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Your computer setup can increase productivity: The screen should be at eye level. Position it on the desk so that when you sit down and straighten your arm, your pointer finger is at the center of the screen, says Alan Hedge, director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory at Cornell University. If you have a laptop, elevate it to the proper height -- we used a clothbound box -- and use an external keyboard and mouse to avoid hunching your back.
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The average American spends six weeks a year looking for lost or misplaced items, according to a survey of 2,600 executives reported in the Wall Street Journal. We think that's a pretty compelling reason to keep all your most needed desk supplies -- from markers and pens to postage stamps -- within reach while working.
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"Piles usually aid visual memory," Hedge says. Diving a desk into zones reminds you how much you actually have to do. The number of zones can vary depending on your needs, but two reliable zones are "to-do" and "in progress." If strewn papers stress you out -- "Some people work optimally with less clutter," Hedge says." -- stow work in files or boxes."
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Manage the Minutiae
Hedge suggests using colors to assign immediacy (as in "do today") or categories ("personal") and then applying to folders or paperwork. "We quickly learn to associate color with certain actions," he says. You can use Post-It notes, stickers, or Washi tape. If you share a workspace or files at home, assign a color to each family member.