The state of our desks can say a lot about us. For some, a cluttered and cluttered work environment can lead to distraction and procrastination, while others claim that clutter can encourage creative thinking (the jury is still out on that, though).
But perhaps the real problem with desktops isn’t the battle between the finicky creative process and increasingly demanding productivity. With more devices (and their respective chargers) than ever before, and the challenge of living and working in the same space, the problem is having enough space to get any job done.
Being tidy is not enough for the modern desktop. We need a place for everything, and a few key items will help you maximize your space, no matter how big it is.
Get a desk shelf
In the past, a standard desk came with a set of built-in drawers or, for the fancy crowd, a set of pedestal drawers. But these storage units can be bulky, and with only about a third of workers having the luxury of a dedicated workspace in their home, you may need to get creative.
This is where the desk shelf comes into play. It sits in the area under your monitor (or where it would be if you weren’t using it), is eight to ten inches deep, usually no more than five inches tall, and can run the width of your entire desk. If you’re using a smaller monitor, you can place it on top of the shelf, while if you’re using a larger monitor or one with an ergonomic stand, you can find a desktop shelf that fits underneath. (This comes with the added benefit of covering up those clumsily overdesigned brackets.) Both solutions provide not only a shelf for your trinkets and everyday items, but also compartments below the shelf for you to put things.
[Related: Simplify your life with these shelf organizers for your desk]
A typical desktop shelf isn’t closed at the back, so keyboard, mouse, and power cords can easily pass through. Some layouts don’t sit under a monitor, but sit on either side of it. They are much more compact than a traditional bookshelf, and usually have spaces that are the perfect size for a handful of favorite books, devices like your tablet and laptop, and other items that usually clutter up your workspace.
Many companies will sell you a beautifully crafted desk shelf in all sorts of exotic materials, or even good, honest plywood. But building one yourself is simple even for a beginner.
By creating what is essentially a bunch of nooks for you to store your stuff, the desk shelf will give your desk structure. Your tablet and other devices will always be where they are supposed to be now that they have a dedicated place.
Complement your space with ergonomic lighting
The fact that your computer has a screen that generates its own light is both a blessing and a curse. Sure, you can see what you’re doing on the screen, but that bright rectangle can end up giving you eyestrain, not to mention it’s just not, you know, hygiene.
But having a focused light source near or behind your computer screen can help reduce these problems. It’s called bias lighting, and its most basic job is to reduce the perceived brightness of your main screen, which reduces stress on your eyes.
But if polarized lighting isn’t for you, you can opt for a classic desk lamp. There is a virtually endless number of LED lamps available at your favorite shopping site for overnight delivery, and most of them use essentially the same type of temperature-adjustable LEDs. That means you’ll be able to set the light from cool white to a warmer orange-yellow. Each can affect your mood differently and has a particular role, with cold being more uplifting and warm light being more welcoming. Adjusting the temperature of the light throughout the day can help you turn it up and down as needed.
There are also a few other features worth considering. Some lamps come with a built-in battery, so in the event of a power outage, you’ll have a light source that lasts 10-12 hours. Some models can also communicate with other lamps of the same make or model via Bluetooth, meaning you can turn them all on or off at once if you like. Often these lamps also have a candlelight feature that will change the ambiance of any room by flickering the LED to simulate a candle flame. This works fine on a single lamp, but can be awkward if you enable this feature on multiple lamps at the same time, as flickering tends to sync across multiple units.
In addition to a desk lamp, it’s also a good idea to get an ergonomic monitor lamp. Sometimes called a display bar, this is a strip of LEDs that runs across the top of your computer monitor (they’re usually too big for a laptop). A monitor lamp has a reflector that is set to illuminate the desk in front of you and not the monitor. That way, you’ll avoid any glare or glare that an overhead light or large lamp might cause on your screen. By lighting your keyboard area from above, you’ll also avoid the left-right shadow bias caused by a task lamp on either side of the monitor.
Some monitor lamps also include a secondary light that also shines behind the monitor. This type of polarized lighting casts a warm glow on the wall that reduces eye strain without the need to find space for a second lamp. You can use a display bar as a replacement for other task lights (if you don’t have the space) or as an additional light source, since a task light may not illuminate your keyboard.
Consider a desk mat
The touch aspect of working at a desk is something that many of us often overlook. Maybe you have a beautiful wooden desktop that doesn’t need to be covered, but some of us have to deal with sticky desktop surfaces that don’t work well with a mouse sensor.
You can get huge mouse pads printed with your favorite video game characters, but the material the mouse pads are made of can look too artificial. A desk mat is different from a mouse pad, and depending on its manufacture, it may feel more natural. You can get rugs made from natural linoleum or (if you’re prepared to spend the money) even leather.
Both surfaces work well with any mouse’s sensors, so they won’t negatively affect its performance. They can also be more durable than synthetic materials and protect your desk from your computer (and vice versa). Typical mats range from a size that is large enough to fit under your laptop and mouse, to huge full desk mats.
Get a multiport charger
There’s an irony in the way that at the same time we got cheap wireless keyboards and mice to cut the cords, we added two or more extra devices that still need regular recharging. I, for example, have a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, an e-reader, and a set of wireless headphones in a charging case.
Adding to the spaghetti all those cables cause, there’s the issue of needing a power board to take all your various power bricks, which makes for a horrible mess.
A multiport charger is, as its name suggests, a box with many holes for plugs. But as simple as it sounds, these devices are capable of supplying power to up to five devices, all with different needs (tablets and laptops draw much more power than an e-reader, for example), and only by using a single plug in the socket. major.
The key technology is gallium nitride (GaN), a material used in semiconductors that allows high power to be delivered in a compact package, without generating much heat. If your smartphone has wireless charging, look for a unit that includes it. As most devices these days are evolving to include USB-C ports, GaN chargers tend to have more of these than larger USB-A ports, but it’s important to have at least a couple of these for your larger devices. old.
The only thing these chargers can’t accommodate is devices that use a proprietary charger, like Macs or gaming laptops. However, you can get a USB to magsafe cable for some Macs, which will work with GaN multiport chargers.
Step up your cable management game
A final consideration for your new maxed out desk are those twisted and tangled cables.
Cable management systems are many and varied, but a good place to start is with a simple metal channel that screws into the bottom back of your desk. Some of these have a hinge set up, so once you plug the channel in, you can open it up, push all the cables in, and close it back up.
[Related: How to hide your mess of cables once and for all]
A cable management box that can be attached to the desk is best for keeping everything out of sight and out of mind, but a basic box that sits on the floor can also make a world of difference.
These can be as little as $25, are available at most hardware stores, and even if they don’t solve the problem of dangling cords behind your desk, they’ll at least hide all those plugs. You can also go fancy and get electrical boxes with wooden covers and accents.
The best thing about all of these solutions is that they don’t require you to have a TikTok-ready desktop. You can still satisfy your need for clutter if you want, but you won’t feel like you’ve lost complete control of your space. Or maybe you really are the kind of person who puts away your keyboard every night. Whatever your style, you can always do more with the room you have.