He called it the “writing box.”
It had a surface area roughly the size of a laptop computer, but was deep enough to house a drawer for paper, pen, and ink. Designed by Thomas Jefferson while a delegate to the 1776 Continental Congress, this portable work space would serve him well. It’s where he wrote the Declaration of Independence – and it’s where he would draft many important documents over the next 50 years. That simple box now occupies a place of honor in the Smithsonian.
You may not have designed your current desk or work space, but there’s no doubt that important work takes place there. Significant decisions are made, agreements are signed, and innovative ideas are born. Think about the lives you have been influenced from the few inches of real estate you occupy from nine to five. Imagine the lives you’ve yet to touch. Yet, most of us take our desks for granted.
According to psychologist Sam Gosling, the way you arrange and decorate your workspace can reveal insights into your personality. In his book, Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You, Gosling shares some basic assumptions that customers and coworkers are likely to make simply by observing your desk.
For instance, a well-organized desk communicates dependability and punctuality. While some argue that a messy desk is a sign of creativity, Gosling says it usually sends a negative signal. He suggests you keep things tidy and showcase your personality in other, less obtrusive ways.
One way to accomplish this is by decorating your workspace with unusual or original pieces that hold significance for you. If you avoid cluttering up the space while displaying one or two personal items that communicate an open, innovative spirit, others will be drawn to you. They are likely to see you as someone who can solve problems in new and different ways.
Interestingly, Gosling advises we stay away from displaying inspirational quotes. These are clichéd and often used by people who are highly stressed as a means to calm their anxiety. Instead, seek to create an inviting space – one that encourages communication and collaboration. An open door, a comfortable, and even a candy jar can serve to foster relationships. The goal is to appear open and approachable.
Ultimately, you want a desk that allows you to do your best work. That involves balance. Create a space that inspires you, promotes efficient activity, and intrigues those you want to partner with. Pay attention to organizational policies, but give it some thought. Like other aspects of your appearance, your work surface shouldn’t be left to chance.
What does your desk, your cubicle, or your service window say about you? Does it send the right kind of message, or could it use a make-over? Sometimes all it takes is a small change to create a space that changes the way you approach your work. And given the amount of time we spend in such a small environment; shouldn’t we maximize its potential?
My desk may never find its way to the Smithsonian, but it has great significance to me. I’ve done great work here. I’ve had incredible conversations. I’ve created things that I’ll forever be proud of. By no means am I finished yet.