Sitting down to write a blog, I suddenly realized I couldn’t actually see my desk. Where had it gone? It had to be there somewhere. Maybe it was under those gigantic paper-piles that had appeared out of nowhere to become a dominant landscape in the room. I had to find out. The search was on. It actually comes as no surprise to discover that a lot has been written about what should and should not go on a desk. (No pun intended). Efficiency experts and psychologists have spent a great deal of time on how to use the desk properly. Based on the experts it was clear that I am not using my desk to its optimum potential. My first mistake was in thinking of my desk as a piece of furniture. You know, a flat surface in my room where I should work; but instead has become a flat surface in my room on which I pile things. Actually, as I have learned, I should be thinking of my desk as a tool…a tool to help me get things accomplished. Thomas Carlyle has been cited as saying, “Man is a tool-using animal…without tools he is nothing, and with tools he is all.” WOW! Who knew? I prefer Bob Villa’s observation that we need the “right tool for the right job.” Either way you look at it, I have been mishandling an important tool for my success. DO I EVEN NEED A DESK? IT CAN BE ARGUED THAT A DESK CAN ONLY BURY DECISIONS The experts reminded me that before I start using my desk as a tool, I should start to consider what a desk is not. Specifically, a desk is not: 1. A place to keep the recyclers happy. Judging from my own desk the recyclers would have a field day with me. 2. A storage area for food, clothing, jewelry and empty ink cartridges. 3. A place to stack items you want to remember. Those piles of paper are where I put things I don’t want to forget. The problem with that is that it works too well. Every time I look up I see those things I don’t want to forget. My mind wanders and I lose track of the project at hand. Efficiency experts have actually track executive pile-builders to learn that they can spend up to 2 hours per day looking for things already on the top of their desks. 4. A status symbol or a place to display awards and trophies. This ego-centric approach can lead us to bigger and bigger desk surface areas giving us more room for clutter. I don’t need that…so out go the trophies. Bottom line, what a desk needs to be is a very effective tool for success. Simply put, a desk is a tool that expedites the receiving and processing of information. This begs the question: Do I even need a desk? It can be argued that desks only bury decisions. Some executives have thrown out their desks claiming that their productivity has increased. They have replaced the desk with a lounge chair and a tablet. Some use small writing tables on casters. Desk-less advocates claim improvements in face-to-face communications while working in an atmosphere of greater freedom. That no desk in the room sounds appealing. As a writer, however, I still see my desk as important. I guess I’ll keep it. And now the actual work begins. Here is what I did: 1. I got a large trash can and began the purge. 2. I took everything off the top of my desk and tossed everything that was no longer of any use. 3. I took a hard look at what was left asking myself what’s the worst thing to happen if I toss this too? If the answer isn’t very bad, I tossed those too. 4. Now I only put back the most essential items. The rest went into a nearby cabinet for easy access. I got my desk back! So, what are my plans going forward? I already know I have a tendency to make paper piles. What is there to stop me from doing it again? Here is the single most important piece of information I learned during my research into the “Art of the Desk.” Only handle a piece of paper once. Let me repeat: Only touch the paper once. Look at the paper once. Deal with it. Get rid of it. In almost every case that piece of paper should be tossed instead of filed. Only keep things that must be kept, but file them away from the desk. Every six months or so, purge the files. Remember, more than ninety percent of all files over one year old are never referred to again. Now that I have my desk back, I’ll get back to writing.