Productivity is made up of more than just action items, emails, and process improvement.  The environment around you can affect your mood and your results.  Things like noise and temperature are proven to affect your typing speed and accuracy.  Taking control of your workspace is an effective way to demonstrate productivity to yourself and others.

If you’re unsure how to do that, start by asking yourself a few questions: What does my workspace look like?  Does it make me feel comfortable, efficient, or inspired?

If the answer to those questions is ‘no’ then there is definitely room for improvement.  Here are a few tips on making your workspace work for you.

Take Care of the Basics

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Many studies have shown that  dual monitors can increase productivity anywhere from 10-40% depending on your job.  An iPad can be a low-cost solution, or if you’ve already got two monitors try turning one of them sideways – a lot of people enjoy having a portrait orientation for coding, designing, or even reviewing legal documents.  Be careful though… all of that real-estate could lead to constant frazzing.  So it’s also a good idea to turn off your secondary monitor when it’s not needed.

A good chair may be the single best investment you can make with regard to your comfort at work.  You don’t need to go high-end though.  In my opinion the top factors to selecting a chair are: adjustable seat, adjustable armrests, lumbar support.  If those things are covered, I’m good.  For a little fun, try a big exercise ball, these are great in meeting rooms or as guest chairs for your desk.

If you’ve got special circumstances like a bad back or carpal tunnel – speak up!  Discomfort can really inhibit your productivity, not to mention your job satisfaction.  Try small things first like putting a swatch of carpet underneath your chair, a lumbar pillow, or an ergonomic keyboard.  If you need something more, get a recommendation from your doctor and discuss it with your boss.  You might have to make a case for things like a Wacom Intuos4 Medium Pen Tablet or a Shade Master Fighting Tiger Welding Helmet.  Of course, if you need higher-end “tools of the trade” you should make your own investment that way you can take these with you if you change gigs.

Let There Be Light!

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Good lighting is important.  It prevents eye strain, fatigue, and can even enhance your skin tone!  Seriously though, if you’re reading this post there’s a good chance that you spend a significant amount of time in front of your computer.  If possible, make sure there’s at least one source of natural light.

Consider curtains (even sheer ones) as a way to diffuse the sun’s rays.  A desk lamp equipped with a full-spectrum lightbulb can also go a long way to preventing seasonal affective disorder (aka winter blues).  Not to mention they’re great for designers since they improve the perception of color versus their standard clear/white bulb counterparts.

Finally, consider your computer monitor.  Simple adjustments to the angle and brightness could help you feel at ease with your modern day beast of burden.

Clean Up The Clutter

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Take a look around your desk.  Do you really need that red stapler?  What about those paper clips?  And that stack of papers?  Surely those could (and probably should) be filed.  You can even use some binder clips to manage your earbuds or your cables to keep things extra tidy.

My first office job was at my mom’s title agency in Charlotte, NC.  I had a sprawling l-shaped desk that easily accommodated my desktop computer and all of my supplies.  Part of my job was digitally archiving thousands of legacy files and shredding the original (save the signature pages).

As I settled into my job I realized that every day I was moving my desk caddy, stapler, telephone, folder rack, and stress ball to make room for the stacks of folders that needed to be deconstructed, and reconstructed as I was indexing and scanning them into Halfile.  I don’t think I’ve used a two-prong fastener since.

The daily shuffling of my desktop surface eventually taught me to use my drawers to hold mission critical items, and to leave other supplies like boxes of staples or paperclips in the office cabinet.

Fuel for the Fire

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You need food to function.  It doesn’t matter whether your job involves flexing your mental muscles or your pectorals, your body works best when it is properly fed.  Keep healthy snacks like veggies, fruits, or turkey jerky nearby to eliminate hunger pangs that may distract you.  Munch on these when you’re in-between tasks.

Savor the food you take in.  Keeping a constant flow of good nutrition will break up the monotony of your day as well as keep you energized.

Try to avoid fats and sugars, those provide a short-term high followed by a significant crash.  Giving up caffeine is another thing to consider.  That probably sounds crazy to you.  I’m about six weeks in with no caffeine and I’ve never felt more energized or focused.  I’ve found that water with lime keeps me hydrated, and a wide selection of caffeine free teas allows me to continue using my amazing DT Coffee Mug.

Make it Personal

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I keep a desk caddy that I’ve been carrying around since I worked for my mom back in 2002, and a pair of headphones I won at Bonnaroo last year.  Those things are functional but sentimental.  My headphones come in handy since we’re in an open office environment.  Besides, who doesn’t like to make excel spreadsheets while listening to Sheena Easton?

You should also consider changing out your screensaver.  This japanese study shows that throughput and accuracy actually increases after participants looked at a gallery of infant animals (versus adult animals or food).  Other knick knacks and memorabilia can be charming, but distracting.  Pick your favorite chotchkie and ditch the rest.

Go ahead, get started!

Making yourself comfortable in your workspace is critical.  The right setup can give you inspiration in the morning, and ease your stress in the afternoon.  Don’t be afraid change it up seasonally – even requesting a new desk location occasionally just to keep it fresh.  If you’ve got a home office you could certainly look to pinterest for ideas.

If this post has inspired you, let me know in the comments what you’ve done to improve your desk.  Even better, if you have other suggestions for our community to employ please share those as well.

Happy Productivity!

Image Credits: Office Chair AdviceWikimedia, Apartment Therapy

Comments
  • Jamie Hamel-Smith

    Great post Brent! I’ve done the secondary vertical monitor thing and it’s really nice.

  • Kashmiri Beesham

    Really enjoyed the article – I requested for my workspace to be changed to a vacant desk, as I just started a new job, but sadly that has been refused for now 🙁

    I can’t fathom why the vacant desk can’t be occupied by me :-/

  • Brittany Webster

    I am entering into a new position, my office will be beneath a hotel on an almost basment level. It’s dark and gloomy. I will be looking to tour your advice here to help male in functional and comfortable