3 Things I Always Keep on My Desk While Working from Home
I’m new to the work-from-home world. From the Before Times through most of the pandemic, my higher education nine-to-five took place on campus. Over the course of nine years, my career was centralized in our dean’s suite, where students with the most concerning problems would shuffle in and out of my office en route to our college’s administration. Our students kept me on my toes as I administered scholarships and hustled alumni for their generosity.
It’s easy to stay focused when a new, never-before-heard challenge is popping into your office every few hours, demanding attention and restructuring your priorities at the drop of a bookbag. But when I transitioned from my long stint in higher education to the fully-remote tech startup industry this past fall, I had no choice but to reprogram my brain.
Slowly, I started upgrading a nook in my partner’s and my home to serve as a real-life home office, a luxury I never thought I’d want or need. I chose a ’60s obsessive meets ’90s girl wall color, Sherwin Williams’ “Relentless Olive,” and had the walls painted. Above the velvet couch I bought on sale with one of my stimulus checks (Is this something we openly admit?) I curated a gallery wall. And my partner and I scoured Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for the perfect used IKEA desk. All that was missing? Motivation.
Onboarding at a new organization in a completely new-to-me industry was exhausting, not to mention the pandemic that continued to distract me from everyday life. I quickly realized that to remain on track and stay motivated to kick ass at work while keeping my post-work 5-9 p.m. life sacred, I had to cultivate good habits. For me, navigating my “daytime career” (why does “day job” feel so reductive?) requires three essentials for success. Below are my three secrets for the optimal work-from-home environment.
Daily To-Do Notepad for Focus and Productivity
As dedicated as I am to my Google Calendar, Apple Notes, and Notion organization systems, at the end of the day (really throughout the day) I rely on a notepad where I detail my daily tasks at hand. Right now, I’m using this Noted by Post-It notepad, which lets me record work tasks, morning/noon/night tasks, water consumption, and physical movement. Just like making flashcards for elementary math, writing down my daily tasks helps commit them to memory so I keep them top of mind. Plus, the rush of crossing off items and drinking all those glasses of water? Perfection.
Side-Hustle Business Cards for Motivation and Empowerment
In the Before Times, probably 20 minutes before the first Coronavirus case was documented in the United States, I paid my hard-earned U.S. dollars to have business cards made to promote and publicize my writing/producing/organizing side hustle. Cut to two years later and I’m a completely different person who never would have selected the aesthetic template background I did. But oh well!
Y’all, I keep those business cards front and center beside my keyboard and mouse on my desk. They’re an empowering reminder that I am more than my day career, and I have skills, interests, and motivation beyond the recruitment and coordinating that I conduct in talent acquisition Monday through Friday. Those business cards are my daily plus sign. I have a career and I write. I have a career and I produce comedy shows throughout Chicago. I have a career and for a small fee, I’ll organize the living heck out of your closet. It’s a pep talk at a glance.
Nostalgic Pops of Personality
My former office looked like a Spencer Gifts. Between the table fountain, lava lamp, random washi-taped Polaroids, and gifts from professors, I lacked a real connection with my daily surroundings. As it turns out, having a dedicated space at home that demonstrates a connection with my aesthetic has a positive impact on my mental health and motivation. Since there won’t ever be any clients — or, in my case, college freshmen — in my home office, I decided to turn up the dial on the personality on display.
Looking away from a Zoom meeting to see a picture of my girlfriends and I quarantining in a Michigan cabin during 2020 helps me power through the afternoon work funk. Storing office supplies in the hot pink cheetah print box of my youth (that once stored a makeup kit most likely purchased for me by my grandma at Kohl’s) is the antidote to a sterile work environment. And the IKEA shelves above my desk display my vintage Fisher Price Little People Tudor dollhouse and A-Frame Cabin. I don’t know what it is, but having these nostalgic treasures in my office just feels good. They make the one spot in my home that is completely mine feel just that. And bringing a sense of my fully-realized self to work every day helps me push through the daily grind.