Tell the kids to take note.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a student in possession of much homework, must be in want of a good work station (and, I should hope, not in want of my poorly paraphrased Jane Austen quotes). A good work station, after all, will turn you into a superstar, channeling your most productive self with the optimal focus you need to finish your next big project.

But how do you make the perfect work station? Like with any good relationship—or workstation, for that matter—you need to know that it will be there for you not only in the best of times, but also when you hit rock bottom.

So I did the only thing I could think of to simulate that worst of times experience: writing this article as close to the deadline as possible. A few, rather dramatic, sleepless hours later with a dash of NSFW curses and a smidgen of me-only pity parties, I emerged from my writing cocoon still a bit cranky, but, I’d say, a pretty darn wise, workstation savvy butterfly.


A good distraction

I’ve finally come to an understanding that it’s not distractions themselves that are bad. In fact, it can be really beneficial to take a break and come back with a different perspective on whatever work you are doing. The problem is that distraction rabbit hole. (You know the type: that Youtube video on cute kittens that somehow led you to street magic in Sri Lanka kind of distraction.) I recommend an easy, quick and fun distraction like throwing this exceedingly cool moon ball off the wall. (I bet you thought I was going to recommend spinners, didn’t you?) The moon ball has a nice grip, is surprisingly satisfying to bounce, and, best of all, is mostly rabbit hole proof. And one more note: don’t try to hide your object of distraction. Leave it right out in the open in easy view—it’s there for your use! Besides, if you don’t find your moon ball or other object right away, you’ll probably spend hours trying to “find” it, which will inspire you to clean your entire room and, as is inevitably always the case, will end up with you deciding this is the perfect time to do the laundry over your work.

Coffee mug

A spill proof mug

I would say a mug is one of most important necessities of the work station. It keeps you hydrated which you might forget to do otherwise while working, it’s versatile and can be filled with anything to fit your mood (I suggest some relaxing peppermint tea to keep your mind sharp as you work), and sipping your beverage is a great way to quietly mull your thoughts as you work. However, of course, nothing negates all the wonderful benefits of a mug quite like spilling all of said beverages onto your work (unless you did it on purpose for some crazed modern art project) and thus ruining your efforts. So keep all the benefits and nullify all the risk with this very nice, unspillable mug.

Alarm clock

A giant alarm clock

You might ask why you need an alarm clock in this day and age when your phone, tablet, watch, computer, and at this point probably even your toothbrush, all do a tip-top job of telling the time. I wondered the same thing until I ended up doing a somewhat important, but totally unnecessary home remodeling brainstorm before realizing 3 hours had passed without me writing a single word. The problem I realize is the curse of too many options: the function of all those devices is precisely not to be just a clock and so I never feel the need to look at the clock and keep track of time. On the other hand, a simple, alarm clock keeps it, well, simple: if you happen to look in the clock’s direction, you can’t help but notice the time, and hopefully that’ll convince you to get back to work. This particular clock has a clean interface that I love, just showing the current time, date, and next scheduled alarm. Even better, you can’t miss this clock—it’s bright purple.

Pencil case

A pencil box

When I work, ideas come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, I type everything on my computer, while at other times I feel more comfortable using a pencil or a pen and writing everything out. When you have an idea, the last thing you should do is leave your work station to get a pen or pencil—after all, along the way to retrieve a writing utensil there is the slight chance that run into a friend you haven’t seen for 10 years, engage in an hour long conversation, and promptly forget the brilliant idea that got you to get up in the first place. Always be prepared with pencil/pen storage box and make sure to include a 4-colored Pen (because they are an absolute classic and some thoughts are better in different colors) and Ticonderoga pencils (because they are still inexplicably the only pencils I know that have good erasers).


An inspirational quote

I find that finishing homework and meeting deadlines is often a game of positivity. There are moments where you can do everything right from eating healthy to starting your work early, and you still find yourself at a crossroads of how you can possibly carry on. If no one is around to give you words of encouragement, I’ve found posters or other mementos a great asset to remind me of my goals or to give me sage wisdom like Alcohol and Calculus don’t mix. Don’t drink and derive.”


Blank paper

For a long time, when working on a project, few things terrified me more than when my mind turned into a blank slate where no matter how hard I think, I’m can’t quite figure out what to do next. As I’ve grown older, I’ve started to see that blank slate as an advantage, a place where my mind can start fresh, not bogged down by a million questionable ideas, but I still have trouble filling in those blanks. So I decided to make my blank slate literal with blank paper. The added benefits include the joys of writing manically and illegibly in all sorts of directions, the ability to make paper airplanes and fortune tellers, and getting embarrassingly good at trashcan basketball. Occasionally you may actually jot down a good idea that sets you on the right path. The point though is that you’ll feel like you’ve at least done something, which will go a long way for removing that blank slate from your mind and sure beats staring at the wall thinking.


A speaker

Nothing beats singing (aka shouting) your heart out to your most embarrassing pop song as dawn approaches during an all-nighter. It’s like singing on a long car ride or singing in the shower with the added benefit of not having to pay attention to the road or worry about how much water you’re stealing from the fish. Music is a jack-of-all-trades tool for any workstation that I’ve used to relax me, energize me, and help me focus. My go-to speaker is the Jambox wireless, which has all the perks of a great sound system—including that great technological innovation called the off button if silence is your preferred working choice.

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