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What does your desk look like....

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  • What does your desk look like....

    and how does it help/hinder GTD?

    I ask because I feel like my desk set-up is hindering my GTD and I'm not sure what do do about it.

    I work out of my home, so I don't have tremendous flexibility, but here's a rough description.

    I have an L shaped desk with my computer on one leg. Also on that leg is a wire stairstep file holder that has project support materials. In front of that file holder is a big pile of stuff.

    In the corner of the L is where I keep books that I need to refer to periodically. The other leg is my work surface, but it's pretty cluttered. I also have 3 wire baskets there, one of which is allegedly my inbox, but it isn't working very well. Finally, as an extension of that leg, I have a two drawer lateral file cabinet.

    Here are my known issues: too much clutter (which means not enough places to keep project support materials that I need close at hand); no good place to keep things that I want to read (various journals, etc.) but that don't have any real urgency; and a general sense of being overwhelmed.

    Any thoughts/comments/advice cheerfully accepted...

    Thanks,
    Michael

  • #2
    Suggestion

    I have been following an adaptation of Martin Ternouth's method for GTD (just changing names mainly). It is fantastic. The detailed description is about 20% of the way down this page:

    Thinking and Paper

    I also make generous use of my Someday/Maybe tray for project support materials: if I am not doing it this week, it stays there.
    Last edited by Zatara; 10-22-2005, 01:27 AM. Reason: Correct broken link

    Comment


    • #3
      Zatara, the link doesn't work. Can you give the name of the specific thread on the BB?

      Carolyn


      Edited to Add:
      Okay, I did some more snooping. Are you referring to Martin Ternouth's posts (three, I think) on the thread Thinking and Paper?
      Last edited by ceehjay; 10-21-2005, 11:17 AM. Reason: Added information

      Comment


      • #4
        Clutter, clutter, clutter

        Originally posted by oaklandcubsfan
        In front of that file holder is a big pile of stuff.

        The other leg is my work surface, but it's pretty cluttered.

        Here are my known issues: too much clutter (which means not enough places to keep project support materials that I need close at hand); no good place to keep things that I want to read (various journals, etc.) but that don't have any real urgency; and a general sense of being overwhelmed.
        I agree that clutter sounds like one of your big problems. Part of the initial GTD setup outlined by the book is a thorough review and processing of everything in your workspace. If you have a bunch of clutter around, you haven't done that.

        Getting your work surfaces cleared and getting "clean edges" on everything really helped my situation at work. My desk is mostly occupied with computer stuff, and I have a small table that I use for writing, reading, and occasional swap space. Getting those surfaces uncluttered and keeping them that way has helped me focus when I'm working.

        If you need more filing space or shelving, you should do what's necessary to get it (or improvise it), so you can put reference materials somewhere out of the way of getting your work done.

        I have an appointed space for "things to read," and when that stack gets uncomfortably tall, I review the stack to see what I should just discard -- often, a lot of "I should read this" turns into trash in a few weeks. Having a single place for those items helps keep them in control.

        Comment


        • #5
          Link

          Originally posted by ceehjay
          Are you referring to Martin Ternouth's posts (three, I think) on the thread Thinking and Paper?
          Yes, precisely.

          Comment


          • #6
            I think if you get rid of the clutter, your feeling of being overwhelmed will subside. I clear off my desk at least once a day - as in, completely. I do not have an inbox - my desktop is my "inbox." If something needs to be done in my office, it goes on the desk, and then when I go to my office, I start by clearing off the desk. Once the desk is clear, I can think about what it is I went there to do. [I work from home so I'm talking about my home office.]

            My desk happens to have three small drawers and one drawer for files. I have my tickler file in the desk drawer along with project folders and a Read/Review folder. Reference files and office supplies are in the large file cabinet that stands behind the desk in the corner of my office. In the file cabinet, basically, are the things I don't need very often, the things I am willing to get out of my chair to get if I need them since it doesn't happen regularly. I do have a quick reference file in my desk drawer for my current product brochures and promotions since I want to have them handy.

