I came across Pat Dryburgh’s post about shutting down Simple Desks via Ben Brooks’s site. I understand his (and many other people’s) position on these minimalist workspaces. However, I do have a few thoughts on the utility of a minimalist or more correctly, a tidy workspace.
And, if I had any doubts about whether this was the right thing to do, hearing Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discuss the fetishism of minimalism on a recent episode of Back to Work quickly put them to rest.
The above quote is from Pat’s article referencing an episode of Back to Work, which I also listened, to that first got me thinking about minimalist workspaces.
Something that I don’t think has been mentioned and perhaps should be is the difference between a minimalist desk, and a tidy desk. The distinction is subtle here, much like the distinction between life hacks and life hacks1.
I think the whole point of a minimalist workspace, to me anyway, is to remove any fake barriers to work. Would you rather sit down and start working in a bomb site, or a desk that looks like it was straight out of the Ikea catalogue?
Once you start work, your desk will quite likely turn into a tip. This is how it should be. When I have been at my desk for a few hours there will inevitably be paper, pens, crumbs, coffee mugs, and other assorted detritus all over it. At the end of the day though, I will make an effort to clean everything back up, so I know that the next morning, the thought of spending 20 minutes futzing around and tidying won’t even cross my mind.
Regardless of the skepticism with which you regard these minimalist workspaces, bear in the mind the barriers you might accidentally create for yourself by effectively saying “F*** it,” and leaving your workspace in a mess.
Note the emphasis on life versus the emphasis on hacks↩