Tips for optimising your desk

…or your working area wherever that is!

For many of us, working with a laptop at whichever hot-desk we can snatch, or wherever we can put it down, even if that’s a coffee shop, the notion of having your own desk which you can lay out how you like seems a long-departed dream. So if you’re one of those lucky enough to have your own desk, I certainly hope you make the most of it.

There are two main schools of thought. The first, I bring not from a management manual or business philosophy, but from the brilliant Cooking for Geeks by Jeff Potter. The book is an instruction manual for cooking which follows a rigorous scientific method to do it ‘properly’. Potter is very clear about your work surfaces in your kitchen (a good chunk of the book is devoted to planning and set up): nothing is allowed to take up space on the worktop. The concept is that this is your working space – so you can put things on it as necessary, ‘just in time’, but they mustn’t live there, getting in the way when not in use.

The application of this to your desk is pretty straightforward: nothing on the desk until you need it. No, not even your laptop! And before you say ‘But I’m always using my laptop’, ask yourself what might happen if you didn’t begin with your email one day, but had half an hour on paper to get your day starter well? For some this wouldn’t work, but for many, even those who think it impossible, it might really help.

This method gets you a tidy desk, and instant start to the day (and is ideal for those without a fixed desk), uncluttered, but needing you to fetch things as necessary.

The alternative approach is to assess what you need and set it up right. If you use the phone a lot – fixed or mobile – place it within easy reach so you won’t be constantly stretching for it. Set your monitor up at the right height. Have plenty of space for your mouse. Open your diary to the right page. A large glass for water will keep you hydrated. Even if you hot-desk or desk-surf, the ritual of setting things out in the morning might get you revved up for the day. Just make sure your setup is mindful of your needs.

So what’s this got to do with coaching? Why am I writing about desk layout? It’s because there’s a simple principle that tell us that small things can make a big difference, and stepping back to assess how you go about your work can be instrumental in making a change. There isn’t one answer, so you need to think for yourself what your preferred approach is.

And I’m also talking about this as an example of how a coach isn’t there to tell you what to do, just to raise your awareness of your environment and those in it!