9 Practical Tips for a Productivity-Driven Desk Setup

Desk setups come in all shapes and sizes, but not all desk setups serve you in the same way.

Productivity is super important in today’s world. The world moves fast, and the work can keep stacking. Giving yourself a productive desk setup means you can keep your head down and your output high. 

In this article, we’re going to talk about ways you can optimize your desk setup for productivity. We’ll touch on everything from productivity desk layouts to methods for maintaining focus at your desk.

Let’s get productive.

My Desk Layout For Peak Productivity

After constant desk setup updates, here’s what my own productivity desk layout looks like:

productivity desk layout diagram infographic

Each of these points plays a role in my desk productivity, here is a breakdown of the above image.

Ultrawide Monitor

Having more screen real estate lets you multitask. I can have three windows comfortably open at the same time, and up to 5 or 6 applications if I really need it.

Minimal Clutter

I have trouble focusing when I have a crowded desk. It’s very easy for my attention to be pulled away from my work. My desk is not completely minimalistic, but I don’t keep things on my desk if I don’t use them.

Ergonomic Chair

Being comfortable at your desk is critical. Otherwise, long hours at your desk can be a literal pain. I recommend looking for secondhand Herman Miller or Steelcase chairs, they lead the industry in performance seating.

Stream Deck

Productivity tools are essential for me, and the Stream Deck makes repetitive tasks a single button click away. You can program keyboard shortcuts, open applications, load websites, and so much more.

Programmable Keyboard and Mouse

I currently use the Logitech MX Keys and MX Master 3 mouse. Both of these have programmable buttons that can be easily customized to do whatever you need.

minimalistic and spacious desk setup

Easy Access Organization

A desk shelf is a simple way to add some quick-access organizational space to your desk. Here is where I place frequently used items, like my planner and other accessories.

Bias Lighting

Long hours at your desk could easily result in eye strain if you don’t have your lighting set up correctly. Bias lighting illuminates the wall behind your desk to reduce the intensity of your monitor’s brightness.

Inviting Greenery

I love personalizing my desk with greenery, it adds some life and color to my desk setup.

9 Tips For The Ultimate Productivity Desk Setup

Dial In Your Desk Ergonomics

It’s hard to be productive if you are not comfortable at your desk. Here are some ways you can optimize ergonomics so you can maintain better focus at your desk.

Here is how you can make sure you are properly seated at your desk. First, you want to adjust your chair height so your forearms are level with your table’s top surface.

This puts your arms in a supported position for writing and typing. Also, make sure you have enough room in front of your desk so your chair can move around naturally.

You don’t want your feet dangling around with nothing to rest on if your chair is too high. After you adjust your chair height, support your feet with a footrest.

If you have a height-adjustable desk, you can instead adjust your chair first so your feet are flat on the floor. Then adjust your desk height so your elbows are level with the top surface. 

If you want to dive deeper into desk comfort and ergonomics, check out the following articles:

Optimize Your Desk Lighting

Your eyes can easily be strained from staring at a computer all day with poor desk lighting. This can hinder your productivity.

There are two main categories of light you should have at your desk: main desk lighting & accent/bias lighting.

screenbar halo light bar govee bias
Bias lighting surrounds my monitor along with an evenly lit desk surface.

When you use a monitor alone, it can be a concentrated source of light which makes it hard on the eyes. Similar to watching a bright TV in a completely dark room, your eyes feel a bit strained. 

The solution here is having both a proper desk light and bias/accent lighting. You should surround your monitor with lighting to reduce the relative intensity of your monitor’s brightness.

This ensures that your monitor is not a single-point source of light, and it’s instead an evenly lit desk setup. 

govee lights and cable management behind dell 34 ultrawide monitor

I personally use a BenQ ScreenBar Halo, along with a set of Govee Light Bars mounted behind my monitor. This makes the wall behind my monitor and my entire desk surface very evenly lit. This is critical for eye comfort on those long nights. 

If you are interested in learning more about monitor light bars, we have dedicated articles on light bar benefits, and how they compare to desk lamps.

Declutter Your Desk For Better Focus

A cluttered desk is a recipe for distracted and stressed-out working. When you have random items scattered across your desk, it can be hard to focus which reduces your effectiveness.

The best way to combat a cluttered desk is to get organized. When you get organized, all of your things have a dedicated home. This means you both find things quickly and put things away quickly, a win-win

The best desk organization solutions are drawer sets and desk shelves.

