• James Walton

How to Set Up Your Desk

Most of us are knowledge workers, meaning our value to the organization is not the material we produce with our hands, but the quality of our ideas and the ability to implement them using a largely non-physical set of tools (calendar appointments, email, computer files and the like).

Where this work takes place is at our desks, so it’s worth paying attention to the condition of them.

Of course, large swaths of work that gets done through interactions with people, but you cannot be fully present in those interactions if your mind is occupied with a myriad of undone tasks, scores of unanswered emails, and a nagging sense that something important is being left unattended. To be effective in the people work, you must be competent in the knowledge work.

And part of being competent in the knowledge work means attending the space where it is accomplished.

Here's a few tips to keep in mind when surveying your physical workspace:

  • The desk is for doing work, not storing or reminding you of work. Keep the materials on your desk minimized to two types of things: the equipment required to do the work, and the work itself that's in process. We'll cover how to develop a reliable task management system later, but if you rely on sticky notes on the margins of your computer monitor

  • Use the PLACE method to stay on the right track:

  • Purge unnecessary items (you probably don't need all 19 of those pens within arm’s reach)

  • Like similar items together

  • Access to the things you use the most often should be immediate

  • Contain material in dividers to prevent items from running across your space. This is especially true for icons on your computer desktop.

  • Evaluate your setup from time to time: do you like it? Does it work for you? What could be better?

When the workspace is setup well, it minimizes resistance to the work. And when resistance to do good work is reduced, your enjoyment goes up. And your enjoyment in your work increases, we all win.

h/t Matt Perman, whose little book on setting up your desk informed much of this.

At Trellis Group, we believe chaos is the enemy of the small business. It's our mission to partner with small business owners and their teams to develop the managerial practices and processes to crush chaos. Revenues go up, anxiety goes down, and work becomes a force multiplier for good in the lives of your people. Reach out to discover how the Trellis Group can help you crush chaos.


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