that practice gets difficult due to a seemingly endless number of distractions. So it goes for the life of a cubicle worker, too. When you're working in a cramped, cluttered space, you might find it difficult to focus on the tasks at hand. To correct that problem, take steps to de-clutter and improve the aesthetic.
Clear the Clutter
You've probably heard the saying that a disorganized workspace can lead to a disorganized mind. Whether or not that's true, it is true that clutter can be distracting. If your desk is covered in papers, get a few new file folders that can fit attractively under your desk. Invest in a new desk organizer or a bookcase with doors that close, where you can stash away all the extra stuff you don't need. At the end of each day, spend a few minutes picking up and clearing the clutter. Remove anything that isn't put there with intention.
The Zen Garden
Traditional Zen Buddhist gardens use symbols to represent a natural setting, including the elements of earth and water. Typically, raked sand represents the waves of the ocean, while rocks represent mountains. Full-scale Zen gardens include bridges and even water features. In a small cubicle space, however, you might have to settle for a ready-made, desktop Zen garden from a garden supply store or Asian market. Smaller Zen gardens can be 1 foot wide and 1 foot long -- or sometimes less -- so they'll easily fit on a desktop or on a small stand near your desk. Since Zen gardens are often meant to be seen from a single focal point, place your small garden in a location where you can easily see it from your chair.
A New Color Palette
While you probably aren't allowed to paint your cubicle to create a more Zen-like environment, you can add accent colors to your workspace to focus on a particular mood. In terms of color theory, green is thought to bring out feelings of harmony and restoration, while purple evokes spiritual awareness. Based on that theory, add large photos or framed art in those colors. Look for images that inspire you or give you a feeling of balance or focus. As you choose items to store your clutter in, such as file cabinets, you can also choose green or purple to help you achieve a more Zen-like atmosphere.
Adding Plants and Water
When you change your cubicle, be aware of any company rules pertaining to the workspace aesthetics as well as any restrictions you might have due to allergies. Adding plants, for example, is another way to add green to your workspace -- but you'll need to be sure you don't have any co-workers who are allergic to what you're bringing in. Bamboo is a common feature in Zen gardens, so if you're allowed, bring in stalks of it set into vases, or larger bamboo or bonsai plants in pots. Zen gardens also often have a water feature that includes a trickling sound of water. If this sound bothers one of your co-workers, however, it might have to go.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.