Nothing turns out to be a killjoy for productivity like a tech problem.

In an interview with a startup recently, the founder said he always makes sure new employees receive a shiny new Macbook to work on, and I couldn't agree more (although a PC also works fine). A fast laptop with plenty of RAM means you can process email faster and maybe even run Photoshop or your in-house accounting app.

Yet, when you look around the office, you might wonder: What else will really make everyone more productive? Is a good keyboard more important than fast Internet? Does it matter if everyone has an ergonomic chair? I'm here to help, because I've been analyzing this problem lately as I move an office across an entire state and think about my office plan and gear.

I'm listing this tech in order of importance, with the first being being the most critical. If you disagree with the order of these fixes or would add other tech, please post in comments, on social networks, or just email me directly, but be ready to defend your position.

1. Get a fast laptop

By far the number one most important techie fix for productivity is a fast laptop. Your computer is the heart of any workstation, and if it is slow, doesn't have enough RAM, or uses an older hard drive, you simply won't get as much work done–even if you have a good keyboard and fast Internet. (In fact, a fast Internet connection will seem slower on a clunky laptop, trust me). One of my favorite new models, which can use Windows 10, is the Dell XPS 13. Make sure you get an Intel Core i7 and at least 8GB of RAM.

2. Pump up your Internet speed and Wi-Fi signal

My new office will have a 200MB connection, the fastest they offer in my area. It's worth every penny of the $100 per month price tag. And, I'm using a Netgear EX7000 that also makes sure the Wi-Fi signal is as robust as possible for multiple people in an office. It's a simple design scheme. The most important piece of hardware is the heart (the laptop) but the second most important is the blood to the heart (sorry for the medical analogy). It has to be super-fast.

3. Invest in a good keyboard and mouse

The third most important fix: Please invest in a good keyboard and mouse. Right now, I'm using a bit of an oddity. It's a Logitech G910 that has mechanical keys and feels springy and tactile. It makes a pleasing "clack" sound with each finger press. The matching Logitech MX mouse is also heavy, accurate, precise, and ergonomic. (Bonus that it doesn’t use batteries–you recharge it like a phone.) Go with the best keyboard mouse you can find. They are the devices you use all day with a laptop. Never rely on the laptop keyboard–which is meant purely for those times when you go mobile–or the built-in trackpad.

4. Go big on a monitor

What you look at all day is almost as important as what you touch with your hands, the connection that boosts your work output, and the laptop that makes everything possible. To be honest, you can get buy with a laptop screen or a smaller display, but I recommend using something like the Viewsonic VP2780-4K monitor that has a big enough screen to show you fine details. You can spread out a few windows, catch up email without squinting, and inspect photos and videos.

5. Don't skimp on a desk chair

So far, the order is: the heart (a laptop), the lifeblood (Internet), what you interact with (keyboard and mouse), and what you see (monitor). The next item is what you sit on all day. If you chair is uncomfortable and old, you won't work as fast no matter how many megabytes of RAM you added to your laptop. Teknion makes some great models, and I'm partial to the Steelcase brand because they tend to be a bit more affordable.

6. Tune out the noise

The last thing on my list (remember, this is in order of importance) is a good set of headphones. I mean good. They should provide noise-cancelling features, offer some high-fidelity with good bass, and fit over your ears to further improve sound quality. Forget USB hubs, docking stations, mousepads–many of those accessories are optional and won't impact your work as much as the items on my list, which are more personal in nature and designed to minimize distractions. Now, what is your order of gadgets?

Published on: Aug 17, 2015
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