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A young black woman working on her laptop in her apartment.

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UPDATED: Jan. 24, 2021 —

With many of us working from home these days, we could probably use a little help to be more productive. It’s just too easy to get distracted at home. Something always calls your name—the dishwasher needs to be emptied. The mail needs to be opened. Your partner or roommate is playing music or watching TV. Your dog is doing something cute. You want to hang up that painting.

The home is full of things to keep us busy all day, which is one of the reasons the commercial office space exists. No distractions. Everything there is related to work—well, except for when it’s someone’s birthday in the break room. But now, we’re home. We need help focusing.

“Here’s the stark truth,” says Jono Bacon, CEO of Jono Bacon Consulting, a completely remote company who has worked and run his organization from a home office most of his career. “Remote working is not a panacea. Sure, it seems like hanging around at home in your athleisure wear, listening to music and sipping on buckets of coffee is perfect, but [it takes a large] amount of discipline to be out of the office and continue to maintain the same level of efficiency, productivity and communication as if you were still showing up to the office each day.”

It’s also worth noting that you’ll stay organized and more productive at home with a system in place. Eliminate overwhelm, and stop reinventing the wheel every time your space gets cluttered.

“A system includes four things,” says Darla DeMorrow, founder of HeartWork Organizing, LLC and author of The Upbeat, Organized Home Office: a place, supplies, time, and process.”

Once you’ve established a system for what, where, and how you’ll manage your items, you’ll want to keep them organized in a five-step system. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. ”

SORT and Succeed is a five-step system to organize any room the same way, every time, and keep it organized for longer,” says DeMorrow. Here’s what she suggests:

1. Start with a written bullet-point plan.

2. Organize into groups.

3. Reduce, release, reset.

4. Tweak your space.

5. Succeed and celebrate.

Once you have a plan in place, be sure to buy the items you truly need. You know the saying “You have to spend money to make money?” That doesn’t just apply to things like equipment for your business, or a loan. It can also apply to simpler things that just help you stay productive.

Here are the 15 products and apps you need to be productive in 2021:

1. For visual people: VIZ-PRO Magnetic Dry Erase Board

If you need visual reminders, then managing your to-do list or your appointments on your having your to-do list on a phone app or relying on your somewhere on your phone, or your appointments and bigger projects somewhere in your Google Calendar, isn’t very helpful. This VIZ-PRO magnetic dry erase board lets you keep track of the important stuff on a big surface, with dry erase markers, that’s right in your face. Unlike most whiteboards, this one includes an anti-scratch silver aluminum frame that’s lightweight, yet sturdy and perfect for hanging horizontally or vertically.  Best of all? When you finish a task, you can simply erase it and focus on your next goal.

Price: $32.90

2. For a change of scenery: LapGear Home Office Lap Desk with Device Ledge, Mouse Pad, and Phone Holder

LA change of scenery can help re-energize you. Right now, that may not mean going to a coffee shop, because of COVID-19. But, it could mean moving from, say, your desk to your balcony or backyard. This padded, portable lap desk gives you a comfortable, secure surface to place your laptop, and lets you set up shop just about anywhere.

Price: $29.99

3. For noise distractions: Bose QuietComfort 35 II Noise-Canceling Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

The garbage truck is beeping. Your neighbor is running a blender. Your spouse is watching TV. The dog is barking. You can’t ask the world to be quiet. There will always be something going on. But you can quiet your own mind by using noise-canceling headphones. You’ll be amazed at how much more you get done in an hour when you don’t stop to check out every sound.

Price: $299

4. For a reliable coffee fix: Cauldryn Coffee Smart Mug  

If you like to drink coffee or tea throughout the day, slowly, then you run into this problem: your beverage keeps getting cold so you have to constantly reheat it. But while you’re doing that, something distracts you, and you’re away from your desk longer than planned. This temperature-control thermos will keep your beverage at the ideal temperature for up to 10 hours, so you’re no longer managing temperatures. Pair it with the app and select from 5 preset temperatures or customize your own.

