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Written on Looking at desks

Looking at desks

Call me weird but I like looking at people's desks.

A desk says a lot about a person: how much they value materials, what products they like, if they are organized etc. I’m always on the look-out for new gear on other people’s desks that can improve my workflow. Especially small little tools that do one thing very well.

This post idea sparked from the fact that I've been building a small Daniel Shiffman inspired workspace over at our university. And since that whole pandemic thing happened I've also been incrementally upgrading my own home office as well, testing out different types of gear to see if they could improve my workflow.

It went from a desk with only a laptop to a full-fledged recording studio since I'm recording more and more screencasts and doing tons of online teaching. Not all this gear is my own, I'm in a very privileged position to use gear from our university that we have available. Not a luxury that everyone has and with that comes the disclaimer that expensive gear isn't a necessity. It's not like all this gear makes me a better teacher but all these little tools help in some sort or way.

*Apart from the Soundboard on my Elgato Stream Deck that's a necessity, my students think it's the best. They even send me sounds to include on the soundboard to use during lessons. If you should buy one piece of gear, it should be a soundboard.

/uses pages

Tinkering with gear is also why I'm so obsessed with the /uses/ format (page) on people's personal websites. It's a thing Wes Bos started and there is a whole GitHub repo where people submit their own /uses/ page. You can browse my /uses page by clicking on the menu item on the sidebar to your left.

The only problem I have is that most people's uses pages only list items like gear, apps, and software but often don't include pictures on how they arranged their workspace. That's were Reddit comes into play: /r/macsetups, /r/battlestations are places where other people post pictures of their set-ups. Every couple of weeks I go through the top posts of those feeds and store inspiration in a Notion board for later reference.

Screenshot of my Notion Board with desk inspiration.
Screenshot of my Notion Board with desk inspiration.

Change your environment

Since we're on the topic of desks, that’s also a good reminder to step away from your desk from time to time. If you’re always in it, you can’t get out of it. Move away to think and approach something from a different angle. You don’t come up with a solution by brute-forcing a problem and staying in the same location.

That brings me back to my original point, looking at desks:

By being on the look-out for new gear you try out new things and move stuff around which changes the environment you are in.

That slight change in environment might give you a new insight on a problem you are currently working on.

Danny de Vries