Below you can see my dual IKEA ALEX drawer desk setup. I have a dedicated article on how I effectively organize these drawers for maximum functionality.

dual alex drawer desk setup with herman miller sayl

Desk shelves give you quick and easy access to your most frequently used items. I am currently using an Aothia Desk Shelf which is a large and affordable solution.

ultrawide monitor on desk with desk shelf

The best way to maintain an organized and decluttered workspace is to dedicate a minute or two to tidying up your desk at the end of every day. This will do far more for your productivity than letting the mess build up.

Remove Distractions & Productivity Killers

Along the same line as cluttered desks, distractions might be the biggest enemy of productivity. Here are ways you can reduce the distractions at your desk:

Only Leave Out What You Need

It’s tempting to leave all your stuff sitting on your desk so it’s convenient to access. However, this often works against us by being a visual distraction. 

Put anything you don’t need daily in a drawer or elsewhere. That goes for typical office supplies, bills, books, and electronics. Anything you don’t need every single day should be off of your desk and out of sight.

This can end up leading to a more minimalistic desk setup which can be very productivity & focus friendly. The off-of-desk organization is key to successfully pulling off a minimal desk setup. We touch on these methods in our dedicated article on minimalist desk organization.

Put Your Phone Away

The average time we spend on our phones every day is pretty mind-blowing. It’s a huge chunk of the time we are awake every day. 

phone on desk with screen time usage showing
Halfway through the day, I already spent 2 hours and 46 minutes on my phone!

With social media and the general connectedness of people today, it’s second nature for us to check our phones often. This wreaks havoc on productivity.

This is the reason you won’t see any fancy phone charging stands on my desk.

When your phone is in sight, it becomes second nature to reach for it. Placing your phone out of sight helps break this habit.

I keep my phone in my drawer for the times I am trying to be productive. Also, place it in “do not disturb” mode so you are not notified of random emails and such that eat into your productivity. 

Use Larger Monitors or Multiple Monitors

If you use multiple applications/windows at the same time, increasing your screen real estate can offer a ton of productivity value.  Even a single larger ultrawide monitor can give you the same benefits.

Having more monitors will change the way you work for good. Instead of needing to switch windows constantly, you can have more windows visible at all times. 

Desk setup with desk shelf headphone stand and hidden docking station
My Dell 34″ Ultrawide Monitor (1440p)

Check out this study on Dell’s website regarding the productivity boost seen with dual monitors. This study also shows that businesses are increasing the screen size to give employees even more screen real estate.

My ultrawide monitor changed the way I work, and I talk about the ultrawide benefits here.

Use Productivity Tools

In today’s world, we have a ton of productivity tools that are available to us. There are three tools that I recommend for everyone’s desk setup if they want to be more productive:

These tools specifically apply to working at your computer. They eliminate little tedious actions we have to do throughout the day that add up to a ton of time lost.

Use a Programmable Keyboard & Mouse

After using a premium keyboard and mouse with custom function buttons, I can never go back. The Logitech MX Keys and MX Master 3 are among my favorite desk setup investments.

You don’t need either of those specifically, but Logitech has a very nice software interface where you can customize what certain keys do. You can even make the custom function keys specific to the application you are using.

topographic desk mat with mouse and keyboard sitting on top.

For example in Microsoft Word, my side buttons are Undo and Redo. But in Photoshop, these buttons are shortcuts to different tools. I don’t need to even look at my keyboard or move my mouse an inch to activate these functions.

logitech MX Master custom buttons

Not only does the mouse have four additional buttons, but you can program “click+drag” functions in four directions for each of these buttons. The customizability seems endless. 

Nearly the entire top row of the Logitech MX Keys can be customized to perform custom functions as well through the same Logitech software.

Try Out A Programmable Macro Pad

The Stream Deck is simply a hub of highly programmable keys with customizable icons.

Each key has its own little screen so you can add a custom visual element to your shortcut keys. This visual element is not possible on the Logitech mouse and keyboard. 

You can program buttons to open files, open websites, paste blocks of text, control lights, etc. I wrote a dedicated article on why this is a serious tool for productivity for non-streamers.

I have a button that can open my email, open Spotify, and start playing a specific playlist right away. If you have any very repetitive computer tasks that take a toll on productivity, chances are the Stream Deck will help here. 