Price: $199

5. For quick meals: Crock-Pot 7-Quart Oval Manual Slow Cooker

This may not seem related to productivity, but hear me out: when you work from home, you probably stop to make yourself a rather involved lunch. The whole kitchen is at your disposal. Suddenly, you’ve been on break for an hour and a half and you only meant to stop for 20 minutes. Invest in larger cookware, and possibly a crockpot, so you can make huge batches of food, to have leftovers you simply reheat throughout the week. That’ll instantly save you time cooking each day. You’ll also love that the stone inserts can be used in the microwave and even in your oven up to 400°F.

And speaking of productivity in the kitchen, did you know that bags are one of the most clutter-adding parts of a messy pantry? “They are easily crushed, reducing whatever was inside them to a crumby mess,” says Marty Basher, a design and organization expert at Modular Closets. “Hard-sided containers are easy to label, stack, and they are air-tight to keep their contents as fresh as possible.” Also, hanging a shoe organizer on the inside of your pantry door instantly maximizes your space and helps minimize clutter. You can use it for cans, granola bars, snack packs, and even seasonings. Shoe organizers can be used for a lot more than just shoes, so be creative, he says.

Price: $24.99

6. For wrist support: Gimars Upgrade Enlarge Gel Memory Foam Set

If your wrists start to feel strained and fatigued, it can be hard to keep working. You may have to take breaks because being at the keyboard can be painful. A nice cushioned, ergonomic wrist pad will help fight wrist fatigue, so you can keep typing away. Try this wrist set from Gimars that features a non-skid rubber base that minimizes unwanted movement on your keyboard and mouse pads.

Price: $13.56

7. For managing your time: Kikkerland Flip Clock

You know the scene: you tell yourself that you’ll finish projects by a certain time, but, you let things linger. You slow down and take unexpected breaks. Having a timer going—whether it’s a stopwatch, hourglass or a flip clock like this one—has a way of really putting the pressure on you, so you actually finish that task in 90 minutes, 60 minutes, or even 5 minutes. This one is also pretty quiet (goodbye ticktock!) so you can take calls and meetings without being distracted.

And, if you’re still lacking time management, use the timer for the Pomodoro Technique. This time management system encourages you to only work within the time constraints that you have—rather than force time you don’t have. The Pomodoro method teaches you to break your workday into 25-minute chunks with five-minute breaks throughout.

Suggested app: The Pomofocus app is a customizable pomodoro timer that works on desktop and mobile browser.

Price: $86.98

8. For workplace variety: UNICOO- Height Adjustable Sit Stand Workstation

Sitting down all day is not only bad for our bodies, but it’s also bad for our brains. Being on our feet has a way of keeping our minds energized so opting for a standing desk might be better for your health overall.

We love this multipurpose standing workstation because it has 4 platforms: the 3 top panels are great for housing your monitors and keyboards, and the larger bottom panel is great for printers and speakers. It also rolls you can take it to your kitchen, living room, and basement for when you want to change things up to boost your focus.

As for organizing your standing desk, you want to make sure you map out your desktop. “Buy contact paper, clear off your desk, then lay the contact paper over the bare desktop,” says DeMorrow. “Now, thoughtfully place your essential desktop items exactly where you want them. Next, take a pen and outline the base of these items on the contact paper, crime scene-style. Lift each item and write its name inside its outline. Now even if you have a completely crazy day in the office, you can easily reset your desk without thinking about it.

Suggested app: StandApp provides alarmed reminders to take standing breaks from your desk throughout the day. You’ll also enjoy 30 low to medium intensity exercises anyone can do at work.

Price: $79.99

9. For ergonomic support: Komene Mesh Ergonomic Office Chair

Are you working in the right chair? If your chair creates uncomfortable pressure points that cause you to get up and stretch every half hour, that’s not very productive. Also, if your chair is really more for lounging, and has you so reclined that you get tired, that’s also not productive. Get an ergonomic chair like this one from Komene that provides four supporting points—head, back, hips and hands—and even a mesh that minimizes sweating. The foam seat cushion to ensure a soft and non-collapsed, so it’s easy on the spine when sitting for long amounts of time.

