Tag Archives: desk

My Busy-ness Number

There ought to be a measurement, like the temperature, that we can use to easily indicate to family, friends, and colleagues how busy we are. It would be nice to be able to say, “Sorry, I can’t meet for lunch, my busy-ness number is at 8 today.” There are all kinds of tools and gadgets that try to measure this. You can look at a calendar for instance, to get s sense of busy-ness. Last month, our family calendar (not counting work-related events) looked like this:

Family calendar

There are other measurements, too, I’m sure, but none give a good sense of immediacy. How busy am I right now? That’s what I want to know.

It was sunny when I went for my morning walk, early today. The sun was right on the horizon as I walked east. When I went for my afternoon walk, the sky was completely overcast and the sun was nowhere to be seen. It got me thinking. Back when I was flying, I remember studying weather and there were different meanings for cloud cover. The clouds could obscure none of the sky, a quarter, of the sky, half of the sky, etc. It was a good, simple measurement that reflected reality in an accurate and useful way.

Upon arriving home, I returned to my office and looked at my desk. Ever since moving to the new house, I’ve had the fortune of having the u-shape I have always wanted for my working area.

My u-shaped desk

What I noticed about my desk, was that it was like the overcast clouds that had rolled in: much of it seemed to be covered, and in disarray. I tend to turn to the desk to my left to write things down, open books, read magazines, etc. but that part of my desk is hopeless at the moment. It is covered in to-do lists scribble on legal paper, with piles of books, and magazines and Post-Its and other stuff.

Desk in disarray

Whenever my desk is like this, I am usually overwhelmed. I start making lists. I begin to wonder if the critical things that I am working on are more important than clearing up some surface area. That’s when it occurred to me that I have the perfect measurement to gauge my own level of busy-ness: desk-coverage.

It works like cloud coverage and is measured in eighths. A completely empty surface is a “clear” desk and a sign that I’ve got some time on my hands. Next, there is 1/8th coverage, then 1/4, then 1/2. You get the idea. Between 1/4 and 1/2 might be called “partly covered,” and 5/8-7/8 would be “mostly covered.” 8/8th would be “overcast.” The closer to overcast I am, the busier I am. I’d estimate that right now, I’m somewhere between 3/4 – 7/8th covered, which puts me in the “mostly covered” category.

I think that from now on, when someone asks me for some of my time, I’m going to look at my desk, and say, “Sorry, can’t do it. my desk is partly covered today, but the forecast is calling for overcast tomorrow.”

My New Office

We moved into our new house on Tuesday and one of the first things I did was get as much of my new office setup as possible. I had to be able to work on Wednesday, and I needed my office to do that.

Our new neighbors mentioned that they were impressed with how quickly the books filled my bookshelves. I neglected to mention that, at this point, I put the books on the shelves in the order they came out of the boxes. It would be difficult for me to find a particular volume.

But the office is shaping up, with half of it—the working half—more or less functional, if not a bit messy.

The working part of my office
The “working” part of my office.

The other half of the office is another matter. I still have eighteen boxes of books to unpack, with no place to put the books as of yet. At some point, I’ll get some more bookshelves, but it will be a close call as to whether all the books will actually fit in this room. All of the pictures that hang on the walls throughout the house are also being temporarily housed in the other half of my office. It will be a while for that side to be cleared up.

The other, cluttered part of my office.
The other, cluttered part of my office.

With the new house, comes a new network, and this one is fiber, and I can tell the difference. We had good download speeds at our old house, but nothing like what we have here. We also have good coverage throughout the house, but even so, the two laptops in my office are connected via ethernet when I am in here to give me the fastest possible speeds.

Sitting at my desk, I am surrounded on three sides, which is something I’ve wanted for a long time. Now I have enough surface area for my laptops and notebooks. Nothing matches at this point, but over time I plan to replace my current desk with stuff that matches throughout the office. It is low priority. I need to be functional, and what I have rigged up in here is good enough for now.

My 3-sided desk area.
3-sided desk area

There’s so much to do I don’t even know where to begin:

  1. I need to organize the stuff on my desk to be functional. I want things that I need at arm’s reach.
  2. Organize what I have in the drawers. They are a mess right now. I purged a bunch of stuff last night, but I can do better.
  3. Hide all of the cables. I rushed to get operational, but I really want to hide as much of the cabling as I can manage.
  4. Add French doors to the entrance. It opens into the living room right now, and that has already proved tricky when I am on calls.
  5. Put all my books back into order. I may wait until the rest of the family heads to the beach for a few days later this summer to tackle that project.

All of that aside, I love this office. I love the light I get from all around. I love being able to look into the park that our house backs up to. It is a great place to work. I am hoping it will be an equally great place to write, to think, and to read.