The 4 Things I Always Keep on My Desk, and All the Things I Don’t


There are two kinds of people in the office, those who keep a neat desk, and those who don’t. While there’s nothing wrong with a messy desk, it can be distracting to you and those you work with. Some say a messy desk is the sign of a creative person, and what we call “mess” might be totally organized to someone else. But a neat desk actually can have a huge impact on your work.

Your desk represents who you are, and people form impressions of you based on your workspace. A tidy desk projects a level of efficiency and professionalism, and most people feel they can be more productive and focused in a neat and tidy office environment.

Working at a desk cluttered with papers and notes can make workers feel overwhelmed (whether they know it or not), and that outward chaos can lead to inner stress. These things can distract from the important tasks at hand and make you scattered. Keeping only the bare necessities on your desk will not only calm the chaos, but will allow you to be more efficient and productive every day.


The 4 Things I Always Keep on My Desk:


1. A Task Light

Lighting is a commonly overlooked ergonomic tool. How is lighting ergonomic, you say? Well, proper lighting where and when you need it allows you to see what you need to see without moving your body to find the right light or straining your eyes to read in dim light.

Those overhead fluorescents might seem nice, but they’re often not enough. The perfect task light is dimmable to fit the brightness you need, adjustable to point in the right direction, and has a light spectrum that represents true colors, like this one.

Companies can save on energy costs by reducing overhead light levels and providing workers with desktop task lights. To offset investment costs, research from the American Optometric Association says that “increasing task contrast is an important means of increasing overall performance.” So a task light will not only improve your ergonomics while you work, reducing fatigue and injury, but can increase your productivity, too.


2. A Plant

Having a plant on your desk helps bring some life to your space (literally). We all know the emotional and psychological benefits of a walk in the woods, so why not bring some greenery into your office? Spending time in nature (or bringing nature to you) can lift your mood and boost creative energy.

The best desk plants grow in low light with minimal maintenance, and some can even help filter the air. Try an air plant, succulent, spider plant, or snake plant in a pot near a window or under a desk light (natural light is best, but a desk light will work, too).


3. A Notepad

While many of us work 100% online, the trusted pen and paper are still great for keeping track of to-do’s, taking quick notes, and carrying with you to meetings.

The best way to cement important notes in your memory is to rewrite (or type) them. If you keep a to-do list in your notepad, rewrite it every morning with the top 3 tasks for the day so you can focus on what’s most important. When you get back to your desk after a meeting, rewrite or type up your notes so you’re more likely to remember them.

Another notepad perk, they’re great for doodling! Mind-mapping, bringing visual structure to notes, is a great brainstorming tool to develop innovative solutions to complex problems.


4. A Water Bottle

Depending on your body, most of us are supposed to drink about eight, 8 oz glasses of water a day (that’s half a gallon). Staying hydrated can increase energy, brain function, and memory. Water is great at relieving fatigue, even headaches and back pain! By drinking plenty of water, you’ll be productive and comfortable all day.

Keep a reusable water bottle on your desk and refill it a few times a day; you’ll be hydrated and have a chance to get up and take a stroll to the water cooler.


All the Things I Keep in My Drawer:


Mobile pedestals and file cabinets are a great way to store your supplies, and some can even double as a visitor chair by adding a pad on top.

Having storage space near your desk not only keeps you organized, it keeps you focused. With distractions out of sight, you can home in on the things that are important. While a clean and clear desk is great, there are still some tools you need throughout the day that should be nearby. 


Office Supplies

This is a broad term, but depending on the kind of work you do, your drawers should be stocked with pens, markers, staplers, scissors, paper clips, tape, and sticky notes. Keep these items organized with drawer dividers.


Cleaning Supplies

A neat desk should also be a clean desk! Spring cleaning your workspace can keep dust at bay and monitors free of fingerprints. 

Keep cleaning spray or wipes in your drawer so you can scrub down your worksurface once a week. Use microfiber cleaning cloths to wipe off your monitor, laptop, and phone (so you can actually see your screens!).

Hand sanitizer is also a good desk drawer staple. Colds and flus can spread fast through an office, so arm yourself with disinfectant to ward off sickness.


Electronic Accessories

Keep charging cords, back-up batteries, and USB drives in your drawer in case you need them. A couple AAA’s can save the day when your wireless mouse suddenly dies and you’ve got a deadline fast approaching. 


Important Documents

Record-keeping is a lost art, as most invoices, receipts, and important documents live in our email trash (oops). A better way is to print out and organize important reference material and records in your file cabinet. Use hanging file folders with labels to keep your documents neat and tidy.



Trying to work when you’re running low on energy can be exhausting, and doesn’t produce quality results. Keeping healthy snacks at your desk for the mid-afternoon slump can help you drill down on your to-do list. Choose foods that are shelf-stable and nutrient rich, like mixed nuts, beef jerky, granola bars, or dried fruit. Store your snacks in air-tight containers so you don’t attract any unwelcome guests.


Tennis Shoes

Fitting in some exercise into your busy work-week can be difficult, but try squeezing in a brisk lunch-break walk or run. By keeping comfortable exercise shoes at your desk, you can quickly change your shoes and take an exercise break during the day.

Even a short stroll can help you feel good and stay focused for the rest of the day. Research shows that just 30 minutes of walking during the day can make employees happier and more productive.


A Book

Taking breaks throughout the day can do wonders for your work. While a walk is great for your body, giving your mind a break can make it easier to tackle work tasks. 

Keep a book in your drawer, something that’s entertaining and will take your mind off your work. Taking a mental break can help stimulate information retention and reduce stress.



Unless you are lucky enough to have your own office, you may have to deal with the noise that comes along with an open office space. Phones ringing and constant chatter can be really distracting.

Use a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to drown out the noise and focus on your work. Try listening to calming music without lyrics, like instrumental version of your favorite songs.


A neat desk is a helpful tool that productive employees use to stay focused. If you’re a messy desk kind of person, examine what items you use or enjoy, and slowly remove the ones you don’t. Adopt an organization system that works for you. You may find that a tidy desk changes the way you work. Need help getting organized? Check out these storage and organization accessories.