Keep just enough pens in play.
Do you resent your desk drawer? Or the jar or coffee mug you've crammed with pens? There's hope!
This is my desktop pen holder. It might look like it has little functionality to offer, but it has improved my life in surprising ways. It was formerly a flower frog, which come in a variety of shapes designed to sit at the bottom of vases and hold flower arrangements in place—so pens are a natural fit, too.
Keep an eye out for pretty vintage ones at flea markets and antique shops, or go hunting on Etsy or eBay—just be sure to get one of the kinds with sizable holes or a grid-like cage (like mine) and not the sort with spiky pins (though people get crafty and use pin-style frogs for propping up other things, like photos and business cards). I spotted my frog in an antique mall in Seattle, where it was propping up a handful of pencils, and immediately gravitated to the workflow improvements this would offer over the system I'd been using, if you can call it that.
Before I got my frog, all the pens in my house lived in an old coffee can that my fiancé has been carrying from apartment to apartment, probably since college. Whenever I needed to sign a check or write a birthday card, every pen I pulled out seemed to be low on ink or frayed at the tip or—with dismaying frequency—an orange Sharpie.
In the frog, since there are few pens, fully exposed, I know just what I'm grabbing—no more orange Sharpie surprise. And because there's only room for a tiny fleet of pens, they all have to pull their weight. As soon as one starts to falter, it's retired (maybe to the coffee can). When I'm done writing, it goes right back in its place, and I feel like my desk—and therefore my life—is under control.
I need more micro lifestyle improvements like this—got any good ones? (Tell me in the comments.)