Six Things To Make Your Office Productive and Inspiring


With the holiday season approaching, you might be making your own wish list or planning your gift shopping for a favorite web worker. Perhaps you just want to make your office or cubicle as comfortable and productive as possible. Here are six ideas to get you started.

A kitchen timer. Invaluable for focusing yourself when you have an important deadline and can’t seem to stop procrastinating. Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes (or even five if you must) and tell yourself you can take a break when time’s up. Merlin Mann of 43 Folders calls this a dash. Williams-Sonoma’s Triple Kitchen Timer might be overkill. How about Target’s chicken timer or the Tape Timer from Chiasso?

fountain penA pen you adore. I like the Bic Atlantis and the Papermate Comfortmate Grip, medium point blue, retractable. My mom the attorney likes to use a bold purple ballpoint (the Papermate Flexgrip Ultra) to swish out items on her printed to do list. She switched when she could no longer find the Parker Big Red, the pen that carried her successfully through the bar exam. Whatever pen you use, make sure it’s one that makes you happy. Even if you lead most of your life on the computer, there will surely be times you’ll need to use pen and paper. Why not make it enjoyable?

Your favorite drink. Coke, water, coffee… a triple half-caf chai tea latte made with organic soy milk… whatever greases those neurons and gets them producing. Here’s a hint from someone who learned the hard way: think about using a travel mug for whatever drink you choose in case you knock it over. Laptops don’t like to have liquid poured all over them.

A distraction from the Web. All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl, and it makes her wrists and back hurt besides. For mental and physical wellbeing, you might want to use your time off from work–the ten or fifteen minutes between dashes–on something totally removed from the Web cloud. You might try a calligraphy daily calendar, a book of Sudoku puzzles, or learning to paint, depending on your temperament.

Pink Lily by Cheryl TohA thing of beauty. In addition to work and play, you need time to dream. Give yourself something to initiate it. You might be inspired by an orchid, a piece of abstract art, or a desktop Zen garden.

Encaustic diptych titled “Pink Lily” by Cheryl Toh.

A reminder of what you love most. The most common item to find in someone’s cubicle at work is a photo of friends or family, for good reason. But you don’t have to put them in a regular old frame. You can make a mousepad with your dogs, a Warhol-esque poster with your kids, or a mug with your partner. If you’ve money to spare and prefer a high-tech display for your photos, how about a digital photo frame?

For even more ideas about outfitting your office, check out the great discussion on generating effective workflow.



I dig the point you make about the pen. I go nuts trying to find the right feel, then I find myself writing more because I enjoy it. My additions would be:

1) music player/web radio – I can’t live without my iPod. It has podcasts for breaktime, classical music for working, and some pick-me-up stuff for those lull-times.

2) a couple of good books – with varying subjects. Right now I switch between a good fiction novel, Walter Payton’s “Never Die Easy”, and Zeldman’s Web Standards. I find it nice to take a 15-20 minute break, kick back and read one of these depending on my mood.


I strongly suggest foot-rollers under the desk. It will make it a place you want to sit, and provide some wonderful relief from building bodily tension.



Ok, a thermostat, a travel mug, some of my paintings, a couple of classical books and sudoku books would be my take ^_^


With regards to having your fav drink to hand, if it is a hot drink why not have it an a thermus mug, I do because there is nothing worse than making your fav hot drink and going back to it 30 minutes later, when you remembered you had made it, only to find that it is cold. I use one of these and have still been able to enjoy my hot coffee upto 40 minutes after I made it.
Just a thought


OK, I know a lot of people will disagree with this but a good high-def TV knocks out several items on the list. I splurged a little a few months back and picked up a 42″ high def plasma for my office. In the mornings I typically ease into my day with Sunrise Earth on Discovery HD Theater, followed by a little downtime with Headline News and breakfast, and then the Discovery, History or Science channel on in the background during the day. I use the shows as timers and often find a few minutes to disengage from the web when something interesting pops up. The addition has honestly made my work days far more enjoyable and was a great investment for the use I get out of it. Plus – I’ve become a master of the trivial knowledge you gain from educational TV.

Brian Alexander

my mom uses the exact same pen. I prefer a black ballpoint. Uniball is pretty nice..they last forever. I also have that exact same sodoku book. I got it much cheaper than the price advertized on


Anne Zelenka

Ah yes, colored briefing books… I had a run in with those in my early career (and with attorneys too, thank god that’s behind me).

The timer works best for cases where you have something hanging over your head and you dread the thought of doing it. In my last contract, I had that feeling quite often. I had to review humongously long and dull requirements documents with painstaking (actually painful) attention to detail. The timer was the only thing that saved me.

@Associateof Strangeproportion – yes, “fun with feng shui” is a post I have planned. I will be sure to consult your website first!


I generally agree with the items, but never been much for a timer. Interesting idea though. I think I’d end up staring at the timer. I find comfort in pads of paper to log quick notes or re-assemble my constant lists of to-dos or rough task approaches. It’s even better if some of the paper is colored, e.g. yellow or blue, which makes them stand out when stacked together with their mainly white colleagues. Must be a hold-over from my 1 year stint with attorneys who insisted on exceedingly organized tabbed and colored briefing books.

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