If you already have a Stream Deck and want to get the most out of it, check out our dedicated article on optimizing the Stream Deck.

Use Speakers Or Headphones

Sometimes it’s difficult to get in the zone, or even stay in the zone. This is where music has helped me out with being productive. I can turn on some instrumental beats and start putting the work in. 

If you heavily rely on music like I do, having speakers as part of your desk setup is pretty important.

If you can’t disturb others like family or housemates with music, invest in a good set of headphones. Noise-canceling headphones are more expensive but will do a better job of isolating you from your environment.

Keep those headphones on your desk if you will use them daily. That way you can just turn on the computer, put the headphones on, and start working. 

If you have a 3D printer, we have an article on the best 3D-printed headphone stands.

3d printed headphone stand sitting on desk shelf

Create An Inviting Desk & Workspace

Nobody wants an uninviting desk setup where you dread working. We need a personalized and aesthetically pleasing desk setup so we can be eager to get started every morning.

Here are some ways you can boost your desk aesthetics and personalization.

Manage Your Cables

Cable management is a one-time operation that removes a lot of that visual clutter. If you don’t know where to start, check out our article on hiding monitor cables, hiding cables on your desk, and hiding cables below your desk.

Add Some Life With Plants & Art

Making your workspace inviting means having a bit of your personality complementing your desk setup. That way it feels like your workspace.

Think about what you enjoy yourself. It could be plants, vinyl album art, video game posters, motivational messages, family photos, etc.

computer tower hidden on neighboring furniture

In my desk setup, you can see I’ve added my own images I’ve taken of the Sierra Mountains. I also have a little snake plant to add some life to my desk as well.

Take Breaks & Move Around

An easy way to promote comfort and work longer hours is to ironically take breaks. Breaks are actually pretty important with working. That’s why the Department of Labor requires it in certain states. 

Taking a break and moving around gives you a brief period to reset. Combine this break with a small walk, and you have a super healthy and productive habit.

There are studies showing that breaks that improve your focus significantly! It also keeps your body from being fatigued from sitting at your desk all day.

Moving around promotes blood flow and is always a good idea when you’re at your desk for long periods of time.

Apart from taking walking breaks every so often, there are other alternatives that can get this job done as well. These include standing desks and if you are feeling crazy, walking desks! 

These can be a big investment, so just stick to walking breaks if this is not in your budget. If you do have a standing desk or walking desk, don’t feel like you have to be constantly walking or standing. Alternating from standing to sitting will already be a huge improvement. 

Bonus Productivity Hacks

Once you dial in your desk setup with the tips above, take your productivity to the next level with these bonus hacks.

Turn on Do Not Disturb On All Smart Devices

Everything is a smart device these days. For better or for worse, that’s for you to decide. One thing is for certain though, smart devices be as distracting as your phone. 

Turn on do-not-disturb mode on all smart devices. This includes your smartwatch, your smart home assistant, your smart refrigerator, etc.  You have to win the battle of attention against all the smart devices.

Think About Your Goals

On days when it’s hard to be productive, I always remind myself what my goals are. Having a strong why can push you very far. 

Will completing these tasks give you more time with your family? Will it make you more money? Always keep your why in mind.

Create Time Blocks

Time blocks are a great method to use for people who have a ton on their plate. If you have so many tasks that it is hard to focus on getting any single one done, this method can help. 

Determine how long you will spend on a specific task before moving to the next one. This is great for big projects that actually can’t get done in a single day.  You can set up a timer at your desk for these time blocks.

I typically give myself two hours of working before I force myself to take a breath. This could mean walking around, playing with my dog, etc. Then I start the next time block. 

Create time blocks to plan your day, and force yourself to dedicate a minimum time amount to specific work. Here is a great article from Todoist on time blocking

Why a Productivity Desk Setup Is Critical

Being productive means you can get more done in less time at your desk. This can result in less stress and actually having more free time.

A lot of personal growth can be had when you start focusing on how to be more productive. You are basically working toward becoming the best version of yourself. 

I always think about James Clear’s message on getting better by 1% every day, which makes a huge difference over a year. The first step is to give yourself a chance with a productivity-focused desk setup. 

Photo of author


I'm a big time workspace enthusiast who is constantly experimenting with my setup. Sharing along the way to help people make their own desk setups more functional and inviting, whether it be for productivity or play!

Leave a Comment