Should you have two desks?

It’s a rare treat when the question is: Should I have two desks?

If you’re running out of space for your piles and you think a second desk will help to address them, then, no. If that sounds like you, read my post Why a 2nd Desk Won’t Solve Your Problems.

If you find that your focus for deep work immediately falls flat when sitting at your computer desk then, maybe!

A problem that people are only just beginning to realize is the struggle with focusing on a diversity of tasks while sitting in the same chair, at the same desk, staring at the same screen. In one teeny tiny plot of real estate we expect ourselves to swiftly move between writing emails, checking our bank accounts, watching cat videos, placing Amazon orders, writing blog posts, and more.

Productivity crusader and author Cal Newport calls the blurred lines between these “Attention Residue.” Our precious ability to focus suffers greatly from the carryover of moving between these tasks.

That’s why when a client recently asked me if she should write at her only desk in the house vs. creating a comfy writing nook with her favorite armchair, the nook was clearly the winner. Her desk was the obvious place for paying bills and general internet surfing. Given she’s working on writing a memoir, she needs to put on a very different “hat” when getting into writing mode. One necessary way to do that is to change the geographical location for the task, even if it’s only a few feet away.

Austin Kleon does this too. He’s one of my favorite authors and all-around people to follow online. Austin helps artists to create better and create more. He’s well-known for having a separate space in his garage office just for offline work. Here he says:

"I have two desks in my office — one’s “analog” and one’s “digital.” The analog desk has nothing but markers, pens, pencils, paper, and newspaper. Nothing electronic is allowed on the desk — this is how I keep myself off Twitter, etc. This is where most of my work is born."

This above excerpt is from a wonderful blog called From The Desk Of - all about desks and what we cover them with. Click here for the full post about how Austin uses two desks, plus some pictures of his desks.

Click here to buy Austin’s books. (I don’t even buy books, but when I do, they’re Austin’s books. There’s something in them for anyone with a creative bone in their body, not just “artists.”)

I have known one of my clients for about 10 years. A few years ago we slowly started experimenting with sprinkling various work stations around her house, staring with a writing corner. She found herself using it more than she expected. Her proper home office still remains…a work in progress (and she’s expanded to a dining table in the living room) but this tiny desk in the corner is an oasis of focus. As an adult with ADHD, we are always coming up with creative new ways to help her find focus. This was a win.

Given the success of her writing corner, a few years later we created some more stations in the basement. The one that still stands out for me is her bill-paying station. Sitting down to reconcile expenses and pay bills was a challenge, so this gave her a place to go where she could get in and out of the task, not letting it bleed into other areas of her life.

I think I can trace back my practice of suggesting separate desks for separate tasks to when I first read this line I read in Daniel Levitin’s book, The Organized Mind:

“The neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks goes one further: 'If you’re working on two completely separate projects, dedicate one desk or table or section of the house for each. Just stepping into a different space hits the reset.'”

If you’re thrilled by this prospect, but don’t have the room, take a look at Ikea’s folding Ivar table, which could mount on an office wall! To blend in, I would paint it exactly the same color as the wall.

Do you use separate desks, spaces, or rooms for separate tasks or areas of focus? If not, what tasks would you like to do somewhere other than the chair you always sit in? Please share in the comments!

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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Learn her time-tested solutions in her eBook, The Inspired Office: Organize Your Life One Paper at a Time. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.