Here’s what’s on my desk right now, from left to right: one laptop, one mug of tea (on a trivet), one notebook and pen, one smartphone (on silent, turned face-down), two bike lights that need charging, and one pothos plant.
Turns out that having my smartphone face down and on silent is a good start, but it might be even better if I put the phone in a drawer instead of directly on my desktop. Same goes for those bike lights, even though they’re taking up space on my desk specifically so I don’t forget to recharge them.
(Yes, I know I could be recharging those bike lights right now, but I don’t want to take a break from writing this post. Taking thirty seconds to pick up a bike light and dig around in my desk for the USB charger and plug it in is enough time for me to ask myself whether I should flip my phone around to make sure I haven’t missed any important texts or calls, which will nudge me to check Slack to make sure I haven’t missed any important conversations, and so on.)
Fast Company interviewed productivity coach Alexis Haselberger to learn what should — and shouldn’t — be taking up space on our desk:
[…] Haselberger recommends keeping your desk streamlined to these items:
Your computer, mouse and keyboard
A pad of paper and a pen, to jot down a note when you have a thought or to help you think through a project if you are a “paper person”
Tools you use on a regular basis that you would otherwise waste time getting up to access, such as a stapler, tape, or scissors
The idea is that we shouldn’t have anything in our visual field that isn’t directly related to the task at hand. Smartphones go in the drawer. Scissors go in the drawer if you aren’t working on a project that directly involves scissors. Fast Company cited a study that suggested “go-getters” are 9 per cent more likely to have a photo of their children on their desk, so feel free to add a visual reminder of your loved ones — but avoid overdecorating.
The Atlantic, meanwhile, recently ran a more lighthearted piece about the three beverages everyone needs to keep on their desks:
The first is water. The second is a source of caffeine. The third is something fun — a juice, a soda, a glass of wine on Friday afternoon (if your office is like that), a kombucha (if you are like that).
A third beverage is your wild card, a chance for a little bit of random pleasure in a period of the day that is otherwise not your own.
My desk isn’t large enough for three beverages, but this is one of the reasons why I have the plant, and why I’ve covered the wall immediately in front of my desk with postcards from friends and family, memorabilia from various vacations, and so on. (I work from home, in case you’re curious.) This stuff makes me happy when I look at it, and it’s easy enough not to look at it when it’s time to look at my laptop, so why not have it around?
So. What’s on your desk right now, why is it there, and is there a better place for it? Do you follow Fast Company’s advice to remove everything from your desk except the items necessary for the task at hand, or The Atlantic’s advice to provide yourself with a bit of random pleasure throughout the day?