The desk whisperer

Thursday evening, I was a presenter at the first Ignite-DC. An Ignite presentation is exactly five minutes, contains 20 slides, and each slide advances automatically every 15 seconds. An evening consists of 16 artists, technologists, thinkers, and personalities talking about subjects they love.

I gave a lighthearted presentation on the perception of productivity. (Not actual productivity — because that is what books are made of, not humorous five-minute presentations.) I wanted to entertain as well as inform, and I hope that I achieved that. Check it out:

(If you can’t see the above video, check it out directly on YouTube.)

Feel welcome to check out the other Ignite-DC presentations from Thursday and the world-wide Ignite website to see if there is an Ignite event scheduled near you.

24 Comments for “The desk whisperer”

  1. posted by Julie on

    That was fun! Thanks for sharing!

  2. posted by Britt on

    Very cute presentation! I think you did a great job picking a topic for the format.

    It is all about perception, isn’t it?

    People have somehow gotten the impression that I am organized—which I find hilarious—and when they ask me what my secret is, I tell them that it’s empty horizontal space. If you have it in your office, you look tidy, organized, and calm. They say, “Yeah, but that’s just about looking organized. How do I actually become organized?” and I just snort and laugh and tell them to let me know when they figure it out.

    Colleagues who have taken my advice, though, have reported back that after they cleared off some horizontal space in their offices, suddenly people started to compliment them on how organized they are.

    But you’re totally right, you want to avoid sterile.

  3. posted by Tim Carlson on

    I think you can have a clean desk without being sterile. I clean off my desk every Friday, because I know that it will be at least one small thing to make me happy on Monday when the next weekend is so very far away.

    But I still have items that show I have established roots, like my vertical file sorter or sheets on the wall telling me how to navigate the voicemail system. I also have things in other parts of the office that tell the same story (such as a dry erase board with lots of writing on it), bit they don’t get in my way when I come back into the office.

    If I left papers to file on Monday, I would forget which ones were important and probably end of duplicating work or tossing something valuable.

    I loved this presentation, Erin. Thanks!

  4. posted by Kevin Clark on

    Great little presentation.

    Only thing I would disagree with is the phone should be on the opposite side of your preferred hand. Right handed people should have the phone to their left so as to keep their right hand free to use a pen or mouse etc during the call without having the phone cord dragging across them.

  5. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Kevin — If you’re right handed, and your phone is on your left, you still answer it with your right hand. People don’t switch their predominant hand when they answer the phone. It’s a habit. Also, you don’t listen to the phone comfortably on your less dominant ear (tied to handedness). In theory, your idea sounds fun. But that isn’t how humans comfortably and typically work.

  6. posted by Lori Paximadis on

    Great presentation, Erin! Congrats!

  7. posted by Ava on

    I’m with Kevin…

    I’m a right handed human… my phone sits to my left. It’s easy to answer with my left hand, keeps the right hand free for doing other stuff.

  8. posted by deb on

    Nice presentation!

    I have to disagree about the phone thing too. I’m right handed and have my phone on the left. If I were to pick it up with my right hand I would immediately put it into my left hand. Why? First, I need to press the “talk” button with my right index finger. Second, I listen with my left ear so my right hand and arm are totally free to write or whatever.

  9. posted by Erin Doland on

    You are truly the exception. Most people, when in a hurry to answer their phone, answer it with their predominant hand. Maybe the better way to have phrased it would have been “on the side of the hand you answer the phone with.”

  10. posted by Sky on

    I like that….”on the side of the hand you answer the phone with”. I’m right handed but apparently left eared.

    You looked very sophisticated in your black dress!

  11. posted by Glenn on

    Thank you for sharing that video. You had mentioned that you dabbled in some stand-up type activities – this one was funny and useful. Loved it!

    As for the left – right handed phone issue…
    Being ambidextrous, I just answer the phone with my mouth.

  12. posted by Terry Prince on

    Historically, it has been recommended for right handed people to have their phone on the left side – and conversely, left handed individuals to have it on the right side. This is because in the age of corded phones, the cord did not cross the desk when you were using a writing instrument or spill your water or beverage on your desk. If you use a headset or have a cordless phone this may no longer be a problem.

    Erin, I have a question about your presentation – were you referring to the NSGCD Cluttter – Hoarding Scale or something else?

  13. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Terry — Yes, the NSGCD Clutter Hoarding Scale. I say that in the presentation, or at least I was supposed to! What I practice and what comes out live are sometimes two different things 🙂 If you could see the image on the screen better, it’s really obvious. There is rotting food and pathways are blocked.

  14. posted by Louise on

    I just read an article on how to create a great PowerPoint presentation, and you totally nailed it! I am working on a new mini-training session for a Red Cross project and I am totally inspired by your talk. Maybe I can even get it to 5 minutes. No way am I going to wear a little black dress during disaster training, though 🙂

  15. posted by Sheena on

    Right handed with the phone on the left as well. Didn’t realize that about myself.

    I clean my desk off at work each night, even if I have unfinished projects. It’s a mind thing. I like to come in the morning and decide what I will start rather than come in and sigh and think, “god, I have all this unfinished business.”

  16. posted by Thom on

    I’m with Kevin, Ava, Sheena et al. I – a right-hander – answer my phone with my left hand. This leaves my writing hand immediately free to take notes (or type or mouse) during the call without having to shift the handset. And, as others have said, it means the cord doesn’t stretch across my working area.

    I would add that there’s sense in answering the phone with your non-dominant hand (or teaching yourself to “mouse goofy”, something I also do but on an ad hoc basis): it helps you distribute/balance the use of your body and arms during a day working at the desk, which has to be beneficial.

    In my case, holding the phone in my left hand also happens to mean that it’s very easy for anyone approaching or looking over at my desk to see that I’m on the phone – that helps avoids inept interruptions while I’m taking calls. Obviously, if my office geography changed that might not be the case; I’d still be answering the phone with my left hand though!

  17. posted by Les McNulty on

    I’m right-handed, and I agree with Kevin. Keep the phone on the left. You can easily pick up the handset with your left hand, and keep your right free for notes.

    This is my setup at my office, and at my home office.

  18. posted by Rochelle DeLong on

    Great presentation, Erin.

    We had our first IgniteBoise in March, and are hosting our 2nd in July. Your presentation has definitely sparked an interest in me to plan something fun to present that will peak interest in how to stay uncluttered without being so buttoned up.

  19. posted by Catrien on

    Yep, I’m agreeing with the phone comments! If you’re left-handed, you keep your phone on the right side (then your left hand is free to write). I see I’m not the only one who does this. 🙂

  20. posted by At Least Looking Productive… « Geeks Guide To Productivity on

    […] Rooney Doland of Unclutterer fame shares on how to increase the perception that your […]

  21. posted by Jim Samuel on

    Right handed here and I also keep the phone to the left and answer with my left hand. If you keep the phone to the right, you have the cord in front of you when you try to write.

  22. posted by Shalin on

    Wonderful! This reminds me of Pecha Kucha, TED, etc…

  23. posted by messyann on

    I, too, am right-handed and keep phone on left side, and answer it with my left hand. Probably because as a newspaper reporter, I learned to keep the “pen” writing hand handy.
    Lovely talk. Bravo.

  24. posted by fembot on

    I enjoyed your talk and you looked super cute. That is all that matters.

    If you’re keeping track, I am also a righty. At work, my phone is on the left side of my desk and I answer it with my left hand.

    We must all be weird.

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