Building your productive workspace: Yes you can!


Let’s start with the basics here for CrunchGear’s Productivity Week; your workspace. Everyone’s work area should be an exercise in functionality and each one will undoubtedly be as unique as a fallen snowflake or the DNA test results that cleared you of all those murders back in ’99.

That being said, let’s take a look at my personal workspace as I share some tips with you that may or may not help you get more work done, faster.


Okay, so here’s the my work area with some handy numeric info bubbles. Let’s start with the four arrows you see. The four boards that the arrows are pointing to are actually a really simple, cheap shelving system I built to hold multiple unimportant boxes, baubles, and trinkets.

Create a lot of shelf space for under $100

The boards come from two bi-fold door units, generally used for closet doors, that I bought from Home Depot. I just removed the hinges from the doors and used the two boards as shelves. One set was a 24-inch bi-fold door, which yielded two 12-inch boards, used as the top and bottom shelves on the left there and the other set was a 36-inch bi-fold door, which gave me two 18-inch boards to use as the middle shelf on the left and the raised, darker shelf (I stained that one) going across the back wall.

The shelves on the left are held up on either end by L-brackets screwed into 12-inch by 48-inch MDF boards. There are also brackets screwed into the wall in various places so as to create a kind of floating effect. Total cost of all the materials came in at just under $100; the closets were $30 and $40, I believe, and the brackets, MDF, and miscellaneous posts that you see in the middle of the left shelf and the far right of the back-wall shelf made up about $25. The whole thing took about 4 hours to complete.

Create even more shelf space for around $200

If you find that you still need shelving, I might recommend this extra large Expedit unit from Ikea. Assemble it in the room it’s going to be used, not your kitchen. Trust me.


Okay, so, back to the main picture.


1. Multiple Monitors

Simply put, more monitors equal more screen real estate, which equals more windows that you can have open at one time. This isn’t for everyone, as some people could get overwhelmed, but it suits me just fine.

My main setup includes the two big monitors in the middle there (a 19-inch Acer and a 19-inch Gateway) fed into my laptop. The Gateway, on the right, goes into a USB Displaylink adapter (awesome, by the way) and the Acer, on the left, goes directly into the laptop. The white monitor on the far left is hooked up to a desktop PC hidden in the cupboard underneath it and I use Synergy to manipulate stuff on that machine using the mouse and keyboard hooked up to my laptop. The smaller monitor on the far right is hooked up to my Nintendo Wii using a TVBox adapter.

2. Raised Monitor Shelf

After years of fighting with wall-mounting LCD monitors and trying to figure out how to hide the mess of cables that seem to never go away, I finally decided to build a raised platform about six inches above my desk. The monitors all go on top, and there’s a small colony of cables on top of my actual desk, which fits underneath the shelf.

There’s a large surge protector, a USB hub, a second keyboard and mouse for my desktop PC, the Displaylink adapter, the TVBox, the Wii, and more under there. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s worked well enough that nobody else notices all the cables unless they’re sitting at the desk with the chair lowered down as far as it can go.

3. Filing Cabinet

You can’t see it, but I have a drawer built into my desk with files in it. I try to keep things simple and broad, so my files are labeled as follows;

Monthly Bills, House and Home, Banking/Credit Cards, Health, Gadgets and Tech, and Legal Bullshit. The Monthly Bills and House and Home folders could probably be combined. Maybe even the Banking/Credit Cards folder, too. The Gadgets and Tech folder contains mostly user manuals and Legal Bullshit contains receipts and stuff so I don’t get arrested come tax time.

4. Second Computer

I’ve tried to shrink everything down so that I’m only using one laptop, but having a second computer has been a real time saver. I have a small form factor HP s3100n tucked in my desk cabinet that I use mostly for processor-intensive tasks like rendering video or for downloading big files so I can keep working off my laptop with minimal slowdown.

5. Pirate Figurines and Energy Drinks

The pirates look wonderfully stupid and the 24-ounce energy drink that I purchase every day makes everything seem like it’s moving in slow-motion for about four hours.

6. Ergonomic Keyboard

I had a hard time getting used to a split keyboard, but it’s been wonderful for the unavoidable repetitive strain injury that comes with typing all day, every day. I currently use a Microsoft 4000 but I’m hoping to someday switch to a keyboard that’s made of warm butter.

7. Globe and Window

If at all possible, I always try to set up my desk so that I’m facing a window. My view is pretty boring but at least I can tell if it’s raining or sunny or whatnot. The globe is just a little reminder that there’s a big world out there and I’m not getting any younger.

I mean, what the hell am I doing sitting around here all day?! I should be traveling. This workspace sucks. That’s the real lesson here; work to live, don’t live to work. If you have a window, climb out of it and run down the street while ripping your shirt off.

Final Thoughts

I’m sorry I got so bent out of shape. Work isn’t that bad. I should be so lucky to have the job I have now. Anyone else have any cool workspace tips?