Isn’t everyone a web worker these days? Well, most workers in the information economy do use the web for work… but I would argue that real web workers use the web more. We spend more time browsing the web, we reach out more using web tools like VoIP and IM and Twitter, and we try out more new web apps. All of these things can make us less productive!
Here are a few tips for rearranging your workspace to deal productively with web working reality… share your own in the comments.
Lift up your laptop. If you’re using a laptop instead of a desktop, you might like to raise it up for cooling and ergonomics when you’re camped at your desk instead of going bedouin at the nearest wi fi café. Plus it looks funky (in a good way) to have your laptop tilted at an odd angle — much cooler than a docking station circa 1995.
Lifehacker likes the Elevator laptop stand, but some commenters find it wobbly. WWD writer Judi Sohn recommends you check out Xbrand stands. Their universal docking stand includes ethernet, USB, and audio ports so you can plug one USB cable into your machine and automatically hook into USB devices, headphones, and your wired network. If that’s outside your budget range, hack your own laptop stand with a copyholder.
Eliminate wires. If you’re one RSS article away from the next cool new peripheral for your computer, you’re also a short step from yet another cable in the chaos behind, beneath, and all over your desk. You can’t eliminate all of them, but you can probably get rid of a few more than you think… for a price.
Get a Bluetooth wireless keyboard and mouse — that eliminates at least two wires. A network printer hooked to your router means you can keep your desk clear of both an extra USB cable and the printer itself. Belkin will soon be coming out with a wifi-enabled USB hub, so you can move even more devices off your desk.
Organize the remaining wires and cables. Proliferation of corded devices has led to an equal if not greater proliferation of devices for arranging and rearranging the cords on those devices. The Container Store offers a variety of budget-minded possibilities like cable turtles, cable ties, and cord bundlers that will stick on your wall. If even those are too rich for you, try binder clips or elastic pony tail holders. Do-it-yourself web workers probably already know how Lifehacker editors Gina and Adam streamlined and organized their tangles of cables.
Arrange your displays according to your work activities. Is there such a thing as too much screen real estate? Perhaps. But you might very well have two displays or one large one. Since connecting with other people online is as important to the web worker as cranking through solo work, designate one space on your displays — or one entire display — for communications like instant messaging or your Twitter display. I do my IM’ing on my secondary monitor off to the side while leaving the main display directly in front of me for writing, web surfing, and so forth.
If you’re shopping for a new monitor, you might find that two medium-sized monitors are better than one huge one, because they allow you to compartmentalize and organize your work better.
Corral your office supplies. You probably don’t use too many office supplies, because most of your work happens in cyberspace not paperspace. So get your stapler, hole punch, and extra pads of paper off the desk. Here’s a good idea for keeping office supply clutter off your desk from reader Dean Johnson:
Something that saves space and reduces clutter: buy a small toolbox and stock it with all the different office supplies and infrequently used office tools (ie. calculator, etc). Things like envelopes, stamps, erasers, pencil leads, paper clips, and bulldog clips. Get different sizes of stuff to ensure that you have the right size for the job. Nice and neat in the little toolbox, you can set it on the floor next to your desk, rather than on the desk.
Put your daily must-do list in a special spot. It’s super-helpful to make a minimal list of what you want to get done each day separate from your more massive ongoing to do list. Don’t put every little thing on it. Just get the two or three most important things down — those important but perhaps not urgent tasks you keep putting off. Write them on a sticky note or a notepad and put this mini must-do list where you can see it, like on the bezel of your web surfing display, so that when you start losing time to Digg or Lifehacker or reddit you are reminded that you have something other than browsing to do.
Make sure your ongoing to do list is easily available. If you’re the pen and paper type, put your notebook or Hipster PDA right next to you. If you lean towards electronic task management, ensure it’s easy to add your tasks (maybe via a shell command in a terminal window that you always leave open?) Then you’re ready to add new items to do as they arrive into your life from the Internet — via email, while web browsing, or through communications with coworkers.
Straighten your piles. No, I’m not going to tell you to get rid of your piles; they can be a useful way to handle multiple projects at one time, as many people in the web economy do. But straightening those piles up or even doing a quick runthrough to discard and check for action items can do wonders for your sanity and make your desk look neater too. If you have time, capture to dos from the pile on your to do list (it’s close by, right?) Pretty soon you’ll be certified in Advanced Pile Management and then you can start a blog about it, because we web workers are nothing if not open to new opportunities.
For more about arranging your office for web working effectiveness and flow, see Generating effective workflow from your space and 6 things to make your office productive and inspiring.