If you have gadgets in your home or office, chances are that you have (at one point or another) encountered a tangle of cables and wires that were difficult to decipher. Sure, you can go wireless to avoid the problem altogether, but for those of you with wired devices, there are several products you can use to corral your cords. You can also use a desk that has special features to help you keep your cables from cluttering your space, like the Cable Guy Desk created by Ingland Designs (the same designer who made the Mealbox, dining table and chairs in a box).
Cable Guy Desk
At first glance, it’s not very obvious how this desk keeps your cables in order. Give it a closer look and you’ll notice the track for storing your cords inside the legs of the desk. There’s also human-shaped grommet on the surface of the table for your cables to drop through.
Image credits: Igland Design
You can get the desk in large sizes to accommodate several people. This can work well in a meeting room or if you need to share a desk with another person. You can also get the optional ball speakers (with accompanying grommets).
Image credit: Igland Design
The StudioDesk by Bluelounge (you might be familiar with another of their products, the Cable Drop) has a slot on one end for your cords to flow through as well as a hidden storage area that’s large enough to house power strips, USB hubs, external hard drives, and a MacMini server.
Image credits: Bluelounge
The StudioDesk comes in two sizes (standard and extra large) and doesn’t appear to have drawers or any other bells and whistles. It is, however, very easy to assemble. Simply add the legs once you receive it.
Image credit: Bluelounge
OneLessDesk, though it has a small footprint, this desk has two parts — an upper and lower deck — the latter of which can be used for your keyboard, laptop, or as a flat surface for writing. The upper deck can be used for storing your primary (or secondary) monitor or keeping the items you need to access on a regular basis.
Image credits: Heckler Design
It also has a rear-facing shelf for your peripherals or power strip. Adding labels or tags will help you figure out items match each cable. Though each desk has its own unique way handling cables, they all have a simple design that is intended to help you keep cords and wires from cluttering your desk.
Image credit: Heckler Design
For the last two months, I’ve challenged myself with the goal of walking every day. I’ve been spending more time with my treadmill and, as a result, I’ve also been doing quite a bit more reading on my iPad while I walk. I’m thrilled that I now have scheduled reading time and that I actually find interesting articles that help make the time pass relatively quickly. During one of my walking and reading sessions, I came across a blog post that asked if having a messy desk is such a terrible thing. My first thought, even before I read the post, was that I wouldn’t be as productive as I am if my desk were cluttered. In fact, I would probably feel compelled to organize it before I started working.
But, I also know that sometimes while I’m working, things can get a little, er, out of control. I like keeping my favorite pen, sticky notes, and notebook on my desk. And, I also have my water bottle and iPad. If there’s something that I don’t want to forget to do, it will probably be on my desk, too. The problem is that when there are too many things strewn about, it affects how well I can get things accomplished. But, if I had the Homework Desk, I might be able to have the best of both worlds — a clear desk and needed items within reach.
Have a look:
Image credit: Tomas Kral
This simple desk (aluminum placed between two slabs of wood) designed by Tomas Kral has no bells and whistles and no drawers. Instead, it has trench-like storage around it’s perimeter (Kral refers to it as a toolbox) to hold papers, pens, books, or documents that you need to have on hand. This leaves you with the entire expanse of the desk to do your work. The photo below shows a cable coming from the back of the desk, so it seems there may be built-in grommets.
Image credit: Thomas Kral
If you like this style but prefer having drawers, here’s a similar model, called my writing desk, designed by Inesa Malafej. It also has open slots on two corners for cables to run through.
Image credit: Design Boom
The drawers are slim but big enough to hold some essentials (like business cards, pens).
Image credit: Design Boom
This desk also has removable legs which would make moving it to a different location relatively easy. Of course, with both models, you’ll need to make sure you don’t clutter your table gutters with rubbish and items you don’t use.
Image credit: Design Boom
When I was in grade school, I would often daydream. I’d stare out the classroom window and imagine myself running through the sprinklers or going to the beach. Sometimes, my teacher would tap me on the shoulder or call my name (loudly) to get my attention. When I became part of the workforce, I didn’t daydream as much, but there were certainly times when I found it difficult to stay focused while at work.
