Optimizing Your Workspace

The main purpose of a workspace is to enable you to do your best work. Even the greatest artist would not be able to reach the heights of their creative potential without the proper tools.

With that in mind, it’s important to note that everyone’s tools or workspaces will look different. Different modes of work, demand different workspaces. The one described in this article is best suited for knowledge workers who use computers extensively.

Over the years of tweaking and experimenting, I’ve settled on a workspace that has proven to be effective at enabling flow states whenever I’m writing or programming. Hopefully, you’ll find an item or two that will help improve your own workspace and empower you to do your best work.

  1. Dual Monitor and Laptop Stand
    By far the best way to upgrade your workspace is with the addition of a second monitor. Multiple studies have shown that the addition of another monitor leads to faster task completion and overall increased ease of use. While adding a laptop stand is not necessary, it does help with screen alignment, making it easier to switch between monitors.
  2. Ergonomic Keyboard
    If you spend a significant amount of time typing on a keyboard, you owe it to yourself to invest in an ergonomic keyboard. The one pictured is the Kinesis Advantage 2, although there are plenty others out there. After getting used to the keyboard, you’ll immediately feel the difference and your hands will thank you for it.
  3. Magic Trackpad
    After using one of the Magic Trackpads sold by Apple, it’s very difficult to go back to a regular mouse. There are several intuitive swipe features that make this easy to use and an essential part of any workflow.
  4. Audio Technica Headphones
    Lauded as one of the best headphones on the market, Audio Technica’s offer a great audio experience. They also contribute to perceived busyness that will deter even the most determined person from interrupting you while you’re in the zone. For additional comfort, I suggest getting the ZMF oval earpads (Cowhide).
  5. Flic button
    Flic is a home automation button that allows you to map a sequence of actions to three distinct tactile gestures (single, double, and long press). In my case, I map a single press to changing my hue lights to an ‘energetic’ color and automatically opening up Toggl and Spotify. Double press changes the lights to a more soothing color and puts my computer to sleep. Long press switches Spotify songs.
  6. Hue light
    These Internet-of-Thing lights are what I use to prime myself to get into either productive or relaxing states. Pairing them with the previously mentioned Flic button allows me to anchor states to lights with the push of a button.
  7. Water
    Certain studies have shown that upwards of 75% of Americans suffer from chronic dehydration. The general advice is to drink 8 glasses of 8 ounces of water a day. So by having a 48 oz water bottle by my desk, I can easily keep track of my daily goal of drinking a bottle and a half a day.
  8. Essential Oil Diffuser
    Our sense of smell is quite powerful, as anyone could tell you after encountering a sentimental smell from their childhood. By anchoring specific smells with specific states you want to cultivate (i.e. flow or relaxation), you can better access those states. There are a number of diffusers you can find on Amazon.
  9. Bullet Journal
    The Bullet Journal is a productivity tool and technique that helps you get things done. The system is quite simple and intuitive, although you’re always welcome to improvise and suit it to your needs. I fill mine out every Sunday, and every evening before I go to bed I specify the three things I want to accomplish the next day.
  10. Gum
    Chewing gum has been associated with enhanced productivity and reduced cognitive errors at work. It also gives you something to do if you’re stuck on a particular problem! I recommend getting the sugar-free gum that comes in packs of 60.
  11. Fidget cube
    If you happen to have a lot of kinetic energy, the fidget cube is the perfect place to channel it. Whenever you encounter a problem that requires additional thought, playing with your fidget cube can be a surefire way of breaking through the problem.

Remember, while a brilliant artist is better enabled by superior tools, these tools in the hands of a mediocre artist will not make a significant difference. So don’t be fooled into thinking that by improving your workspace everything will change. In the end, talent and a strong work ethic trump all. However, an optimized workspace may give you the extra edge you need to do your best work.

 Data Scientist. I write about Data Science and other topics I find interesting