By Deanna Parmenter
As I sit at my desk to begin writing this blog, I look around and see the various post it note reminders, papers to file, and a lot of junk mail that should be tossed out. Stacks of envelopes, pens, magazines, and labels finish out the décor. And I began to think about all the desks I’ve seen at offices all around the country. Some are very messy. Some have not one piece of paper on them. Some face outward, and some face away from people. Ever wonder what your desk says about you?
We’ve all seen people who have stacks of paper everywhere, with files on the floor and in a chair. But when you ask them for something, they go right to a stack and pull out the correct piece of paper.
In the movies we see the big executives in the corner office with nothing on their desk except the fancy pen set. The desk gives the impression of a powerful person. But just how much work can get done if nothing at all is one the desk? Not much.
So what is the best way to keep your desk?
Both sides are correct. The issue is not which is correct. The issue is which will make you more effective. There are a few fundamental guidelines, but the key is to work in a way that allows you to be most effective. Almost everyone needs to get rid of some of the clutter atop their desk, but having no more than a single item on your desk at any one time won't work for many of us.
Many people are working on several projects at the same time (or almost the same time). Creative types feel the need to have inspiration surrounding them. Detail-oriented individuals need volumes of reference material close at hand. Some people feel the piles of work make them look busy and, thus, keep them safer in times of layoffs. Others feel a clean desk shows how efficient they are at getting the work done. What is important is to do what works for you.
I found this recent survey done in England to be interesting. The survey found that,
A person who displays targets or project charts on or around their desk is often highly motivated by achievement and by setting goals for themselves.
Those with pictures of their family or friends on their desk and an array of personal paraphernalia tend to be more people focused and are motivated by their relationships both inside and outside of the work place.
Employees who have screen savers or calendars depicting tropical beaches tend to be more hedonistic – for them motivation is all about the pleasure principle. They seek pleasure in every opportunity, perhaps preferring to meet clients over lunch at a nice restaurant, for example.
People with ‘stylish’ desks, perhaps with an Apple Mac on it because they ‘like the design’, or with stylish flowers or plants tend to be motivated by culture and the environment in which they work.
Desks without any personal objects are often the preserve of the introvert – these people might even use files to create a barrier around themselves and their work. They prefer their desks to face into a wall rather than out into the office.
Conversely, people who use their desks to display their personalities tend to be more extrovert and may even have joke calendars or desk top toys to draw people over to their work space and create a talking point. These types of people prefer desks facing out to the rest of the team.
A neat and tidy desk is often a sign of a highly conscientious individual – someone who is well organized and prefers to focus on one thing at a time.
A more spontaneously organized desk shows someone who is good at multi-tasking and can switch between different tasks quite quickly and easily. They tend to be flexible and creative in their approach to work.
A nice mix of framed photos, a plant or two, a personal, yet not too messy bulletin board, and even some personal books and toys may set the stage for sending the message that you are well-rounded and well-adjusted.
The next time you sit down at your desk, take a look around and ask yourself, "What is this desk saying about me?"