Staying focused comes easier to some than others, but we all have days where we feel like we could be more productive. Sometimes you may find yourself sitting at your desk and fighting a constant battle against procrastination and coming up short. Here we have decided to share some of the tips and tricks that we use to remain productive at your desk. How you remain productive BEFORE you get to the desk is a post for another day.
The advice that we will give is a culmination of practice and testing that we as professional content creators have developed from working at home. These all work for us, however you may need to find some tweaking.
1. Clean the desk.
A good start to the day is only as effective when the previous night’s efforts are considered. When it comes to productivity, a clean and tidy desk makes a whole world of difference.
There are many reasons as to why. However, to us it is more of an out of sight out of mind theory. Therefore, we tidy the desk so that only items that are required to work are present.
For me, that is a very short list:
- Audio and Video equipment, (this is for conference calling). Webcam, Microphone, Audio interface.
- Mobile Phone
- A Pen
There are one or two things that I keep on the desk. For example, I do have a PlayStation 4 on my desk. This is because there are no other places to put it. However, the controller for that console is hidden so the temptation to play it is minimised. The other thing that I have on the desk is a coaster for a drink.
That is it. Out of sight, out of mind. There is a useful blog post on methods to keep a desk tidy at smead.com that we found useful.
2. No Mobile Phones.
Some keen observers would notice the short list of six items that I stated above had a glaring issue. I listed a mobile phone. Normally a mobile is the opposite of what you need for productivity, in-fact a 2017 survey from the firm Office Team found that the average office worker spends 56 minutes per day using their smartphone for non-work activities. The reason that I have one on my desk is because I oversee video content production and social media for clipshare. A mobile phone is a vital part of that working environment.
If I did not have that as a part of the working process, I would put my phone in a drawer or another room. As it can be distracting. Our advice to you, is to do the same. Get rid of the phone on the desk (unless it is VITAL to execution of tasks).
Staying hydrated is another key part to the desk set up that most people miss. Recently, I have found that more emphasis is given to hydration at the desk. Especially within the live streaming genre of content creation. Which is good.
Have a glass of water or something similar at the desk so you can drink when you need to. There is a good rule of thumb, if you drink when you are thirsty, you are already de-hydrated. So keep sipping on that water.
I was first recommended to keep a bottle of water on you by a customer, when I worked in retail. He claimed that you would be so surprised how much you drink, and how much better you feel when you keep a bottle on you. The same rules apply to your desk.
There are a lot of studies that indicate a link between hydration and performance such as this on written for the ACSM’s Health Fit Journal linking dehydration to lack of concentration. You could read it, or you could simply trust that it says what all the other studies say, drink more water.
4. Multiple Screens.
This is contentious piece of advice, so some clarification needs to happen. We, amongst others that practice AGILE methodology, state that you should use the equipment that you have to get the job done. If that is a single monitor to work on. Then you will have one monitor. Again, this depends on the tasks that you need to get done in the day.
For us, we focus on a lot of content creation. This could be in the form of written content as seen here… you are reading it. Or we produce a lot of video content, which you can find over at our YouTube channel, here. So, to me specifically, my job requires the use of screen real estate. This is so I do not loose time switching from tab to tab and programme to programme. I can look at a video brief, then look at the video I am editing and not lose that time switching.
If you have the capacity to extend the screen real estate, once you go to two screens, you will be amazed how you managed to work with less.
This links into the point made previously about keeping the desk tidy so you do not have anything that you need in view. Having some space on your desk that gives you the ability to switch from working on the computer to something physical makes the world of difference.
When I started working from home many years ago, I found that keeping a notepad on my desk next to me was incredibly powerful. Something about the act of physically writing the notes down on paper worked incredibly well.
Since using this practice, I have increased my productivity A LOT!
I tend to write a list of tasks that need to be done for the next day at the end of the working shift so that when I get to the desk in the morning, it is clean due to point #1. It also means I have an agenda set out for me to crack on and executes tasks.
7. Background Noise.
This is some contentious advice that is highly subjective. We are fully aware that some people work really well listening to nothing. However, some people, myself included, work so so so much better with some background noise.
The trick is to find something that makes your execution flow optimised. Some people prefer to listen to music as they work. Other people listen to podcasts. However the real skill is finding something that you can listen too that will not drive too much attention away from the task that you are trying to complete. For me, I found, after huge amount of trial and error that the perfect content to watch (for me) is listening to people play a video game called Stardew Valley.
It is a relaxing game and coupled with the amazing soundtrack and the voice over from the gamer dictating what they are doing. It is a match made in heaven.
I understand that a lot of people will not resonate well with watching this type of content whilst they work. However, as I said before. This is all about trial and error and the skill is finding what works well for you in the long run. That is what I like to listen to.
8. Pain Points.
Minimise the amount of pain points when you are working. When the transition happened to work from home due to the coronavirus, I had a huge issue with working on one screen due to my job role. At the office, I had a second monitor that I would connect my laptop to so I could work of two screens.
At home I use the desktop. I am able to link my camera and audio equipment to it and I’m able to sit down in the morning and turn everything on with the single click of a button. Fantastic.
I purchased some extra monitors to work on and now its great and I’m in full swing for productivity.
The second pain point that I have managed to fix is my old keyboard. The contrast in productivity since getting a good keyboard has been night and day. The amount of time that I have saved with a new keyboard has honestly been eye opening.
Similar to the multiple monitors point I mentioned earlier, I cannot think about how I managed to work without this new keyboard. It has been amazing.
9. The Chair.
I think that the only improvement that I need to make to optimise the productivity at a desk is to get a comfy chair. If you work for 9 hours a day. You need a chair that makes you want to not want to get out of. I have yet to find that chair… one day it will be mine. The main thing is to follow the NHS’s guidelines on how to sit at your desk correctly. This will help prevent all of those aches and pains as a result of poor posture and being hunched over all day.
The 9 points that I have raised above are not everything that you need to achieve maximum productivity. However, for a working desk environment, it’s a pretty good place to start. If I had to pick out one or two, it would be to clean the desk and get a notebook to write tasks down each day. These are the smallest changes that have seen the biggest results.
Lastly, I should reaffirm the fact that you should work with what you have to make the most out of it. Do not look at this list of advice as places to purchase new gear. However, if you are in the position where you can invest in equipment then this can be a good place to start. The answer to the productivity question does not lie simply in buying a bunch of cool stuff. It is in making small positive changes to the way you do things. If that means you have to buy a nice new keyboard however, lucky you.