13 ways to hack your workspace for optimal productivity

TrivagoWhen it comes to desk clutter, keep it at a minimum.

There are podcasts, morning routines, hobbies, and even procrastination techniques that can make you more productive.

But there’s one thing that might be missing from your arsenal of time management hacks: optimising your work desk and workspace for ultimate productivity.

Office designers from Michigan, Colorado, and New York shared their tips for making your office space attuned to a productive workday.

Bring in some plants

Courtesy of MKDAPlants can make you more productive.

Plants are an easy way to beautify your desk and improve your workplace air quality.

But research shows that employees in workspaces with plants are also 15% more productive.

Choose a plant that can thrive on however much sunlight your desk gets, Christine Everett, senior designer at New York-based interior design firm MKDA, told Business Insider.

Succulents are low-maintenance and widely-available, but they require lots of sun, she said.

Better low-light options include the snake plant, pothos, and peace lily.

And if you don’t have a green thumb, here’s how to stop killing indoor plants.

If you work in a windowless office, take a walk outside

Hollis JohnsonYelp’s New York offices, pictured, are sunny.

Workers in windowless environments reported significantly lower well-being compared to those in a sunny office, according to a 2014 study from Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Try to get a few hours in the sun everyday.

“Exposure to daylight is critical in order to maintain your body’s circadian rhythm, which manages your cognition, serotonin production, and digestion,” Everett told Business Insider. “We literally feel more awake and happy with exposure to daylight.”

Replace super-long cables that are getting in your way or clip them to the side

Mike McCune/flickr/attributionCut down on the cord confusion.

You probably have cords for your computer, keyboard, mouse, phone, headphones, cell phone charger, and maybe even more.

Ensuring that those cords don’t get in the way is important for your workflow, Judy Goldman, CEO and owner of Design Studio Interior Solutions, a Boulder-based design firm, told Business Insider.

Make sure your cords are the right length, she suggested, and wrap up or replace the ones that are too long.

You could also try cord holders, cord clips, binder clips, and Velcro straps to group the necessities together, or you could tie up others with cable organisers. If you have even more cords, you can label them so you know what all the cables are.

Remind yourself of your purpose with certain objects on your desk

EvernotePictured is Evernote CEO Chris O’Neill’s desk, with mementos that he said inspire him.

Find an object or two that inspires your work and keep it on your desk.

Try an office award, a picture of your family, or a reminder of your company’s ethos.

Evernote CEO Chris O’Neill keeps an American and Canadian flag on his desk to remind himself of his dual citizenship and his company’s international ethos, he told Business Insider’s Áine Cain.

He also has a picture of his children, who inspired him to start using Evernote.

Every Zillow employee keeps a sign of how many years they have been with the company, Zillow Group CEO Spencer Rascoff told Business Insider.

Keep healthy snacks at your desk

Sarah Jacobs/Business InsiderIf your office is stocked with snacks, like the Two Sigma office pictured, walk to the kitchen to re-fuel. It’s a good excuse to get moving.

If you’re hit by a wave of hunger way before lunch, or way before it’s time to go home and enjoy dinner, you might want a quick snack to keep energy levels up.

Mixed nuts, protein bars, and dried fruits are great snack options to stash in your desk.

Wear noise-cancelling headphones, but don’t play music

Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesNo sound, no problem.

A growing body of research advises you to not listen to music while working.

Daniel Levitin, a cognitive neuroscientist and the author of “This is Your Brain on Music,” told Business Insider’s Shana Lebowitz that music hinders your productivity unless you’re working on repetitive tasks.

Otherwise, listen to music for 10 to 15 minutes before you get down to business to enjoy the feel-good neurotransmitters that music triggers.

If your environment is full of noisy phone calls and chatter, noise-cancelling headphones are a must.

But avoid playing white noise. A 2010 study showed that students without attention disorders were better at memory tasks if they were in a quiet environment.

Just wearing headphones can also increase productivity in part because coworkers won’t pop by for a chat if you look dialed in with headphones.

