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What’s Wrong with My Desk?

crabs.jpgSeventeen days without touching a computer, cell phone, or television did me a world of good. And when I got back, those days taught me what’s wrong with my desk.

I was vacationing on Orcas Island, part of the San Juan Island group between Canada and Washington State. There I pursued manly activities such as fishing, chopping wood, boating, hiking, swimming, and lighting woodstove fires. The copy of Wired magazine I brought lay unread in my shoulder bag, which remained unopened (what was I thinking?). Amid the Orcas Island landscapes and the Puget Sound seascapes—Dall porpoises, harbor seals, soaring trees, boats, dogs, fish, dogfish, banana slugs, iron fireplaces, axes, and deer skeletons—Wired magazine seemed an effete, puerile invader, deserving of banishment from my analog island.orcas_seaweed_teepee.jpg

Instead, I went to the Orcas Island public library and got a copy of Wuthering Heights. Good, timeless human angst and agony, still powerful after 200 years. In the final two days I finished off Jay Mcinerney’s Ransom, a solid read with particular appeal to Japan buffs like me. And as the August days waned, I came closer than I care to admit to buying a boat and spending the next six months cruising the San Juans with fishing tackle and a sleeping bag.

Back in Portland, I reluctantly switched on the PC, took one look at my desk, and immediately saw two acute problems. Here’s a picture: Can you see what’s wrong?


The problems with my desk are subtle but serious, and I’m going to fix them ASAP. Here they are:

1. Role confusion
This is a honkin’ big desk, measuring 80 inches long by 36 inches deep. For a computer station, it’s far bigger than it needs to be. That’s because it’s designed for analog work—for spreading out papers and books, for thinking and writing by hand. Yet it’s dominated by computer crap that makes such “spreading out” impractical. It needs to return to its true mission in life as an analog work desk.

2. Telephone presence
What’s that about? The presence of a telephone assumes constant sitting at this computer station/desk throughout the day. This is a dreadful violation of several of Clark’s Rules (though great if you want to be a constantly swamped office worker).

pepper_on_beach.jpgApprehending these problems, I immediately got on the phone with Harris Work Systems to arrange the purchase of a new, separate computer workstation, substantially smaller than my main desk (BTW, this will be a motorized workstation—when it arrives I’ll show a picture and explain the ergonomic advantages). My honkin’ big desk, sans computer, will return to its proper purpose, in a new and honored location in my office.

So thanks, Orcas Island, for the analog injection—and for the hint on better coping with an all-too wired world.

You may also enjoy:

How to Be Late for Dinner

Fixing a Broken Work Model

Happiness is Turning Off the Computer

2 Comments to What’s Wrong with My Desk?

On Sep 11, 2008, Dave commented:


I would say “welcome back”, but given your post I’m not sure that’s appropriate sentiment.

Anyway – the description of your trip made me jealous; it sounds like a wonderful getaway. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

I’ve been reading your site for a little while now and just thought I’d take this opportunity to say something that wasn’t work-related and didn’t require a response.


On Sep 11, 2008, by Tim commented:

Thanks, Dave. It is good to be back—a guy can only take so much vacation :-).

And while cruising through the San Juans sounds great in theory, there’s the matter of the wife and kids. I’ll wait until I can take them long :-)


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