What’s in your office? (and what does that say about you?)

I was sitting at my desk with a “to-do” list more than a mile long and never enough time to do it, a full calendar of meetings and conference calls to attend, hadn’t eaten lunch yet and a last minute meeting invitation came through for an hour in the afternoon to “meet our new executive”.  Great.  Another meeting that will end up being a waste of an hour where some executive talks about how great their resume is, how they “really want to get to know you” and how they are going to make their footprint in the company.  Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled about doing last-minute cancellations of my other meetings (some that I had already rescheduled about 3 times) just to make sure I wasn’t the only one not at the intro meeting.

I head down to the meeting and take a seat with everyone else and wait for the new introduction.  Half hour later, after her speech was already done, I was actually motivated and excited about this new executive that they had brought in.  What had changed my mind and made her stand out and not be like every other executive that I had sat through their introduction meeting?  Well, let me tell you.

She got up in front of everyone and said “I’m sure you can read the announcement that came out about me that tells you all about my background and where I came from.”  In my mind, I was like “Yes. Finally someone who knows I can read and don’t need things repeated to me everyday like I am a 5 year old.”  From that point on, I was more interested to hear what she was going to talk about. She told us that instead of just getting up and talking a bunch that she would do a show-and-tell of the things in her office and why she has them there as that shows a lot about a person.  Here are some of the things that she showed us and the reasoning as to why she kept these things in her office:

  1. The first dollar she ever made.  Her mom had framed this for her and she kept it in her office to remind her what it takes to earn a dollar, that every dollar counts, and that you need to gamble at times and take risks to make money. – All very true things.
  2. A photo of her with a NASCAR driver and her NASCAR ticket. She kept this to remind her that although things move very fast (and in NASCAR it’s at a pace where you are really moving at speeds of life and death), you still need to have a great team behind you to keep your “car” in good shape and moving in the right direction, you have to have a spotter looking ahead and making sure you are sticking to the right path, and you have to have a good strategy on how you are going to win before you start traveling at high speeds towards a goal.
  3. A Fossil. As many people know, and in any industry, if you aren’t moving ahead and willing to evolve with the times, you are going to end up as a fossil.  She kept this to remind herself of what she doesn’t want to become.
  4. A photo of her and Lady Gaga. Now, personally, I am not a big fan of hers, but she had it up for good reason. She kept it in her office to remind her that you should always remember to be an individual and take some time out each week to “rock out”. – Ok, that justifies the reasoning as to why she has that in her office.
  5. A photo of her dad and of her family. She has it in her office to remind herself that family is the most important thing.  Of course, putting in 100%+ at your job is extremely important, but everyone works for the same reason… to provide for their family and to have a nice life. It also reminds her that she needs to take care of herself and not to “overwork” and to take time out for yoga and tennis to keep healthy.

There might have been a few more, but these were the main things that I remember.  After getting up from the meeting and heading back to my cube, I started to think… what do I have in my cube and what does that say about me?  Well, I sat down at my desk and started to look around. This is what I saw:

Here are just a few things that stand out to me and mean something to me at my desk, although in this photo they may be hard to see.

  1. Photos of me and my boyfriend, photos of my nieces, a photo of Chicago-the city I love and a photo of a boston terrier (in a tie as he’s definitely in “business mode” :)). Obviously, surrounding myself with images of the things I love and the things that I inevitably work for.
  2. A labeler and post-it label rolls.  If you know me at all, you know why I have this and it means something to me.  Life, like work, is just easier when it’s organized and  what better way to do that than to label stuff.
  3. A pack of tic tac freshmints.  Now if you know about freshmints, they are the all white tic tacs.  One day while I was out shopping, I saw a pack of these all white tic tacs with an orange tic tac right in the middle.  It reminds me that no matter how easy or hard a task may be, you still need to put in 100% effort as you can always f it up (check out my blog post on that topic I did back in 2010).
  4. And color.  You can see the flowers in the background, colorful notebooks and pens, a fun kleenex box and more.  You need to keep things that show your personality. It doesn’t mean you need to be all cluttered (as you can see my desk is clean, and that was NOT just done for the photo. If you know me and have ever seen my desk, it does look like this EVERY day.  And I learned from a professional organizer and friend of mine that it’s important to clean your desk every night before you leave so that when you start the next day you can start with a clean start…but I digress.)

When all is said and done, I think I am happy about the things that I surround myself with on a daily basis at work, and what those things say about me.  To me, my area shows that I am organized, family oriented and productive. And let’s face it, you spend more time of your life at work these days than you do at home, so you might as well make the best of it.

Take a look around you while you’re sitting in your workspace (whether it’s at home, a cube in an office building, an office or your car), do the things you surround yourself with mean something to you?  What does this stuff say about the type of person that you are?  If you think that your surroundings don’t match your personality or the image that you want to portray in a business sense, I challenge you to take some time out of the day to make a change.  Time is a hard thing to come by these days- but from past experience- if you take an hour to rearrange your desk, declutter and get rid of the things you think you don’t need and organize in a way that works for you, in the end you will find that you are much more productive with the time left in your day (and the coming days).

Tell me some of the things that you keep on your desk or in your workspace.  What do they mean to you and why do you keep them?

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