How to organize a desk for work-life balance – 4 ways I maintain focus when working at home

Maintain a good work-life balance and start each work day right with these desk organizing tricks

A modern rustic home office with a desk, chairs, and bookshelves. The walls are painted in a light gray color and the floors are made of hardwood. There is a large window that lets in natural light.
(Image credit: Superdwell)

Working from home is a great, flexible way to manage your workload with your everyday life. 

However, it is very easy to get distracted – especially if, like me, your home office desk is also used for other activities outside of work, such as playing games, catching up with friends online, or catching up on general life admin. 

To maintain focus and help organize my home office to maintain a work-life balance, I have found some smart ways to organize a desk to maintain focus and prevent burnout.  

How to organize a desk for work-life balance

When working from home, it is easy for the lines between working and relaxing to blur. Having a dedicated home office helps to create clear boundaries, and set up a better work-life balance at home so I don't find myself working later and later each day or picking up some life admin when I should be writing. 

I typically use four desk organizing rules to maximize productivity – and I found that it has reduced my burnout drastically. 

1. Use drawers to divide work and personal

home office space with desk and wooden chair

(Image credit: Future PLC)

One of the key parts of maintaining order when I work from home is to have two sets of drawers to help organize my home office – one for my personal stuff, such as important paperwork and items related to my online games, such as cables, controllers, and chargers, and another for everything related to work such as work laptop chargers and connectors for hooking it up to my monitor. 

This makes it really simple to clear one lot of stuff away and get the others out, so I am never distracted either way. I am not tempted to pick up a game when I should be working, and I never reach to send one or two emails when I should be enjoying my downtime. 

I use drawers on either side of my desk for even further separation while keeping everything close at hand. 

Teak Oscar 3 Drawer Unit | View at ABC Home

Teak Oscar 3 Drawer Unit | View at ABC Home
This moveable teak drawer unit is ideal for fitting beneath or beside a home office desk. It allows you to stow away work items out of sight when not in use and maintain a solid work-life balance. 

2. Complete two ‘end of day’ shutdowns

A home office area with an Original BTC task lamp

(Image credit: Original BTC)

In a similar vein to my closing shift routine, I close my desk down twice a night – once at the end of my work day and again at the end of the actual day if I use my home office at night. 

The first shutdown allows me to shut off from work for the evening and involves putting everything I use for work out of sight. Even if I work elsewhere in my home that day to switch things up, I will always return to put things in the designated office drawers. 

The second shutdown tidies everything away from my downtime. The goal is to have a completely clear blank slate to wake up to so I am not tempted to sit right down and work before breakfast or do some life admin and procrastinate work. 

3. Don’t strip the space of personality

Home office painted in Farrow & Ball Dead Salmon

(Image credit: Julie Soefer/Marie Flanigan)

Although it is important to declutter a home office to promote productivity and improve focus, I found it really important not to strip it of personality. One of the joys of working from home is being surrounded by your creature comforts, after all – so be sure to make your home office look beautiful and promote positivity. 

When picking out decor for my desk and office walls, I picked items I knew I wouldn’t be distracted by, such as simple wall art and non-functional decor like a globe and some dried flowers. I included the best candle to help me relax and focus, and a set of desk drawers added some extra home office storage so that I could quickly throw items into and out of sight when I feel myself getting distracted.   

4. Keep digital work and personal storage spaces separate

Pegboard in home office

(Image credit: Alamy)

It is not just your physical desk that you should keep organized when you work from home. If you use the same computer for both work and personal matters, splitting up your desktop and digital storage into two separate sections or folders on your computer can help to create separation between being on the clock and your downtime. I am lucky that I have a separate PC and laptop for personal and work use, making this separation simpler. 

Digital workspaces are one of the many places organizers declutter daily, so try to maintain a routine of clearing out unnecessary files and folders as part of your end-of-day shutdowns to maintain that work-life balance further.  

FAQs

How do I set up my desk for productivity?  

When planning out a workspace for productivity, it helps to keep your desk as minimal as possible, using storage to stow away clutter and work essentials so that they are not taking up most of the space on your desk. Maintaining a clean environment can help prevent distractions and allow you to focus on the work.  

Should my desk face the window?  

Whether or not you put your desk by a window is down to personal preference. It can offer an easy way to look away from your screen and focus on something far away to help rest your eyes, while also offering good natural lighting for online meetings. For some who like to be able to see the door or don't want the distraction, however, moving the desk to the back wall or the center of the room might be better.  


Of course, some general desk organization can help keep the space clear of clutter and make it feel less overstimulating. Key to this is establishing some good cable organization so you are not faffing with charging cables and tangles of monitor wires, starting your day off frustrated when you want to be focused and attentive. Not to mention that it makes your workspace look ten times better. What’s not to like?  

Chiana Dickson
Writer

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.