Everything on My Desk Has a Purpose

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I often interact with people who are new to the IT industry, and in some cases, new to the workforce. I’ve also been involved in a special interest group to reduce and prevent the “corporate” feel in the office. In a discussion at work late last week someone mentioned that hot desks and some company policies reduce the chance to personalise a desk. All these factors made me think an article about something as seemingly simple as a desk could be interesting to write, and hopefully for others to read.

At MessageMedia, everyone treats their desk differently. As I walk through the office I see some desks that are covered in personal items, others with a seeming mess of work piled on them, some that are almost bare, and everything in between. To me this demonstrates the importance of having an assigned desk and why hot desks are undesirable; everyone operates differently, we spend a lot of our work day (as as such a lot of our life) at our desk, so we should be given the opportunity to personalise it.

In my case I’ve personalised my desk to help me to work; every item on my desk has a purpose, and the location of each item is based on my need to access it. There is one exclusion to this, it’s fairly obvious in the photo, but I’ll mention that at the end of this article.

Starting from the far left of my desk, I have two Keep Cups. The pink one is plastic, and I use it for my morning coffee; I carry it to and from work in my backpack, and I also use it on weekends if I go out for a coffee. The other Keep Cup is double walled and has a glass insert; it lives on my desk and is used for coffees I have during the day. The pink cup remains on my desk during the day as I wash it after use and then leave it on the desk to dry and keep it in an obvious place so I remember to take it home; the glass cup remains on my desk as I use it a lot.

Behind my Keep Cups is a pen caddy. In the caddy I have 10 different coloured UniBall pens, some Sharpies and a small metal ruler. I have 10 different coloured pens as I try to colour code my notes to help me understand the notes and the relationships between them at a later date. The Sharpies are used for the index cards (which I will cover later). The ruler is just long enough to add lines to an A5 sheet of paper so I can add columns to my notebook when required.

Behind the pen caddy, and somewhat awkward to get to due to my monitors is a Sony noise cancelling Bluetooth headset. The headset is connected to both my phone and my computer so I can use either device with it. The headset is at the back because I prefer not to use it; I will generally only use the headset if I need to watch some training videos, or if I need to concentrate on a specific task to the exclusion of all else (we have an unwritten rule that having a headset on is the equivalent of a “do not disturb” sign).

Positioned under the left monitor is a book of index cards and some Post-It notes. I use the index cards when I’m preparing for a presentation and then during a presentation to ensure I have notes available without constantly referring to the computer or projector screen. The Post-It notes are used for medium-term reminders; I will write a note on them and then stick one to the bottom of my monitor, in rare cases I will use the note to deliver a message to another person by sticking it on their monitor, but I prefer to use different communication methods where possible.

In front of the index cards and Post-It notes is an A5 notebook and a scribble pad. The A5 notebook is reserved exclusively for work notes. I take the notebook to meetings when I don’t require a computer; this prevents me from getting distracted during meetings and forces me to only record items that are important. Every page in the notebook has both a title and date so I can easily locate items at a later date; a number of pages are also tagged with sticky flags so I can locate specific items when I know I will be re-referencing them. The scribble pad is used for random, short-term notes; these notes usually lack any reference and just help me to get my thoughts in order or are a reminder for the next task I need to action.

Behind the index cards and Post-It notes is a powered USB hub. This is on my desk purely to provide power for charging various devices. It has a cable to charge the headset, a short micro-USB cable for charging random devices (such as USB power banks, my backpack safety light etc), and a connection to my watch charger. Next to the USB hub is my watch charger; I have this at work for the odd occasion when I forget to charge my watch overnight (or knock it off the charger and don’t realise).

To the right of my computer is a wireless phone charger. This allows me to place my phone on it whenever I’m at my desk (a necessity for my phone usage patterns) but to still be able to reference it whenever a notification arrives.

Behind the phone charger is a glass bowl that I use when I randomly buy chocolate or similar snacks for the team.

So far I’ve skipped over a few items on my desk (monitors, computer, keyboard, mouse), before I get to them I’ll reference a few items I keep in my desk drawer. In my desk drawers I keep a bag of elastic/rubber bands for grouping index cards when required, a spare of each colour of pen, a set of highlighters I use when reviewing documents, a set of sticky flags for use in my notebook, and some spare Post-It notes. There’s also a small pile of documents I received when i started my role so I can refer back to them if required, and a Bluetooth speaker for music if I decide to work on a weekend and the office is empty.

Above my computer are two monitors. I keep a static layout of apps on my computer, and make use of the two monitors plus the laptop screen to ensure I can easily access any applications I need at any time. The left most monitor is for applications such as my todo list, calendar, terminal window, and Slack; and has a second desktop with a git client. The right monitor has my code editor on it. The laptop screen is used for a web browser and a second desktop for my email client.

Personally I find the Apple MacBook keyboards to be uncomfortable to use and my typing style doesn’t suit them. I also feel the same for trackpads. As such I have a Corsair keyboard with Cherry MX Silent switches; this keyboard has the same size keys and the same switches as the cordless keyboard I carry in my “Office in a bag” backpack (I may describe this backpack and its contents in a future article). I also have a Logitech MX Master mouse on a gaming mouse-mat; I find this mouse to be really comfortable and I like the number of function buttons on it, again, this mouse is the same as the one I use at home as is the mouse-mat.

On top of the laptop is a pink rubber duck. I use this as a reminder that one of the best ways to debug a problem is rubber duck debugging. Any time I can’t solve an issue (either code or business related) I will generally look at the duck and break the problem down to the level it takes for a rubber duck to understand it; this will often help me to determine a solution to the problem. I also joke that the duck guards my desk when I am not present.

The final item on my desk is hard to miss, and in general won’t be on my desk. The trophy sitting to the far right of my desk is a perpetual trophy given to one MessageMedia employee per month. I was honoured to be the recipient this month and, as such, it is with pride I have it displayed on my desk.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn The original article can be found on my LinkedIn Profile.