We do all sorts of things at our desks that aren't real work or affect our ability to produce our best work. We need to start thinking of our desks as workstations.
Here are some things I'm trying to quit doing at my desk:
1. Thinking: People don't think best sitting at their desks. When you reflect on your biggest "Ah-Ha!" moments, how many of them occurred while you were staring at a screen? If you're like me, your best thinking happens when you're not at your desk: taking a walk, going and asking another person for help, drinking a coffee, in the shower. Your desk is for executing; do your thinking elsewhere.
2. Socialising: When I sit down at my desk, I want to be in work mode. I want to prioritise my most important tasks, and then complete them with the fastest velocity possible. Socialising while I'm at my desk sullies the purity of the workstation. This is why the water cooler is actually a brilliant social construct: when you want to hang out, you can get up from your workstation and go to the socialstation. I think every office should have a socialstation — a place (or time in the morning) where team members can hang out and talk informally.
3. Procrastinating: Check Facebook, check Twitter, go on YouTube, check email, mindlessly read blog posts. I think that breaks and downtime are important in a work day. But again: I think maintaining the purity of my desk as a place where I work is important. If I need some "mindless" time, I think it's better to walk away from my desk and have a place and time limit where I do that. It's also important that we catch ourselves when procrastinating and ask ourselves: "Why?" Are we procrastinating because we're tired? Hungry? Bored? Are we stuck on a problem? Are we just feeling lethargic and need to get up and move around? Figure out what's at the source of your mindless net browsing, and deal with the problem.
4. Sitting: For the past 18 months I've been using a standing desk. I've realised that the best part isn't that I'm standing all day; it's that I'm not sitting. A standing desk allows you to stand, sit, lean and put one leg up while you're at your workstation. Even better, I've felt more freedom to just walk away when I'm faced with a problem and need to do some thinking (or when I'm tired and need a break).
Many writers maintain a private writing hut. The hut has one purpose: it's the place they go to write. They don't do anything else there. Once they can't write any more, they go and do something else. I think we need to think of our desks in the same way: these are places where we get work done.
Things I've quit doing at my desk [Justin Jackson]
Justin Jackson is a product manager at Industry Mailout. When he's not working, he's chasing kids and spending time with his beautiful wife. For fun, he likes to ride bikes, snowboard and drink beer with other people that like to drink beer. Follow him on Twitter @mijustin.