The Tools You need to Have (and Where to Keep Them)
Post 2 in the series: Recommended Productivity Tools
While the right tools are important, the tools themselves won’t get you organized. You need to know how to think about your tools and where to keep them. Otherwise, getting the right tools will simply create clutter.
So before getting into the specific tools I recommend, I’m going to do two things. First, I’m going to outline the basic categories that everything you can possibly have at your desk falls into. Second, I’ll give a brief overview of all the tools that may be useful to have in your workspace and where they should go at your desk.
Understanding Workspace Setup
I posted some notes on workspace organization last week in anticipation of this series, so that may be worth looking at. The most relevant concept for our purposes here is that there are two kinds of things at your desk: permanent stuff and transient stuff.
Permanent stuff falls into four categories: equipment, supplies, decoration, and reference.
Equipment goes on the desk if its used more than once per day, and in a drawer if not. Supplies go in a desk drawer in small amounts, with extras being kept in a cabinet or supply room. Decoration goes on the desk and walls, but should be kept limited. Reference items go in file cabinets and on bookshelves.
Transient stuff falls into three categories: input to be processed, action reminders, and project support materials.
Input to be processed goes in the in box. Action reminders will be in your task management software or, if you are paper-based, planner. Project support materials would be in electronic files and possibly some physical files.
The tools that we’ll be discussing in this series fall into the categories of equipment and supplies.
Core Tools and Their Locations
Here is an overview of the physical productivity tools you need to have and some brief words on where they go. My aim here is to provide you enough details on where to keep things to get you started; I’ll provide more details on desk setup in a future series.
On the top of your desk you should have your in box, computer monitor, any necessary computer peripherals, at least one pen, and maybe a pencil. If desired, you might maybe also want to have a desk lamp, a decoration or two, and a printer if you have one to yourself and there is room.
And that’s it.
The rest of the desktop is for working and just plain providing some breathing space. Any additional items will get in the way and, at least unconsciously, be a nuisance. The key principle is: keep your desktop as clear as possible.
I’ll go into more detail on how to set up your drawers in my series on desk setup. But for the tools I’m covering here, two drawers are sufficient.
In one of the drawers at your desk you should keep these items: pens, pencils, extra pencil lead, paper clips, scissors, a letter opener, and a unit of post-its. You might also want to have some rubber bands, super glue, twist-tie-things that come with the cords in neat new electronics gadgets, business cards, Advil, and maybe a few other things that fit and are useful (some permanent markers, a small ruler, etc.).
Don’t keep too many extra pens and pencils in this drawer; 5 of each is plenty. The point is to have a reserve to draw from if the one you are using on your desk runs out, you misplace it, or you just want to grab a few more for some reason. If you have any additional pens and pencils beyond the 5 or so, they go in a supply closet where you store extra supplies.
Regarding super glue and rubber bands: I admit that I hardly ever use these things. Having them around at all may be an old hold-over from when less stuff was computer based. Or maybe I just have rubber bands in there because I think it’s neat. The super glue is there because we have kids who sometimes break things. So, obviously, some things here are more or less relevant to each person’s specific situation.
Regarding the twist-tie-things: Whenever I get a new electronic gadget, I save those twist-ties the cords come tied up with. Or, I should say, I save them unless they are the flimsy kind. They really come in handy to tie up any cords that are longer than needed, so as to keep them from becoming unruly. I use them all the time.
In another drawer you should have this equipment: stapler, staple remover, tape, and a labeler.
I admit that I hardly ever use the tape. But if I ever need it, I don’t want to have to go walking to find some. There’s space for it, so it’s easy enough to keep around.
The stapler I use about every other day or so. Whatever you do, do not keep your stapler on your desk. That just looks ugly. It goes in a drawer. So does the labeler.
I also keep a stack of blank CD-RWs in this drawer, some sleeves for the CDs, and a cloth to clean my screen.
If you have additional drawers, other stuff that you might want to keep in them include: chargers, extra batteries, Kleenex, and printer paper (if you have a printer at your desk). If you have a cubicle with a storage bin or a desk with some type of hutch on one part of it, these items also work well in there.
Obviously there is probably a lot of other stuff some people keep in their desks. That’s fine, but my recommendation is to keep the amount of stuff you have around to a minimum. Have only the essentials, and a bit more if it doesn’t take up any needed space.
Keep things to a minimum so that it is easier to keep them organized. The aim is easy, finger-tip access so that your workspace functions like an effective cockpit.
Around Your Desk
Around your desk are chairs, wastebaskets, and maybe bookshelves.
Extra supplies go in a supply room. Keep at your desk what you use, and keep extras somewhere else to avoid clutter. For example, if you have a printer and keep printer paper around your desk, keep one unit around. Keep extra units in the supply room.
Kept portable and with you should be your capture journal.
Posts in This Series
- Recommended Productivity Tools: An Introduction
- The Tools You Need to Have (And Where to Keep Them)
- Recommended In Boxes
- Recommended Capture Journals
- Recommended Pens
- Recommended Pencils and Paper Pads
- Recommended Staplers, Staple Removers, and Tape
- Recommended Scissors, Letter Openers, and Post-Its
- Recommended Paper Clips and Super Glue
- Not Recommended: Desktop Organizer Things
- Recommended Chairs and Waste Baskets
- Recommended Labelers and File Folders
- Recommended File Cabinets and Bookshelves