Staying focused is a skill most of us have worked on our entire lives. We learn to read and write at a desk. We receive lectures and ponder new information at a desk. Yet, once it’s time for most of us to stay on track at our jobs, we often struggle. At my first out-of-college desk job, my excitement quickly turned sour when I realized I was in charge of keeping myself on track. I vividly remember thinking that there was no way I would ever be able to get through the day while staying focused. Since then, I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, and I’ve had a lot of trial-and-error experiences. Finally, I have a system that works for me, and I’m excited to share that system with you all. Let’s dive into the eight desk essentials that actually help me stay focused.
1. Blank Notepad
When inspiration strikes, you need a place to jot down your ideas. I often get distracted if I have to get up and search for a piece of paper. But the process of putting pen to paper and sketching out a concept, or listing out a to-do list, is essential for me. If you are not a pen-and-paper girl, then an iPad works wonders for note-taking. No matter your preference, having what you need on your desk is helpful in not disrupting your focus.
2. Hourglass Timer
Where are my ADHD girlies at? This one is for you. If you struggle with just “getting started,” then I cannot recommend this one enough. Grab an hourglass timer. Whenever I’m having trouble starting a daunting task, I simply flip this timer over. The sand gradually falling creates a sense of urgency. I often don’t need to flip it again because once I’ve started a task, there is no stopping: I will become completely invested in getting it done.
3. Productivity Planner
Productivity planners can be quite helpful if you work from home or work alone. I love being able to see what I have accomplished in real-time. They help set realistic expectations for yourself and help you better communicate your progress with your coworkers or managers. Another benefit to using a productivity planner is the ability to look back over old ideas to help spark creativity in new ones.
An undated daily and weekly planner that helps you prioritize tasks and make the most of each day.
Students: this academic planner will help you bring order to the chaos that is your school schedule.
Everyone loves a good candle. The flickering light and calming scents make us feel good. With fall right around the corner, a candle is essential for my desk. I love the environment it creates, which in turn, makes me want to stay at my desk for as long as possible. See where I’m going with this? Not wanting to leave my desk equals increased productivity!
A citrus and sugary candle to bring a calming, tropical feel to your desk.
A candle based on the city of your choice to help you stay centered throughout your workday.
If your happy place is a cozy cabin, this earthy candle will bring you calm as you cross off your to-do list.
5. Standing Desk
My space doesn’t allow for a standing desk, but I’ve used one in a previous office, and my goodness, they are so helpful. When I feel myself getting antsy or losing concentration, I raise that desk to its standing height, and my brain starts to recenter immediately. There is something so refreshing about standing on your feet when working–it feels more natural. Standing also often reduces any back pain I get from sitting in one spot for too long.
6. Coffee Mug Warmer
Coffee is essential for me, especially in the morning when I start my day. I am notorious for getting distracted and forgetting about my morning cup, which results in me pouring it out and getting more. This leads me to my point: Get a coffee mug warmer or an insulated coffee cup. Not only does my coffee mug warmer keep my coffee at the perfect temperature, but it also makes such a cute addition to my desk decor.
I have always wanted a wall whiteboard to go behind my laptop, so I can quickly write small notes to keep me on track. I currently use sticky notes and have them everywhere around my desk, but a whiteboard will achieve the same function and clean up my workspace. Less clutter equals better focus. Plus, this will make my notes and reminders a lot more fun!
8. Focus Apps
I’ve found a few apps that have been helpful for my productivity. The first is Lifeline, which uses a technique—similar to the Pomodoro Technique—on your browser and schedule breaks for you to take to ensure you set healthy boundaries, which will result in increased productivity. The second app that I love to use is this Distraction Dimmer. This dimmer helps you stick to the task at hand and stay on track.