Your desk can quickly turn into a disaster because most people juggle more tasks than achievable in a standard workday. However, you have to get your work done, so don’t let a messy desk cause you to lose focus or feel anxious.

What to Keep on Your Desk to Help Improve Your Focus

An easy place to start is to take stock of your desk equipment, tools, and decor. Even if you claim that aesthetics aren’t important to you, keep an open mind. Your workspace is a tool that helps you get your job done.

When equipped with things that help you do your best work, your focus and output may improve significantly. So consider these five things to add to your desk decor — all in the name of focus and productivity.

1. A Sand Timer

Time blindness is real. It can be hard to hang in there if you struggle with staying on task, especially in unpleasant jobs. Consider adding a sand timer to your desk decor to encourage you to work in sprints or practices like the Pomodoro Technique.

Timers are available in multiple sizes and speeds. Consider your current work style and attention span to choose those that suit you. For example, if you use the Pomodoro Technique, you’ll need a 25-minute timer to execute the strategy.

Using a tech-free timer can help you resist the temptation of a phone pickup or social media, both of which have proven to be distracting and productivity stealers. However, these sand timers are aesthetically pleasing, too. So I use my sand timer as an interesting piece to look at — on break.

2. Note-Taking Supplies

Analog notes are often the easiest to execute, especially when inspiration hits. Keep a notebook or notepad dedicated for work at your workstation. Have a pen you love on standby, so you’re ready to jot down a takeaway, assignment, or idea. Label your notes so you can keep track of what you’ve written down.

One drawback of note-taking supplies is that you won’t find another person in your office with them, and everyone will borrow yours. So get those colored variety stacks and several pens and locate them on the edge of your desk. You’ll want to motion to the “borrowers” that they may take a couple of sheets and a pen.

If your notes include tasks, transfer them to your official to-do list. At the end of the day, you may be looking at scrawled messages that are hard to read. Please take a moment to address them now, before your mind has moved on to other thoughts.

Transfer those ideas to a Word document and save them to the project folder that makes the most sense. Make sure to give your thoughts a final destination before they’re lost in the pages of your notebook.

3. An Annual Calendar

How many times a day do you find yourself searching for the date? Or what about trying to plot out a throttled campaign? Keep an annual calendar in your view, and you just may see your work get smoother.

Having a visual of the year ahead can help you plan your workload, consider contingencies, and resist touching distracting tech. Use your annual calendar to layer tasks and responsibilities, so you can tell when workloads can get tight. Then, finalize your workload to your tech-based calendar later and stay in the flow by using a visual calendar first.

It may sound crazy to have a little paper Calendar on your desk — but a paper Calendar can keep you off of social and seeing your messages when you just have to have a quick date.

4. A Landing Spot for Papers

Papers may be a necessary evil, especially if your business hasn’t adopted the latest digital tools. Create a system to ingest papers to keep your space clear with no distractions. Instead, use an in/outbox, standing folder holder, or other receptacles to create order where chaos often persists.

If you’re often receiving documents for review or sign-off, communicate your process to your team. With a standard protocol, you can ensure that documents are organized and ready for your review.

Have a one, two, or three-point email for colleagues so they understand your method, and you’ll be able to address your inbox without needing to collate documents. Schedule time to address your physical inbox daily to avoid a backlog. Give every item a home before you finish your day, even if the item deserves more attention tomorrow.

5. A Visual That Motivates You

A powerful quote, poster of your vacation spot, or your kids’ school picture are all fair game for desk decor. Seeing the things and people that matter most can help you push through even the toughest of tasks. Using motivating visuals can remind you of your “why,” especially during challenging seasons of work.

Give your motivating visual a place of honor on your workspace. If it’s a photo, invest in a sturdy frame and keep it updated with the latest image of what drives you. Quotes that mean something to you can be tacked on to your monitor or even added to your coffee mug.

Allow your desk to serve as a representation of you if you wish. Know what encourages you to do your best work and stay inspired.

Keep a Clean Desk Policy

Many workplaces insist on a clean desk policy to keep customer and company data secure. However, while you should always protect private and personal information, so should you guard your productivity.

Make a practice of tidying your space at the end of your workday. Set a reminder on your calendar for the final 15 minutes of your scheduled hours. File papers, remove remnants from meals, and update your to-do list tomorrow.

With COVID still hanging around, we do a quick wipe-down with an antibacterial solution. We may not need this dedicated wiping-off scenario — but the feeling of trying to do something to help seems to make us all feel better.

When you arrive the following day, you’ll be greeted with a clean workspace, setting the stage for a productive day.

Image Credit: Jordan Benton; Pexels; Thank you!