Thursday, 10 November 2011

Clear your desk!

No, I'm not being fired (yet), but I have been sent Tips for an Organized Desk.

What can I say? This is my desk. It's quite tidy, for me.

What can I say? I teach in two subjects, both of which are largely book-based, and I'm trying to get some research done. The books lined up at the back are mostly related to either Anne of Green Gables or Welsh travel writing and theory. Those in the foreground and to the right are largely things I'm teaching at the moment. They're there because my bookcase is full. As is the one next to it, which I've appropriated. There are even piles on top of the bookcases. Though there is good news: only two books have come in this week, Mary Gentle's Ash and Ken Livingstone's memoir, You Can't Say That

I would like a tidy desk, but only because my office-friends are neat and tidy, and the sight of my stuff encroaching like a paper scum must horrify them. To them, I apologise. I don't particularly mind the mess per se: I am a little disorganised in some ways, but this is just surface detail. Every summer, I clear the desk completely. Then every term, it all comes creeping back.

Some of these tips are OK, but some are a bit glib:
Have as few things as possible, and you don’t need to organize.
Try to keep the desk clean, leaving only the essentials on its top. The rest goes into the drawer, boxes, the archive, or the bin. Your computer, the phone, and the paper you are currently work on is enough. 
Right. When I have one job, and less teaching: perhaps. Or an office of my own (which in some ways I'd hate - some of the best educational moments I've benefited from have been chatting with my colleagues). 
Keep everything in its own place so you don’t have to look for anything, it is immediately to hand.
I do. I keep everything in piles right by my hand. 
Purchase 1 picture frame and fill it. The easiest way to stay organized is to stay motivated, and the best form of motivation is to remember what’s important. A daily glimpse of your friends, family, pet, etc. will bring an instant smile to your face.
Ugh. I can taste a little bit of sick. As if you should ever dignify work by reference to relationships. If you're reluctantly pushing paper around for some corporate behemoth, admit it. Don't poison your genuine relationships by allowing work to appropriate some of the emotional significance. If, on the other hand, your work is intrinsically important to you - and mine is, despite occasional frustration - you shouldn't need the grinning fizzogs of your family to add emotional weight. Personally, a photo of my family would a) take up most of the desk-space and b) bring me out in hives. Given the above average sibling rivalry, and the way it's usually expressed in criticism and (if I'm lucky) needling, a photo would drive me to commit some kind of spree killing. 

There's a branch of management studies which examines corporate spaces, but I don't know enough about the field to pontificate about it. My decorations reflect my interests (communist kitsch and memorabilia, Welsh references, literary humour and a print of a photo I took), and a load of framed prints which are only here because I've filled the wallspace at home with bookshelves and don't have anywhere to hang them. Instead of pointing you towards management studies, here's a trailer for Office Space, which expresses beautifully the deadening effect of corporate blandness. The sub-plot of the waitress's battle against enforced gaiety (expressed through the 'voluntary' addition of 'flare' - badges to you and me) is a case-study in capitalism attempting to fake emotional depth.

My space is a self-selected narrative of me: largely voluntary, though not entirely. In a sense, I'm 'curating' my work-identity. It's important to academics to demonstrate their professional status, and one of the ways we do it is to assert our individuality in this way more than most people are allowed to. We aren't part of a corporate machine, we hope, and so messiness proclaims our independence. Except that our difference is minimal: most of us like endless shelves groaning under the weight of books, a bit of academic humour and a little politics. Belonging to our tribe and declaring independence might seem mutually exclusive, but somehow we manage it. 

What are your spaces like?


OldGirlatUni said...

Very similar. I fight to keep the printouts of journal articles that I'm using under control, and as I'm using printouts from the 19th Century London Times at the moment which are A2 in size, this is increasingly problematic.

It would be more sensible, I suppose, if I could work with the pdfs of journal articles from the screen, but I find that difficult although the iPad makes it easier (at last a valid reason to use an iPad!), particularly with the 19th Century government papers which are digitised images that involve the use of a magnifying glass when on paper.

As for pictures on the wall - Dali's 'Metamorphosis of Narcissus' and Munch's 'The Scream' seem to sum up my changing moods.

No. A tidy desk/office just isn't natural.

ed said...

Around 50 post-it notes, most of which no longer make sense. A framed picture of Kim Deal (blush). Martin Sharp's 'Hendrix - Explosion' on a postcard. Hokusai's 'The Great Wave off Kanagawa' on a postcard. Old sellotaped-so-it-will-turn-on laptop. Two piles of books, 15 and 17 high respectively. Homer Simpson coaster. The odd plectrum. Several notepads. Lots of other paraphernalia that really isn't too interesting. But Vole, where did you get that book standy up thing in the middle of your desk? I wants one...

The Plashing Vole said...

Paper is just far easier on the eyes - I can't mark essays or read long pieces on my laptop.

Ed: anyone of the right age appreciates your Kim Deal Shrine. Did you know that Gerry has a collection of original Martin Sharps?

The BookChair: it was a present, but they're widely available. What I'd secretly like is a big 19thC church lectern - the shiny gold eagle ones.

Incandescent Llama said...

Get thee to an Occupational Health Professional pronto if they're not too busy. Have a work station audit conducted. You are storing up trouble for later life PV. Get a new chair, get you laptop proper accessories, a wireless keyboard, a stand so that the screen is at eye level when you're working. Tell the Occupational Health people of any illness that you may have which may be exacerbated by your work-space. If you're in a Union, make sure they're kept aware of what is happening. Is your story typical? What do your peers think (Tory peers excepted). Look after yourself comrade. You have a lot to offer. Don't let the managers cut you off in your prime.

The Plashing Vole said...

Thanks Llama. I am a union activist actually. For a change though, I won't blame work. It's my fault. The laptop is my personal machine: I gave away the desktop provided because it's a piece of windows junk. So it's up to me to buy a stand/keyboard etc.

The chair though is standard issue: is it inadequate?

Thanks for the solidarity, comrade!