            Basically, I think the clutter is what is weighing you down. An empty desk is not the sign of an empty mind...it is the sign of a mind that actually has enough RAM to think. It's like GTD's empty inbox where everything you need to remember to do is written down so now you have the memory available to actually think about your projects and whatever else you need to think about (vs. remember).

            Comment


            • #7
              A series of pictures...

              Hello,

              Some time ago, I took still shots as I processed my desk. Here they are, if you're interested:

              http://jasonwomack.typepad.com/photo..._productivity/

              Comment


              • #8
                I do not store anything on my desk other than my computer and my phone. The only other things on my desk at any given time are things that pertain to whatever I am actively working on right that minute. Everything else is put away - office supplies, reference books, files, papers related to other projects, etc. My desk is U-shaped, and I have 6 drawers (4 small and 2 file drawers) and two overhead compartments. This doesn't seem like much, but I do not even use all of that space. I use one file drawer for all of my paper files - project support materials and reference materials. The overhead compartments contain reference manuals for the entire department (no one else had any space available). I use one of the smaller drawers for oversized materials (I took the drawer separators out) and the other file drawer holds my purse and lunchbox while I'm in the office.


                My advice: get rid of anything that you do not absolutely need to do work. Keep only items pertaining to the project at hand in sight.

                Comment


                • #9
                  That's good advice, but my fear is that I'll spend more time putting things away and taking them out then I'll save by having a more ordered desk. Can anyone else who has had and overcome that fear comment on it?

                  Thanks,
                  Michael

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by oaklandcubsfan
                    That's good advice, but my fear is that I'll spend more time putting things away and taking them out then I'll save by having a more ordered desk.
                    Start from zero: put everything away.

                    If you find yourself taking a particular item out often, promote it to your desktop. If you find yourself moving something out of the way more often than you actually use it, demote it off of your desktop.

                    If your desk starts to get cluttered again, stick a note with the date on an item every time you touch it. Every Friday, put away everything you haven't touched in the last week.

                    Katherine

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      There should definitely be some thought put into where you put things; otherwise, yes, you may find yourself spending too much time taking things out and putting them back again. My cubicle is small; all I have to do is swivel around in my chair or occasionally stand up to reach everything that I need. I do keep a small pouch on my desk that contains my office supplies (miniature versions); I put this away when I am not working.

                      There should be some sort of hierarchy about which things and files get stored closest to your working space. As kewms suggested, start by taking everything off of the desk/away from the work area; pitch everything that does not pertain to work (or put it somewhere else); put active files, things that you use most often, and resources that you reference most often no more than an arm's reach away. Work backwards from there. Think about how you work and store things in logical places. Revise as needed.

                      I know that it might be difficult to embrace the idea of an absolutely clear desk, but I think you'll be pleasantly surprised if you try it. An added bonus of having everything stored away is that you know where everything is and don't waste time looking for things among the stacks and in the baskets.

                      If you don't want to go whole hog, try clearing a section at a time and see how you feel.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        not sure I really "get" the Ternouth method

                        My desk is so, so bad! I have read through his description of his system 3 times and if I am not sure I get the method, alhtough I understand the advantages as he sates them. It seems that the core practice is that only stuff related to one task is out on the desk at a time. If you stop working on that for any reason, all that paper goes back in its folder. Any non-completed task that is "active" has a readily accessible folder. The content of each folder is looked at each day? Am I missing something here?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Photos???

                          I think everyone (but me!) should post a photo of their workspace somewhere, so those that are struggling can enjoy their wealth...

