When I started spending more time at my computer I noticed I wasn’t being very productive. I wasn’t using the organizational features of the Mac like I should have been. I was only using 1 screen. My back started to hurt from my chair. Getting some computer work done at home was literally a chore – I thought there must be a better way… some best practices if you will. Behold! There was. Let me review and illuminate…
Mac Hardware for Office Productivity
- External Monitor – at work I used two monitors, but I wasn’t at home. Nowadays, external monitors are cheap. Since I have a Mac I like to stay within the Apple family for hardware, but an external monitor for the Mac is $1,000 – and the technology is old. I bought a Samsung S24D590L – it’s 24″, Full HD, and provides an excellent picture (when calibrated). It’s very stylish – it matches the color scheme of my MacBook Pro laptop exactly. University studies have proven that dual monitors increases productivity dramatically and reduces errors. [Update: I bought an additional Samsung S24D590L and am now using 2 24″ monitors with a new Mac mini. The large second display does make some items like mail appear easier to read than viewing on the 15″ screen, however the laptop was a fine choice with the mStand.]
- Laptop Stand – a laptop stand raises the laptop to eye level, so when working with an external display everything lines up. No eye fatigue and searching for application windows. I bought the mStand Laptop Stand.
- Full-size keyboard with number pad – I use a wired Apple keyboard. I find it works well and gives my extra function buttons so I can assign complex keyboard shortcuts and access them with just one button press. Having the extra room for a number pad helps with calculations. And it never needs batteries or misses a keystroke.
- External Trackpad – I use this as my mouse. The gestures make accomplishing application navigation a breeze. Saving a second here and there in simple matters like application navigation really adds up over time. I have the Apple Wireless Magic Trackpad
Home Office Gear for Productivity
Everyone has standard gear like an office chair and desk, but what’s real gold are items that keep you comfortable when at your desk and alert. If you can stay at your desk longer without hurting your back, you can accomplish so much more. And the great news is that these items are very affordable.
- Memory Foam Seat Cushion – memory foam is super comfortable. If you don’t have a memory foam mattress I suggest you get one. Memory foam is both soft and supportive. It doesn’t flatten out like other foam, cloth or spring combo. Most office chairs come with very little padding. The extra padding and contours help reduce strain on your back and keep you comfortable for much longer. Remember: if you’re not comfortable you’re not working. I use the Cushina memory foam seat cushion. [Update: I have spent considerable money on a Herman Miller Embody chair. It’s a chair specifically designed for computer use and long hours sitting. It pretty much removed all the back pain I was having.]
- Foot Rest – You wouldn’t think a footrest would help your back, but it does. In my experience there are two kinds of footrests – hard plastic ones and cushy foam ones. The foam ones are better. Especially in the home, you are more likely to be barefoot or using socks on the footrest. I use the Safco Half-Cylinder Foot Cushion.
Mac Software to Increase Productivity
- Mission Control – Mission Control is built into OS X. This comes in handy when you have dual monitors. It allows you to logically break out applications to different desktops based on theme or task. For example, I have a “communications” desktop on my secondary laptop screen. I put my mail, and instant messages on that screen and have it active most of the time. I my main external monitor, I have a “tasks” desktop where I place my calendar, reminder, and notes app together. You can create as many desktops as you need and a swipe of the trackpad moves you between them instantly without any keyboard presses.
- System Preferences / Keyboard Shortcuts – The mac makes it really easy to assign custom keyboard shortcuts for individual apps or all apps. For example, with my full-size keyboard I use the F19 button to show and hide sidebars in apps. I use the F15 button to enter and exit full-screen mode. The possibilities are endless. Just think about what tasks you do regularly with an app and assign a custom keyboard shortcut.