Now that I primarily work from home, I’ve discovered that while I can be very productive and get things done, my energies can sometimes be directed at the things I shouldn’t be doing. Unwashed laundry can be distracting to me. Dirty dishes in the sink and a carpet that needs vacuuming also can cause my mind to wander. It may be hard to imagine I’d rather clean than do work-work, but chores are things I actually enjoy doing.
So, to help keep my attention where it needs to be, I follow these simple steps:
- As much as possible, take care of distractions before working. Since I have the need to clean, I make sure I do it each night before bed. The dishes are washed, the pillows on the sofa are fluffed, all the chairs are pushed under the dining table, everything is put back where it belongs, and the counters are cleared before I go to bed so I won’t think about them the next day while working. If you are distracted by disorder or something that can be completed ahead of time, take care of these items each night before heading to bed.
- Work at your best time. I’m a rock star in the morning hours. I often say that I can solve the world’s problems at 6 a.m. While this is an exaggeration, I know that I’m most productive in the early hours of the day. Knowing when you are most productive and clear-headed can go a long way in helping you to focus on your work. For a couple weeks, track what you do over the course of the day and when you get the most stuff done. Then, structure your schedule so you can do the work that requires the greatest amount of focus during the times when you are at your best.
- Work at a table or desk. To ensure that I continue working productively over the course of the work day, I need to sit at an organized desk (or table) and in a sturdy chair. My brain equates these two things with work. If I sit on the sofa, I can still get things done, but it’s too comfortalbe and too close to the television (which can be a bright, shiny, HUGE distraction). Work in a place that feels like you should be doing work there.
- Keep your to-do list visible. My to-do list is my map for the day. It tells me what to do and when to do it. And, each time I cross something off my list, I’m motivated to keep working. If I don’t have my list in front of me, it would be very easy to start working on something that’s not a priority. It’s a good idea to start each day by reviewing your to-do list or creating one so you start your day with a clear understanding of where you’re going.
- Add deadlines to your task list. I’m deadline driven. Without deadlines, I meander in my thoughts and actions. I get a thrill from turning in a project on time and this feeling intensifies when I deliver ahead of schedule. When I begin working on a task or project, I keep due dates at the top of mind by writing them on my to do list. You can also use a calendar, a stop watch, or any other device that will help you to reach goals by specific times.
- Keep email notifications turned off. My emails are filtered through Outlook and for a very long time, I used to keep the audible and visual notifications active. This became too distracting as I would often stop to read my messages whenever the little red “new mail” indicator would appear. Since email comes in at random times, it was virtually impossible to work during any time block without interruptions. Now, I check e-mail when on a schedule or whenever I take a break. I know not every job allows for this, but if yours does, turn that notification off when you need to focus.
- Have water and healthful snacks close by. The downside of being productive for me is that I forget to eat. To avoid this, I keep a bottle of water and select a few brain-fueling snacks at the start of the workday to nosh on instead of going hungry. Other folks who work from home often find that having an entire pantry of food nearby results in them constantly snacking on whatever is in the house. If this sounds like you, selecting your snacks at the start of the day will keep you from taking excessive breaks to the kitchen.
- Take breaks and stretch. When I come back from a quick break, I find that I’m able to think more clearly and sustain my productivity. I pause several times throughout the day, and I also stretch or do a few yoga poses (like standing forward bend). This helps me re-set my mind and body and gets me ready to sit through another working time block. At least once an hour you should move a little to keep you at your best.
Working at home has many rewards but is not without challenges. By thinking through (and testing) the steps that complement your personality and work style, you can create a system that lets you face your challenges, push distractions aside, and maintain focus on important tasks. Those of you who telecommute full time, part time, or even occasionally, what would you add to this list? Share your suggestions in the comments.
CNET’s positive review of the Brother MFC-685cw Color Inkjet Multi-Function Center caught my attention mainly because of the inexpensive price and all the functions it performs. For a price as low as this ($130), you can’t really expect to have high quality photo printing when the device consolidates so many functions into one product. But, if you are in the market for an all-in-one printer, fax, scanner, copier, phone, answering machine, wireless network interface, and photo printer, this may be for you.
You are sacrificing quality for quantity and run the risk of losing all functionality if one of the devices breaks, but you are saving space. Fewer wires and a smaller footprint for your home office can be beneficial to an uncluttered workspace.