Image by the author
Image by the author

Three Simple Analog Tools on My Desk That Make Working From Home a Joy

We’ve been working from home a few years now.

Even as many of our colleagues are heading back into the office, a lot of us are staying home, happy to keep working without the commute or the water cooler. For me, working in development and fundraising at a sexual violence prevention nonprofit, it’s not so much about COVID as that it helps our donor’s dollars go further. If an office can be used for counseling instead of my desk, that’s a win.

Still, there are downsides. Working at home can get lonely, even with zoom and email and chat apps. While there’s a lot of talk about how we can “be comfortable”, there’s also no OSHA coming around to enforce things like ergonomic workspaces, break times, and sanitation. Which means I can find myself blearily looking at the screen late in the evening, my trash can overflowing, and my back and hands sore from a hyperfocused block of work.

Through trial and error, though, I’ve found a happy medium — and I have found that there are little things that make my own particular desk set-up not just efficient, but pleasurable to work at.

(none of the links that follow are affiliate links, but if you’d like to support my writing, there’s a subscription link at the bottom!)

  1. A cork-and-leather desk mat.
this is the corner of my gray leather "mouse pad" and it's just a nice little touch.
this is the corner of my gray leather “mouse pad” and it’s just a nice little touch.
  1. Technically they call this a “mouse pad” but it’s more than two feet wide. This is the best $12 I’ve ever spent, from a brand called Tesobi. You could also find a pleather alternative, I’m sure, but the fact is that having a tactile cushion under my hands makes a huge difference in my day.
  2. A Deskboard Buddy Organizer/Whiteboard
OK, technically mine is a blackboard. But I'm goth like that.
OK, technically mine is a blackboard. But I’m goth like that.
  1. I have had these pop up in my targeted ads for years, and always scoffed at them. I have a perfectly good regular whiteboard right next to my desk, and I hardly ever use it! Why would I want one closer?
    Turns out convenience is the key. I found this as a lucky thrift store find, decided to try it, and now I love it. I leave notes to myself, I take quick extra notes during zoom meetings, and maybe someday my partner will leave me little loving messages on it (subtle hint). While I got mine at a discount (the board, not my partner), knowing what I know now I would have happily paid full price.
  2. A Coffee Warmer
Photo stylized because a photo of my actual coffee warmer is a little too stained to look good...
Photo stylized because a photo of my actual coffee warmer is a little too stained to look good…
  1. As I said at the beginning: it’s the little things that make a difference. And if you come up for air after a lovely flow state, reach for your coffee, and find it cold — that’s a little thing that can derail your whole day.
    They make fancier ones than this, they even make mugs with built-in heaters — but this simple Mr. Coffee Portable Cup Warmer is just fine, and again, only $11.99!

Your workspace is worth making comfortable.

I spend most of my waking hours in this space, and while it’s fun to watch minimalist organizational porn and dream of a simpler, focused life, the fact is that things get messy. For me, having these three items helps me cope with the chaos, weather through effectiveness (the whiteboard), comfort (the desk mat), or resource management (hot coffee).

It would be worth it to take a look at your environment — maybe you would like what I have, but odds are there’s something else you could change, add, or decorate that would make things just a bit better.

I promise you, those better bits add up.

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Gray Miller

Gray Miller

Gray is a former Marine dancer grandpa visualist who writes to help adults figure out what they want to be when they grow up.