Improve productivity by Tailoring your Desktop 2/3

For a large number of people the majority of their work is done in front of a computer.  Yet it surprises me how many people have a default desktop layout and have put very little thought into tailoring it to suit their needs.  I think you are missing out on a lot of potential gains by not doing this.  Now the desktop for me goes beyond just what you see on your screen.  The directory structure you use for storing files and also your physical work area layout play a part in how you will use your computer and are all important.  Over the next 3 posts I will focus on each of these and how you can make your life more pleasant and productive.  In this post I will look at your physical work area.

Nowadays your physical work area could be one of several options.  You can be working at a desk at work,  at home,  or on a laptop,  anywhere.  Most of what I’m going to talk  about concerns working at a desk but some may be applicable to you also if you tend to work on a laptop.

One of the most important things is cleanliness. A clean work area offers many advantages.  Your mindset tends to reflect your surroundings.  So having a clean work area can lead to having an uncluttered and open mindset.  Perfect for being the most productive.  It also means you have room to place things that you are working with (printouts,  books,  prototypes of products etc) and not have other things competing for attention.

Next on the agenda is space. Although it’s not always possible,  try and organise your work area so that you have as much of it as possible.  Again,  an open area will lead to an open mind,  and minimise distractions.  It ties in closely with cleanliness.  A more spacious work area will only be beneficial if you keep it clean.  A spacious area tends to make your layout more comfortable and also leads to less effort being spent trying to organise placement of items you are working with (print outs,  books,  prototypes of products etc).

Comfort is vitally important. It’s amazing how many people seem to ignore this one.  Yet it has such a huge impact on how effective you are going to be working.

So now we know what our aims are lets take a look at how we are going to achieve them.

Cleanliness is easy in some respects but hard in others. If you have piles of papers and magazines lying around + other junk it’s very easy to tidy them up and place them somewhere off your desk.  But you really have to go further than this.  Zen Habits can offer much good advice.  You want to get non essential items off your desk.  Shelves can also be a good means of keeping clutter off your desk.  Put your computer underneath your desk if possible.  Clear up and hide as many cables as possible.  A wireless mouse can be good.  Don’t have a lot of stationary on your desk.  I find a good writing pad and quality pen to be sufficient.  Keep things such as your phone out of the way of where your attention is mostly focused but still within reach.  Once it’s clean,  keep it clean.  Otherwise it’ll have the tendency to slowly clutter again.

Make sure there is a nice open area on your desk for you to place items you are working with.  We often are working not only with a computer,  but in conjunction with a book,  magazine or product etc.  When doing so you want to have an area you can place it in where it is the center of attention.  To the left is preferable as your right hand will be using your mouse (or vice versa if you are left handed).   An ‘L’ shaped desk can be good for allowing such an area.

Buy quality equipment. In using a computer the parts you use the most are the keyboard,  mouse,  monitor and speakers.  To get the most out of your computer you need these items to be in tip top shape.  Make sure you have a mouse and keyboard that is comfortable to use.  There tends to be quite a difference between the good quality ones and the cheaper ones.  Especially after a couple of hours of work.  Same for your monitor.  Make sure the picture is bright and crisp.  Try and get as large a monitor as possible.  You will appreciate the extra space.  If possible,  set up your system with multiple monitors.  Having 2 or 3 monitors on your computer can make working much easier.

Many people like to listen to music while they are working.  If you are one of these people then buy good quality speakers.  You will appreciate the difference.  It will put you in a better mindset.  You probably don’t notice it but listening to music through poor quality speakers leads to distractions.  Subconsciously you are distracted by the minor imperfections.

In doing all this,  and especially in conjunction with a clean desktop you are well on your way to being more productive and less stressed.  In the next post we are going to look at the final piece which is organising your documents and files.

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