You don’t need a standing desk, but you do need to sit less

Courtesy of MKDATake a walk.

“The ultimate goal is to avoid sitting for too long continuously,” Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, told Bloomberg.

The point of a standing desk is that you’re encouraged to walk around and move, rather than sit stagnant for hours, according to Lopez-Jimenez, who researched the effects of standing desks.

Research shows that walking around for five minutes every hour boosts mood while reducing fatigue and food cravings.

You don’t need a standing desk for that.

If your workplace is too air-conditioned, keep a cosy sweater, a space heater, fingerless gloves, or all of the above at your desk

Cold office temperatures freeze your productivity.

A 2004 study from Cornell University found that increasing an office’s temperature from 68 to 77 degrees lowered typing errors by 44% and increased typing output 150%.

There are tons of ways to stay warm in a frigid office including wearing fingerless gloves, big sweaters, scarves, and using space heaters.

Get a notepad and sticky notes

Zillow GroupZillow Group CEO Spencer Rascoff has plenty of screens at his desk, but he also uses notebooks and sticky notes.

Just because we’re in a digital world it doesn’t mean you should discard the importance of writing.

Notebooks can be a great way to consolidate all of your notes from meetings and phone calls, as well as provide a space to write down quick ideas.

Adjust your seat and monitor for better posture

Samantha Lee/Business InsiderStraight posture can make you more productive.

According to the Mayo Clinic, poor posture has a shocking array of negative effects: headaches; back and neck pain; breathing problems; pinched shoulders; and jaw pain.

Adjust your chair and computer monitor to force yourself to sit tall, the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) suggests. Your backrest should support your low- and mid-back.

Insider’s Lindsay Mack tried a variety of posture tricks, and her favourite one was putting a pillow at her back as suggested by the ACA.

And if the culprit is shoddy company chairs, consider investing your own money to upgrade your seat.

“Low-quality chairs lead to fatigue and even back problems, thus decreasing productivity,” Melissa Frederiksen, owner and principal designer of Grand Rapids-based Atmosphere 360 Studio, told Business Insider. “Spending more up front saves money in lost time and productivity later.”

Ditch your desk

SoundhoudSoundHound CEO Kelvin Mohajer flees to an sunny, second-floor office nook when he needs to crank out work in peace or host a team meeting, he told Business Insider.

Even leaving the most well-organised desk has benefits for your productivity.

Ron Friedman, a psychologist and the author of “The Best Place to Work,” previously told Business Insider that, when you take your work from your desk to the office kitchen, couches, or huddle rooms, you’re sending yourself the signal that it’s time to focus.

“Now I’ve made this gesture of investing time in doing an activity that I’ve been having trouble making progress toward,” he said. “And so simply being invested in trying to achieve the outcomes I’m looking for puts me down the path toward getting started.”

If you don’t use it everyday, put it in a drawer

CasperPhilip Krim, founder and CEO of Casper, has a clear desk, but he keeps a plethora of books and photos on a nearby shelf.

“Try to be self-monitoring in terms of stuff you’re collecting at your workspace,” Everett told Business Insider. “If you’re able to file things and remove clutter all of those things, it really does make a big difference.”

Your desktop should be only for the essentials – computer, phone, notepad, pens, water bottle, she said. Drawers can hold everything else.

You could invest in a filing cabinet if you’re inundated by papers. Or better yet, scan them with your phone and keep those documents as PDFs.

“Nothing slows productivity more than being cramped and being forced to dig through stacks of files and paper to get work done,” Frederiksen told Business Insider.

Buying blue, green, and yellow accents can help boost productivity

Courtesy of MKDABlue can keep you calm and focused.

Different colours can enhance your mood in different ways.

Blue and red have been found to improve brain performance.

Scientists say that cool tones like blue are calming. A desk with plenty of blue accents could help you feel level throughout the day.

But don’t overdo red – which Andrew Elliot at the University of Rochester in New York State told the BBC can trigger your heart rate – unless your job involves physical activity or short bursts of work.

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