4 Ultimate Rules for a Productive Home Office (With a Standing Desk Hack)

Teaching Online

You owe it to yourself

You deserve a comfortable, productive place to get your work done. No, you do not have an employer who provides you with a desk, an hourly wage, or a single tool to be successful. In the gig economy, you are on your own, to carve out your hours, purchase your devices and get it done.

Every moment you spend creating a productive space will pay itself back

Every minute that you spend creating curriculum and teaching, instead of clearing your desk and preparing your workspace, will give you more time to sip a frothy beverage.

Four rules for your office

  • You need a distraction-free space. Your couch doesn’t count. What do you need in an office? Sunlight? Fresh air? Isolation? Distance from the ice cream? If you like ice cream, and you regularly have some in your house, you have to take that into consideration.

Use the 20 second rule. Move your office 20 seconds from strong distractions. Be able to access your work within 20 seconds. The 20 second rule was named by Shawn Anchor, a Harvard productivity and happiness researcher. He found that when he wanted to form a new habit, such as playing his guitar, 20 seconds was an insurmountable deterrent. When he put the guitar smack in the middle of the living room, he played it daily and formed the habits that he wanted to. Chris Bailey, in his Year of Productivity experiments, took the idea a step farther. He made all distractions at least 20 seconds away from his work space. How far can you get in 20 seconds? Pretty far. I can walk clear from one side of my house and back again in 10. I needed a physical barrier to sufficiently separate myself from the ice cream. When I lock the door, which takes 6 seconds to unlock, I am able to block out most distractions. True freedom, however, only came when I asked my neighbor to hold my chocolate. I could suddenly work for 4 hours (in 35 minute chunks) without wandering into the kitchen.


  • You need a standing desk. Why stand? The benefits of a standing desk are numerous. Research has shown that the cumulative effects of sitting at a desk increase the risks of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and other vascular problems, whereas a standing desk increases productivity and provides exercise, all in one.

Hack your own standing desk. Have you found yourself yearning for a standing desk? Of course, you can buy one, but that is costly. All you need is a tall dresser. Just about any dresser will do. You probably have one. Go to your neighborhood hardware store, and get a board cut to fit over one of the drawers. Or get crazy with the chop saw yourself.


It is not that hard.

Then put the board over the drawer.

I put my laptop on the board, and a monitor on the desk.


Then I can stand at my desk and get to work.







  • You need a rich color. Research has shown that it is not so much the color as it is the saturation of the color , that affects your productivity. Rich and full colors wake up your brain and out you in the best state to work.

Buy a bucket of paint. Paint is such a great way to wake up, delineate and beautify a space. It need not be perfect. Buy a rich, full color, a cheap-o sponge paint brush, and paint your office. I went for a bright green. In my house, my office is only the wall of my bedroom. However, the vibrant color, standing desk, and locked door make me feel like I am “at work.”


Locate your desk next to a window. If that is not possible, consider a daylight simulation light. I put my desk in front of a window.


  • You need to remember why you are working. Are you working because you love to teach? Are you supporting your family? What are you doing here?

Put up some reminders. Pin up a note from a former student. Have up some pictures of your kids. While too many pictures are distracting, a few pictures can help to remind you of what is important to you.

Your dream office is within your reach!

Go and make it, right now.


I am a teacher, hiker, mother, dancer and home-maker. I have taught pre-school through SAT prep. I am exploring ways to create on-line learning communities for home-schooled middle school and high school students. In particular, I am starting a low-residency on-line middle school. I would like to help young people explore important ideas while enjoying their lives! You can learn more about my programs at www.onlineclassesforgroovykids.org.


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