A New Tool For Self-Reflection: Your Desk

This morning I found myself highly unmotivated to get any work done.  In an effort to find some motivation (ahem…waste more time) I hopped over to one of my favorite blogs:  The Time Management Ninja.  He regularly posts insightful comments on how to better make use of time and technology to be more productive.  Of course, the irony here is the amount of time I spend (waste) reading his insights and never implementing one…

My desk - who knew it had so much to say?

I found a post from January of 2010 (told you I was wasting time) called Freeze! Nobody Move! What is on your desk?  He spends the article talking about how to reduce the clutter of your workspace (valuable, I’m sure), but as soon as I followed the directions in the title I got distracted (no surprise there!).

I realized something – the top of my desk can tell you a lot about me…about my job, my values, and how I work, but also about some things I can do to be more effective and productive.

  • I’m messy. This will not come as a shock to anyone who has lived with me for more than 2 months. Everything on my desk has it’s place – but that place is rarely filed away in a cabinet or neatly in a drawer.

What I learned about myself: A closer look revealed that the items I use most often (my budget account numbers for expense reports, the Life Night planning guide for the semester we’re currently in, a Bible, a giant calendar, and the Bishop’s study guide for Confirmation) are all at my fingertips (or toetips – I have a lot on the floor around my desk too).  I don’t like to have to go hunting when I need some piece of information – it frustrates me and feels like a waste of time.  So my mess? Well, it actually saves me some time.  I just need to be a little more intentional about filing away things I don’t need on a regular basis (which I think was the Time Management Ninja’s point).

  • I’m a people person. Scattered amidst reports, meeting minutes, binders full of lesson plans, and a stack of old Youth Worker magazines are photos of people, notes from people, and pictures drawn for me by people.  I like to be around people – my friends, family, coworkers, teens, etc.

What I learned about myself: I never realized how much I dislike working in an office by myself – in a section of the building where I’m by myself. I even have a bathroom, a sink, and a fridge in my office so I don’t often have a reason to be around others.  I think I surround myself with an obnoxious amount of pictures of people I know and love for the same reason I choose to work at the coffee shop whenever possible – I’m more productive when I’m around people.  I’m going to be more intentional about being around people (not just the pictures of them).  I’ll head to the coffee shop a little more often or even haul my laptop into the main parish office and park at the conference table once a week.

  • I’m a fan of Post-It Notes.  I have a laptop, an iPad, and a smart phone sitting on or near my desk, but when it comes to something I really need to remember to do, I usually write it down on a post it note.  I’ve used an online task manager for about 6 months now (Wunderlist), but I still write down my to do list on post-it notes next to my computer.

What I learned about myself: Technology can’t fully replace my need for visual learning and reminders.  My task manager has to be open for me to see the to-do list – and I suck at checking it.  After all, Facebook is way prettier to look at!  But the post-it note to do lists on my desk and on my bulletin board – they are right there in front of me whenever I’m tempted to the infinite distractions of the Internet.

Which reminds me – I need to get the Prayers of the Faithful for this Sunday’s Mass written (it’s staring up at my from my the bright orange post it note next to my keyboard) so that’s enough of my ramblings.

But first, I’ll admit to being curious…if you stop what you’re doing right now and take a look around your desktop, what do you learn about yourself?


  1. Jenn Leahy · February 1, 2012

    Here is what I found:
    1. I am also messy, but know where everything is. No one else would be able to find anything, but it’s all here. (Including on the floor)
    2. I prefer visual reminders as well. I have a to-do list on my phone, but my phone is more likely to have Facebook or Smurfs’ Village on its screen than it is to have the to-do list up. My desk calendar, however, has notes scribbled all over it and I have several post-its around the calendar’s border.
    3. The most interesting discovery (and proof that my move to part-time is a good thing): I only have 2 pictures in my office and they are both of my son. This tells me that I never really felt at home here. I am in a huge church and I’m the only one here all day. I’m a talker and I’m actually more productive with people around. (notice how I’m reading and responding to this rather than getting anything done)
    Interesting post, thanks for the exercise. 🙂

  2. RRMM · February 1, 2012

    I am totally a Post-It/To-do List person, too! I have a standard wall calendar, a purse size calendar, a dry-erase weekly calendar on my fridge, AND keep a pad of lined paper next to my computer…i have to see things written down, apparently 4 times…

    also, people person – have pics of family & friends, fav youth group pics from throughout the years, Jesus, Mary, saints, and popes AND inspirational quotes…remind me WHY and motivates me to do what i do…

    not really messy, though…i don’t like a cluttered desk…but, i do have current things (like Spotlights, curriculum guides, bible studies, current reference book, etc.) right at my fingertips…

    agree with above post, definitely a fun exercise!

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