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Whether you’re a work-at-home mom who’s looking for a little more organization in your life or a college student looking to be a little more productive when not in the library, here are 9 at-home desk essentials for productive study sessions and effective work habits:
1. A trusty pen and notebook.
I had an amazing writing teacher who was known for an adorable—and worn—little notebook and matching pen. It’s almost ritualistic for her: when she has these tools, her brain knows to get into creative writing mode.
While you may not need to get as in-the-zone for your job as a creative writer might, everyone can still benefit from a pen and paper, even when you’re working mostly online. Use it as a journal, to write lists, or to make notes to yourself that will make your job a little easier later.
2. A calendar of some sort.
You can hang a dollar-store calendar on the wall with a thumbtack if you prefer, but there are lots of other tangible calendars out there for you to try, from large desk calendars to mini-agendas and planners to even motivational flipbooks. Whatever you choose, having a calendar off-screen can be useful when you need to check the date while working on another project, or when you’re in a video meeting and can’t switch to another tab to see your Google Calendar. What’s more, you won’t even be tempted to click to social media if you don’t have to check your phone for the date.
3. A pad of Post-It notes.
I’ve said many times on my blog that I’m a stickler for Post-It notes, but I really do think they are a home office essential, whether you’re on the job or hitting the books. You can stick them in your textbook as you take notes, jot down reminders to yourself that you can stick virtually anywhere that you know you’ll see it again, and Post-It notes also make really good spots to scribble on when you’re trying to get your pen to work.
4. A pair of earbuds of headphones.
With people coming and going and little ones running around, it can be hard to stay focused on the task at hand. A nice pair of earbuds or lightweight headphones easily solves this problem and helps you stay focused on the task at hand. Listening to music can also help you relax and avoid stress, research shows.
5. Chapstick, tissues, and other personal essentials.
When I’m not at my desk, I’m not working—which means every moment I waste going to grab a tissue or lip balm is a moment wasted. I like to keep little things like hair ties and bobby pins right at my fingertips so I don’t ever have to go wandering off.
6. A bottle of water.
We all know we’re supposed to stay hydrated, but actually following through is always an uphill battle for me. Keeping water at my desk—and even limiting myself to only water at my desk—helps me make sure I’m giving my body the energy it needs to get through whatever the day throws at me.
7. A whiteboard–bulletin board combo.
In addition to being a place to show off photos of your loved ones, a whiteboard and bulletin board can help you keep track of your to-do lists and goals, and provide a space for you to log your progress on ongoing projects. By color-coding or dividing the whiteboard into sections, you may find you can get a lot of information in a small space.
8. A source of light.
I caught the technology bug at a young age, and would often find myself spending long hours behind a computer screen. It worked out for me in the end—being comfortable with technology makes it easy and practical for me to work from home—but it wasn’t very good for my eyes. I got this tip from dad, who works in IT: in addition to getting glasses that are specifically designed to filter out blue light, always make sure the computer screen isn’t the only light source in the room. You don’t have to get a boring desk lamp: this is your chance to make a statement with a decor piece that fits your style, like this one that I actually have on my own desk at home!
9. A super comfy chair.
I try not to splurge too much on home office furniture, but the one thing that you (and your back) will be thankful you invested in later is a solid office chair. You’re not going to be productive if you aren’t comfortable, and the aching pain you get later if your chair isn’t supportive enough will make it hard for you to want to return to your desk. My pro tip for this? Look into gaming chairs: they’re available in tons of colors, are designed to be easily and quickly adjusted, and are made to be sat in for long periods of time.
Is there anything I missed? Let me know your home office essentials in the comments below!
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This article was last updated Sept. 28, 2020.