Price: $189.99

10. For better sleep: NICETOWN Thermal Insulated Grommet Blackout Curtains

Nicetown: Blackout curtains are to help you sleep better, keeping in mind that a good night’s rest is essential to a productive day of work. If anything has been interrupting your sleep, address it, because it’s messing up your days, too. These blackout curtain panels have over 49,000 customer ratings on Amazon, with 80% of them being five-star. The biggest draw for these popular curtains is the triple weave blackout fabric that minimizes the summer heat and keeps you warm from the winter chill.

One customer reminds us that they are not only great for the bedroom, but also the living room, dining room, and basement. “We have east-facing windows and the sun heats up our house in the afternoon/evening,” she says. “These have been excellent for keeping our dining room dark and cool!”

Suggested app: If you have trouble sleeping try Relax Melodies for relaxing sounds and mindfulness meditations to lure you to sleep quietly.

Price: $23.39

11. For wireless portability: TP-Link N300 Wireless Portable Nano Travel Router

If you really want to switch up your scenery by, say, going to work in a park for a bit, you’ll quickly face one issue: no Wi-Fi. Your home router signal doesn’t reach the park up the street. So get a portable Wi-Fi device like the TP Link Travel Router point so you can bring the Internet with you wherever you go. Enjoy 300 Mbps Wi Fi speed on 2.4G hertz band for lag Free video streaming. One thing to note: Set it up with your phone/tablet (WiFi mobile device) for best results.

Price: $33.03

12. For less desk clutter: Logitech MX Master 2S Wireless Mouse

If you can’t navigate your computer with speed, you won’t be very productive. It’s just that simple. We love this dual connectivity mouse as a budget-friendly option—it’s great on MACs and PCs and you can navigate seamlessly on up to three computers. Also, the rechargeable battery offers up to 70 days of power on a single charge.

Price: $62

13. For that caffeine jolt: Death Wish Coffee

Your regular old coffee may not do the trick. If your heart can handle it, and you like to get lots done every day, it may be time to invest in high-caffeinated coffee. It not only energizes you more than the standard stuff, but it does so in just one cup, so you don’t need to waste time making more coffee throughout the day. As for the taste? Think of it as strong yet smooth, but never-bitter. It’s made of the highest quality organic and fair-trade beans for a flavorful brew.

Suggested app: Try Coffee Nerd to house your preset brew times, ratios, and measurements with each cup of coffee.

Price: $35.98

14. For more privacy: At Work 96″ W x 78″ H Room Divider

NBF Signature Series Store: Do you know the clear shields that restaurants are installing at the cash registers, or between tables? Now you can get an opaque shield for your home desk so you don’t see the visual distractions. Blocking those frequent distractions will instantly boost productivity. You can also go the simple route of putting up a portable room divider. But, that pales in comparison to this shield made of greenguard certified materials that are tested regularly to ensure that the chemicals meet acceptable standards. Bonus: The wide half-round feet offer extra stability to avoid tipping or rocking (from pets or small children) while in use.

Remember: “Not everyone has a room dedicated solely as a home office,” says DeMorrow. “You can turn an alcove, a loft, a corner of your bedroom, or a section of the kitchen island into an upbeat home office. Turn an under-utilized dining room, reach-in closet, or basement into a beautiful home office. Plenty of home offices have to pull double duty as guest rooms, craft spaces, libraries, playrooms, or shared office space.

Price: 1,092.00

A young black woman working on her laptop in her bedroom.

Source: FluxFactory / Getty

15. For those aspiring towards a paperless existence: Google Storage

Every time you learn that your Google drive space is nearly full, you have to do the tedious task of going through all of your photos and documents and downloads and videos, and deciding what to delete, in order to make room for the new stuff. Wouldn’t it be nice to invest in some more space and get on with the day? Sounds familiar? Try Google One to get the most out of your storage.

Suggested app: The Google Drive app allows you to easily invite others to view, edit, or leave comments on any of your Google files or folders from any device.

Price: $1.99

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