                          I haven't seen the top of my desk in a very long time. I just can't do the take this out, put it back, take it out, put it back routine of only one project on the desk at a time--I'm just going to need it again! I can't stand things in piles, stuff must be spread out so I can "see" it. However, when I run out of surface space, I begin a second layer of spread out stuff (second layer is way different than a pile!). My computer is the same way, I never seem to have less than 70 processes going at all times--at this moment I have 17 browser windows open!!! I think I'm just plain lazy or always have a low energy level, but when I can't find something I get so upset with myself. Darned vicious cycle.

                          I divided my space into quadrants to do the "collect" (well, really it's clean up) process and only really did one...of course, I now have to start again...it's backkkkkkkk.

                          I'm pretty close to declaring myself a GTD lost cause.

                          Dawn--checked out your planner info/photos and just drooled with envy. How in the world do you maintain that level of organization? I could get the planner ready to go, but it would just be buried in two days.

                          Rant over. Thanks for allowing me to vent here!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by airolg
                            I just can't do the take this out, put it back, take it out, put it back routine of only one project on the desk at a time--I'm just going to need it again! I can't stand things in piles, stuff must be spread out so I can "see" it. However, when I run out of surface space, I begin a second layer of spread out stuff (second layer is way different than a pile!).
                            I can relate to some of this. I know that I focus better, get more done, and feel better about it when I have just one project out, yet I often have a hard time putting things away.

                            One thing that's helped me is using a vertical file holder (a wire thing-a-majiggy with slots that holds files upright). That makes it easy to get a project off my work surface, but keeps it handy and in sight. Don't think of it as a pile, but as layers that you can see through.

                            Have you thought about why you don't want to put projects away? I thought it was because I didn't want to bother when I'd just haul it out again later. But now I think that it was really more that I felt I couldn't put it away because I still had so much left to do, and putting it away was somehow a sign of failure or lack of commitment to the project. So now I'm working on adopting a "glass is half-full" approach. When I'm ready to switch projects or a take more than a short break, I try to look at what I've accomplished and put it away, instead of panicking at what's not done and leaving it out where it can mock me and distract me from the next thing I'm working on. Having made some progress is a sign of commitment, so the project materials can can sit off to the side and wait their turn for my attention.

                            Keeping my working area clear is an on-going struggle, but I find it really helps both my work and my state of mind.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by airolg
                              I think everyone (but me!) should post a photo of their workspace somewhere, so those that are struggling can enjoy their wealth...
                              I could post some photos of my workspace, but I'm afraid that they'd be pretty boring. I'll do it, though, if you really are interested.

                              I would also like to note that I use the same "clean desk" principal at home. I keep both my desk and my drawing table clear; all of my beads, fabrics, stamps, paints, papers, tools, etc. are stored in bins either in the closet or in an armoire. That way, when I'm ready to work on a project, I can sit right down and have a clear working surface on which to get started. It takes a lot of discipline to put all that stuff back in the bins when I'm finished for the day, but it's so worth it.

                              Originally posted by airolg
                              Dawn--checked out your planner info/photos and just drooled with envy. How in the world do you maintain that level of organization? I could get the planner ready to go, but it would just be buried in two days.
                              Well, I think that the key lies in the fact that I use my planner for everything. I mean this not only in the sense that I have one system for both outside business and personal business, but also in the sense that I try to use my planner as my only source of paper - no Post-it notes, no nice notecards from Levenger, no other notebooks. Add all of this to the fact that I made my planner visually appealing (to me), and the result is that I am constantly looking at it and constantly using it (it is always either in my hand or within an arm's reach). I have no trouble writing everything down (reminders, due dates, NAs, reference info - whatever) because I seize any excuse to write with my fountain pens and bottled ink.

                              Originally posted by ActionGirl
                              Have you thought about why you don't want to put projects away?
                              ActionGirl, I think you're on to something. I would add that another reason why people may be reluctant to put things away is "out of sight, out of mind" syndrome. I think that there is sometimes a fear that projects won't get completed unless there is some reminder in view at all times, which would suggest that perhaps a little more tweaking is needed on whatever GTD system is in place.

                              Just my $.02...

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