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5 Home Office Items You Should Never Skimp On

5 Home Office Items You Should Never Skimp On

    It’s tempting to go looking for a bargain when it comes time to stock your home office with equipment. And there’s nothing wrong with looking for a bargain in itself; if you find a high quality item on sale, by all means, get it now – don’t wait until it goes back up!

    But buying certain items just because they’re cheap is a no-no. These are the items that you’ll be using every day as you begin to work at home and you need to make sure they’re top notch – or at the least, not harming you.

    What I find most ironic is that the items you absolutely must not skimp on are relatively insignificant, cheap items in the grand scheme of things; you can get away with a budget computer (in most lines of work), even though it is generally considered one of the biggest expenses of a home office, but you can’t get away with the same when it comes to the following five, fairly mundane, items.

    Yeah, these items may not be the things you look at in the catalogues with a smile on your face, dreaming dreams of how wonderful they must be, but that’s exactly why it’s important to remember: these things are worth your dosh.

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    1. Chair

    When a fairly good, ergonomic office chair of mine broke at the end of last year, it was towards the end of the month. As you freelancers will know, that’s just before most of the cash for the month comes in, and I had to work; I couldn’t wait long to buy a replacement.

    So what did I do? I went to K-Mart and grabbed the first mid-back chair on sale and went home. It was a decision I regretted for a long time, though I stubbornly held onto the back-killer for just a couple of months shy of a year.

    You’re going to be sitting in your office chair for hours every day; anywhere between five and fifteen hours, depending on how impending your deadlines are! Unless you want to cause some serious back and posture problems, get a good chair. I’ve also noticed that a good, supporting chair increases productivity by a mile.

    2. Desk

    Like many people, here’s another item I skimped on. I’ll be honest, I’ve still got a cheap and dodgy desk in my home office. The design is totally unergonomic and not very sturdy to boot – after several moves of house, this desk doesn’t have much life left in it. It’ll be dead by the next move, I reckon. But it also can increase the tension in my wrist as it makes it hard to get to the mouse, and doesn’t provide a great view of the monitor either – causing eye and neck strain.

    A good desk is expensive, and that’s why we skimp. But not only will a good one save you in medical bills later on, it’ll save you in the long run. One good desk that lasts ten years is much better and cheaper than a series of crappy desks that fall apart after two years of use. This general rule goes for everything listed here.

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    3. Mouse

    My mouse is a Logitech VX Revolution. It was a bit pricey for a mouse at AU$150 (at the time, I’ve seen them for $100 now) and it’s actually meant to be a notebook mouse, but the ergonomic design has done wonders for my wrists over the years I’ve owned the device. It’s been a long time now, but I still have faint memories of cheap mice giving me wrist pain in the past.

    The scroll wheel is starting to die on the ergonomic rodent. Guess what my next purchase will be? Another Logitech VX Revolution. Most people – at least almost every single person whose system I’ve seen – opt for the $10 wired mouse or its $30 wireless sibling. They’re priced that way for a reason. Steer clear.

    4. Keyboard

    At one stage about three years ago I was starting to develop some serious wrist pain from keyboard usage. I was waiting for it, in a sense – I am a writer, after all. And while I hadn’t cheaped out on the keyboard I was using at the time, I had been blinded by all the extra buttons and functions that would supposedly make life easier and computer use quicker (this was back when keyboards with heaps of function buttons were cool).

    And despite not totally skimping, I still got a dud product. It was a dud because it had not been designed with any ergonomic thought whatsoever and the relentless need to type eventually became relentless pain.

    Also, it was really hard to get the gross accumulated crumbs out of its nooks and crannies, but that’s another story.

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    So I went out to look for another keyboard that would not strain my wrists and I found one that worked wonders. It also happens to be the only product I own from Microsoft (and of course I’ve heard all the lame jokes about using a Microsoft keyboard on a Mac). The Natural Ergonomic 4000 brought quick relief to my wrists and can be configured in just about any position you like.

    I mentioned I’d buy another Logitech ergonomic mouse when my current one dies. Well, when it comes to my keyboard, it’s not just speculation. I’m already on my second Microsoft Natural Ergonomic – exact same model and all. Just don’t spill coffee in the thing like I did and you should be fine.

    5. Monitor

    When most people think of spending money on a monitor, they think of bang per buck in terms of inches per buck.

    Size isn’t everything, and sometimes less is more. There are a few things to consider when it comes to monitors, and again, from personal experience in less than ergonomic conditions.

    The first thing to worry about: some monitors are not adjustable. You can’t change the height and you can’t change the tilt so that it more naturally lines up with your eye level. These monitors are no good.

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    Also, cheaper monitors – particularly CRTs but also some LEDs I’ve used – can emit a high frequency noise that can cause headaches or just become perpetually distracting and get in the way of productivity.

    The final thing to consider is that some monitors are just to big for what you need. Others are too small. The point isn’t to buy the largest screen you can afford; it’s smarter to find the screen that suits your work and however much you need to see at one time without straining your eyes. I personally have found 30″ displays straining, even though I dreamed about having one for years. While 24″ took some getting used to, it’s a perfect strain-to-size compromise for me.

    If you do want more real estate but don’t want the strain of trying to take in one whole large screen at once, consider getting dual monitors. You only have to focus on one at a time but still have heaps of real estate space.

    Now, of course, getting a screen that is small enough is not going to cost extra – it may just save you some money. But remember that cheaping out has undesirable ergonomic effects in the monitor department, too.

    Final Thoughts

    So you’ve considered what you need most and purchased your items carefully. If each of the items in this list are high quality and suited to you, you’ll find a massive improvement in your comfort and productivity in the office. The little things do matter, especially when they all add up together.

    Once you’ve got a great ergonomic system, you can go spend $200 on some old computer* with 256MB of RAM – who cares about the thing, you’re comfortable!

    * I do not actually recommend cheaping out on your computer. If you went to someone’s MySpace profile with only 256MB of RAM these days you’d probably cause an explosion. Still, the point is about priorities.

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    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on October 20, 2020

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

    You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

    We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

    The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

    Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

    1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

    Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

    For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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    • (1) Research
    • (2) Deciding the topic
    • (3) Creating the outline
    • (4) Drafting the content
    • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
    • (6) Revision
    • (7) etc.

    Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

    2. Change Your Environment

    Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

    One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

    3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

    Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

    Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

    My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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    Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

    If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

    Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

    I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

    5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

    I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

    Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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    As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

    6. Get a Buddy

    Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

    I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

    7. Tell Others About Your Goals

    This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

    For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

    8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

    What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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    9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

    If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

    Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

    10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

    Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

    Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

    11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

    At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

    Reality check:

    I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future. Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

    Bonus: Think Like a Rhino

    More Tips for Procrastinators to Start Taking Action

    Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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