Sometimes, I dream about a perfectly pristine home office. Did I say sometimes? I mean all the time. But in reality, a completely clear desk is kind of like Email Inbox Zero: a goal that you may achieve temporarily and occasionally, but not a maintainable state. And it turns out that science backs this up, as Seth Porges recounts for Bloomberg: Why You Should Clean Up Your Desk, But Not Too Much.
I think the most important take away from this article is the differentiation between temporary and long-term storage. My home office clients often have lots of piles that overwhelm them because each item does have a task attached but those tasks very so widely that they feel that they can’t clear anything away.
So, I usually use the concept of an inbox combined with a to-do list and an organized filing system. The filing system is long term storage: every item that goes in is something the client might need again someday, but no action is required. The to do list is medium term: it contains the projects or larger tasks the client wants to get done but that don’t require immediate attention. This can take the form of a written list, an Evernote notebook, or a physical vertical file on the desk depending on the personality and needs of the client. Finally, the inbox is short term: these are the things that require immediate action and need to be top of mind. The key to a functional inbox is that is be open for visual impact, large enough to hold paper, but small enough that it can’t be filled to the point of creating another pile problem. The inbox literally goes on the desk right next to the computer to demand the client’s attention!
Here’s an example of the inbox at work (plus the decorative touches mentioned in the article that make my desk an inviting place to work). My inbox is a clear acrylic tray, and currently contains paper I need to deal with, gift cards I need to spend, tickets to events that I can’t forget to bring with me to said events, and my current needlepoint projects.
I organized the desk, but it was my fabulous designer friend Liz Curtis of Table + Teaspoon who found the pieces that made it come together and look like something special. I’m especially loving the little rose gold and acrylic stand for my printer, which fades into the background while still looking elegant. And I’m absolutely obsessed with the electric standing desk! I’ve wanted one for awhile and with such an important and frequently used purchase Liz wisely advised me to go big or go home. We were both concerned that it not look too cold or corporate, and I think the white with glass top is clean but still works in a warmer, girlier space.
The only thing on my desk that’s bugging me right now is the device situation, but I’ve ordered a simple charging station and hope this will solve what’s left of my cord spaghetti problem.
Create an inbox for your office or home work space and let me know how it goes!