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A modest proposal for desk organization

One of the most under-appreciated instruments of academic life is working space. I specifically think that desk spaces are fundamental to our scholarly work. Whenever I travel, what I appreciate the most is a hotel whose rooms have roomy, ample desks for me to write. The room size is somewhat irrelevant as long as I get enough working surface for everything I carry when I travel, and for me to comfortably write.

City Express Aeropuerto

Decently sized desk for a small hotel room.

As I said on Twitter, sometimes I write about things that some people find “too basic”. But truth be told, what some people consider “low level” may not be for someone else. I regularly get asked about how I organize my work (schedule, desk, workflow) on an everyday basis. That’s why I write about these topics on my blog (Planning, Workflow, Organization).

My basic rules for desk organization are as follows:

  • arrive to and leave a clean desk (on campus).
  • make piles of work in priority order (to my left).
  • review project/task prioritization on a regular basis.
  • when working from home, leave what I’m going to process in the morning already prepared the night before.
  • coffee, lots of coffee. And water.

Fletcher Hotel-Restaurant De Wageningsche Berg (Wageningen, The Netherlands)

Not my idea of a good working desk.

Holiday Inn Express Guadalajara ITESO (El Mante, Guadalajara)

Perhaps the best desk I’ve ever had in a hotel room.

This is my campus office:

My students, colleagues and campus visitors always tell me: “professor, you have the nicest office of all of CIDE!”. Which is a nice compliment to hear. But truth be told, I have made my working space welcoming because I spend so much of my life there!

This is my home office at my Mom’s:

This is my home office at my own house:

Again, my suggestions on desk arrangement:

  • Keep only the stuff that you need as you write on a particular task/work packet
  • At the end of the day, leave an organized/cleared/uncluttered desk for you to arrive the next day.
  • Clear stuff in one direction (I usually clear stuff to the right and I maintain materials that support the work I’m doing to my left. I’m right handed)
  • Make your desk space, your office space and your routines, your own.

Hopefully this blog post will be of use to some people who like discussing organization!

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Posted in academia, organization, productivity.

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