As the first semester of online school comes to a close, you might be looking to make some workspace upgrades for the next semester. I’ve put together a list of the best scientifically proven ways to enhance your space for optimal productivity without having to spend a ton of money.

Know Yourself:
If you’re anything like me, you need a clean and organized space to get anything done at all. But some of us thrive in our own version of organized clutter. Ask yourself, what kind of person am I? Do I need a blank desk space and lots of light? Or do I thrive working on a desk full of nick nacks and loose papers? Whatever the case, use this self-insight to your advantage. If you’re a neat freak then clear out the clutter; if you thrive in organized chaos, evaluate your space and fill your desk with the things that inspire you.

Sit Up Straight:
We all know how amazing good posture makes us look and feel. Do you really think we can do our best work hunched over like cavemen? No, no we cannot. One problem is that most of us are sitting in chairs that are too high for our desks. When sitting, your feet should be flat on the floor with your neck and back upright. Your arms and elbows should be at a 90 degree angle at the same level as your computer. While sitting in this posture may seem a bit awkward at first, it reduces strain on your body from sitting down for hours and improves circulation. And of course makes you feel totally confident.
Keep it Clean:
Cleaning and organizing are two different things. Even if your space is so cluttered it would give a neat freak like me a heart attack, you can still keep it clean. Set a reminder for yourself once a week to clean your desk. Take everything off of it and wipe down your desktop with a damp rag to remove dust, use a sanitizer to sterilize the surface and wipe down all your electronics. This will not only help protect you from COVID and other nastiness but will keep your computer screen streak free, reducing eye strain and glare.
Upgrade Your Space:
A productive workspace also needs a productive desk. Set your desk up facing or next to a window if possible. This will not only allow you to get some much-needed sunshine but will keep you inspired, offering you a place to rest your eyes while thinking. Placing photos or art that inspire you around your workspace is a great way to feel positive and motivated. You can also do this by using color to your advantage. Green creates a calm work environment, blue encourages communication, yellow boosts mood and jumpstarts creative thinking, and orange is perfect when you want to get inspired. Add these colors to your space for cheap by changing your computer background or placing plants around your desk to bring life to your space.

Play Some Music:
While working I like to play some calming music in the background—I find that it helps my focus and gets me into a flow state. My favorite is lofi mixes on YouTube. There are hundreds of options to choose from and many have adorable backgrounds that definitely make me feel a bit calmer. Choose whatever music works for you, but I advise against music with lyrics when you are working on an assignment that requires a lot of focused reading and writing to prevent yourself from getting distracted.

Stay Fueled and Take Breaks:
I like to keep a big cup of water on my desk when I’m working. That way when I feel like I need to take a mini break from my computer, I just reach over and take a sip. Staying hydrated helps keep your mind sharp and body healthy. And if you are like me and need to take breaks, I recommend setting a timer for 10-30 minutes, committing to working the whole time, then you can stop after the timer goes off. I find that by doing this method, after the timer goes off I am often already in the zone and want to keep working until my work is finished.

We all work differently and being productive can be especially difficult in a pandemic. Give yourself a break, don’t be afraid to take mental health days and listen to your body. I just know that an uplifting environment always makes me more excited to get work done and I hope it can do the same for you.

An example of a productive workspace. There are many cheap and easy ways to upgrade your environment and be more productive. Illustration by Bijou Allard

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