60: 25 Must-Haves for the Efficient Office Desk
Monday September 7, 2015

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“I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name,” wrote Tom Hanks to Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail 

Every year the quote uttered above by Tom Hanks’ character in Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail dances across my memory, and while seemingly simple, the precision of sharpened pencil organized in bulk ready to be offered to the writer to produce any sort of work that is asked of them reminds me of the beauty of a pencil: the opportunity to try, correct and try again next time. Much like each new school year or the coming fall season at work, after the long summer getaways have been taken and enjoyed, when we return I find that most of us, students as well as seasoned veterans in their profession, want to do it better, want to make it simpler and most of all want to enjoy their time at work all the while feeling productive by the time the end of the work day arrives.

The summer offers us all, no matter what our profession, a breather. A chance to correct, re-assess and try to do it better the next time. Each year I walk back into my classroom and devise new habits and rituals that will better allow me to perform at my best and feel the most comfortable no matter what the day may bring. Whether it is making sure my favorite tea is stocked for my afternoon break to rejuvenate me just enough to finish the day strong, or recognizing a way to cease the steady loss of pens throughout the year, if I can solve these basic hiccups that when solved allow the day to run more smoothly, I feel primed and polished to be a better version of myself.

So today, as I know many of TSLL readers are teachers, as well as for anyone going back to work or getting back into the regular schedule after what may have been a looser schedule during the summer, I wanted to share a list of items to have on hand at your desk to ensure the three main objectives when we go to work:


  • allowing you to feel and perform at your best
  • efficient
  • clutter-free


Whether you live in a dry climate like myself or in an office area where the air conditioner or heat dries out your skin, keep lip balm, hand lotion, and drinking water on hand. There are many products available now that have multi-uses such as One Love Organics Wonder Balm which acts as a lip balm and lotion for your hands. A great way to reduce the stuff in your desk, but still ensure you have everything you need.

2. Contact lens solution & extra case

3. Lunch utensils (fork, spoon, knives, etc)

4. Emergency stash

~feminine products, band-aids, safety-pins, Tylenol extra-strength, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, breath mints,

5. Tide-to-Go

To stop a bad day in its tracks: as soon as you spill your coffee on your blouse, bring out your Tide-to-Go and in five minutes the stain will be gone and the spot will be dry. Trust me, I’ve had to use it too many times.

6. Tech chargers

Prevent the dreaded dead-phone event by having a charger in your desk. Senbowe just released a 4 in 1 USB adapter charging cable connector that is fit to work with Apple and Samsung products and a few other tech gadgets besides smart phones.

7. Tea or coffee

8. Healthy snacks

9. Hair supplies

10. Organizer for the cords

Keep-a-Cable keeps the cables of the many devices tidy and out of the way. For under $15, receive 3 (5-cord) organizers that attach with adhesive.

11. Laptop stand

If your work situation requires you to work at a laptop, consider investing in a laptop stand such as the Griffin Elevator stand. Why? Not only will it bring your gaze up but it will also help your neck and posture.

12. Keep the cup of tea or coffee warm

~Mr. Coffee Mug Warmer

~Electric Tea Kettle from Breville or the crystal clear version

13. Pens & pencils

Create signature pens or pencils so they never wander away. An idea I am using is to use floral tape and attach a simple silk flower to each of my pens. Now, if anyone accidentally keeps it, they will know exactly where it came from. Supplies needed: green floral tape, silk flowers of your choosing, pens and wire cutters.

14. Lint roller

15. Nail file and clippers

16. Water bottle

~Stainless Steel Straws from Schoolhouse Electric (4 for $12)

17. Desk lamp

18. Access to Mother Nature

Having direct sight of the outdoors can be a powerful mood enhancer, but if your office doesn’t have windows, bring Mother Nature indoors. Whether with fresh flowers, plants or even silk flowers, bring in the beauty of nature. It will be subtle, but it will make a difference.

19. Organize your tunes and/or radio stations

20. Organize frequently used files/papers/notepads, etc

21. To-Do List system

Post-its, or a notepad like Garance Dore’s “To-Do” list

22. Favorite coffee mugs

~Anthropologie Monogram Mug

~Scrabble Mug

23. Calendar or weekly agenda

24. Organize your virtual desktop

Make easily accessible: email, word documents, internet (frequently visited pages, etc). Choose a wallpaper that makes you smile, calms you down or sets the mood you need to do your job.

25. Establish norms for your daily routine

How and when are you going to check your email? When will you respond to email and voicemail? When and how often do you update your website, calendar, visual boards, etc. Be clear about your availability, communicate clearly with staff, students, parents, etc.


~Why Not . . . Create a Productive Office?

~Why Not . . . Style a Desktop? (podcast)

~8 Ways to Be the CEO of Your Own Life (podcast)

Petit Plaisir

Last Love (2013)

Image:  TSLL Office via Instagram



~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #60



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