Personal Productivity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people wanting to improve their personal productivity. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I do my work at a desk with computer monitors, a mouse, a keyboard, and a notepad and pen. The problem is that if I want to stay facing the monitors and have my keyboard, mouse and notebook at hand, I don't know how to position them all so that there is enough space.

Does anyone have a way to use a computer and paper and pen so that you don't have to change your position, and both are easy to access, use, and see?

Currently, I keep my notepad to the right of my keyboard (I'm right-handed), and have my mouse in front of them (away from me) roughly between them like this:

   monitor       monitor
------------- -------------
                   -- <- mouse
    -------------    ----
    |  keyboard |    |  |  <- notepad
    -------------    ----

The problem with this is that the notepad is far away and I have to reach too far to use the mouse.

share|improve this question

migrated from Feb 12 '12 at 23:10

This question came from our site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development.

My solution for now is to move the keyboard to the right, put the notebook on the left side of the keyboard and the mouse on the right. – Andrew MacFie Mar 19 '12 at 19:58
Get a wireless keyboard and put it on your lap. I got a Samsung Galaxy Note that helps even though it doesn't appear to be superficially the exact questioned asked – T. Webster Dec 25 '12 at 7:48
I'm curious about using a keyboard on my lap. I have concerns about vertical space, and it would force me to keep my legs very still which might not be practical (unless I sit cross-legged on the floor perhaps). – Andrew MacFie Mar 3 '15 at 22:57
It's been 2-3 yrs. now, and I take back my previous comment. I have the same setup as you, except this is one of the rare cases where it helps to be left-handed (my notepad is on the left). What I can suggest is a 72-inch desk e.g. which gives me more than enough workspace. – T. Webster Mar 12 '15 at 4:05
up vote 3 down vote accepted

My setup looks like this:

  monitor       monitor
------------- -------------

     -------------  -- <- mouse
     |  keyboard |  --
       |      |
       | ---- | <- arm
arm -> | |  | |
       | ---- <- notepad 

My "notepad" is actually just 5 to 10 stacked sheets of paper, so I can rest/put my arms partially onto the stack of paper. It's not like I was resting my arms on a notepad which was 0.5 or 1cm higher than the desk surface. That would be uncomfortable.

I like my notepad more or less in one line with the monitor and the keyboard. That way, I don't have to turn my head to the right to see my notes.

The workflow goes like this: Turn the stack of paper a few degrees to the left which is easier for me to write. I usually think about the problem and write down a bullet list of tasks. Then I turn back the stack of paper parallel to my arm and cross off the items every once in a while.

share|improve this answer
I have the same configuration. I use paper to do quick mathematical derivations and stuff. – Memming Mar 17 '12 at 18:43
@Memming: Nice to hear you that have the same configuration. Mathematical derivations and stuff sound way cooler than the mundane todo items I write down. :-) – Lernkurve Mar 20 '12 at 12:36
+1 for this. My notepad is a spiral bound A5 version, which usually doubles as coaster for my cup of coffee. – 0x6d64 Jun 11 '12 at 7:37
One tip with this configuration is to use individual sheets of paper rather than a notepad so the position and movement of your hands and keyboard aren't obstructed. – Andrew MacFie Mar 3 '15 at 22:44

Three suggestions:
- Use a notepad as a mouse pad. You can use any standard notebook or even just a pile of paper. If you want to be a little fancier, you can use a paper mousepad from Knock Knock. I did a quick profile check and see you're Canadian; you can find tons of these at Chapters/Indigo/Coles.
- If you're only making small notes, just use a Post-It.
- Invest in a "blotter". There are some that have multiple sheets, or you can get a separate holder and refill paper.

(Because I'm new, I can only post 2 links. You can easily Google for Knock Knock, and if you go to Amazon you can find those refills too (the one I was going to link to is from House of Doolittle).)

share|improve this answer

Maybe you should reevaluate if you really need a notepad.

Generally, I find that would use pen/paper for two reasons:

  1. Quickly write down some text/numbers
  2. Do some quick and dirty UML modeling while coding (i.e. pictures with boxes and arrows)

For (1) one I've completely switched over to using OneNote, so that solves the pen/paper problem. WinKey-N (or Shift-WinKey-N) is fast and allows me to quickly write down things, plus one note can be made small and top-most so it is almost like a notepad on your screen. Advantage is that it is infinite capacity and fully searchable later, unlike paper pad.

For (2), I typically keep few pieces of paper right under the keyboard that I can easily pull out when needed and then push them back in. This way, the paper is right where you need it and so is your mouse.

share|improve this answer
Also EverNote is a good solution. – Grok Feb 13 '12 at 21:14

I am right handed, but when I first started to use PCs no one told me how to set my desk up.

Naturally, I set it up so that my mouse and mousepad are on my left, my keyboard in front, and my writing pad on my right. I did it this way as I hold my pen in my right hand. The mouse is still configured as a right hand mouse.

Its like learning to drive, I don't think about it now. Except when colleagues look at me in that odd way colleagues do.

All the best

share|improve this answer

I have used a very large sheet of paper (like A2) and put it on the desk under the keyboard and under the mouse - It gave me a big area to write notes on and didn't get in the way - although I can see this only working if you always keep your notes next to your pc (and don't mind your desk looking like a giant sketch pad...)

If you fancy spending a little money - I think that would be a neat solution...

share|improve this answer

If you only use the notepad for temporary notes, consider a whiteboard on a sidewall if you have one.

Another tip: Get a pen stand so your pen is sticking up ready to grab in the writing position instead of having to find where it's rolled to.

share|improve this answer

I use a notebook while I'm working (programming), so from what I do I'll make 3 comments:

  • I keep my notebook above my keyboard between the keyboard and monitor. I have to lean forward some to use it but it's better for me than swiveling/turning to one side or the other. I try to keep no other stuff/clutter immediately in front of me.

  • I now keep a smaller 5"x8" notebook in front of me. It is basically this one. I still have a larger one for planning, mind-mapping, meetings, etc. But for on-the-fly notes, mini-todo list, writing myself a reminder of where I left off before lunch or at end-of-day, this is my little companion.

  • Lastly, I personally keep my mouse in line with my keyboard. Your set up seems like you'd be reaching for the mouse and I've had shoulder issues from mouse work in the past. In fact, I learned to mouse left handed at that time because reaching for a mouse waaaaayyyyy over there past the 10-key hurt. Numpads are useless to me.

share|improve this answer

Replace your mouse with a trackball and learn to use that with your left hand. With this setup you do not even need to switch between use a pen and mouse (well, there's still a keyboard, of course).

Since you have to learn to use the trackball anyway, it is not a big deal to learn that with your left hand. Do not forget to change your mouse settings to left-handed.

I have done exactly that. For me the additional advantage is that I use this setup at home, while at work I still use the traditional mouse with my right hand (I don't have to write a lot there). This divides the strain on my hands/wrists, and hence the chance of getting of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.