You could be spending the equivalent of 5 years just sitting at your work desk without getting up. That could be unhealthy . . . or it could be a sign of genius. Every working genius needs their own personal space in which to create — whether it be computer programs, great literature, elegant mathematical equations or solving a baffling murder case. Your own sphere of genius may not be as large as mathematician Albert Einstein’s or fictional detective Nero Wolfe’s, but it is just as important to you and those whose world you impact.
So what kind of clues to your genius does your desk display?
Lawrence F. Gray, the author of A Modern Approach to Probability Theory, says, “A desk cluttered with books and paper, pens and pencils, like mine, usually indicates a penchant for creative work over the urge to remain tidy. Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but the dance of ideas is next to impossible without some wholesome clutter!” Professor Gray’s role model in the cluttered desk league is Albert Einstein. A wit once remarked about Einstein’s working space that, “His desk is so crowded there’s not even room for dust!”
A place for everything and everything in its place
Marie Curie is your role model. Her working desk was straightforward and minimalist. It had a notepad, pen holder, small clock, blotter, French dictionary, and a water carafe and glass. Nothing more, nothing less. If your desktop is completely functional, that’s not necessarily a sign of repression — it could be a sign of focus at the genius level!
Adam Farra, CEO of HostGator, is a big fan of Mark Twain. Farra explains, “Twain’s workspace was a wonderland of the latest games and distractions. Whenever he’d finish a page or two of writing, he’d kick back for a game of Parcheesi or some table tennis. He kept a pool table in his bedroom in his old age, because he did most of his writing in bed and in between bouts of scribbling, he’d get up and shoot some pool. I try to make my desk area as relaxing and interesting as Mark Twain did.” Board games also show that your genius works best with the companionship of others around you.
An orgy of organization
You have a file and number for each item on your desk. It cannot get lost or misplaced. In other words, you are in complete control of your work environment. Like Thomas Edison, you have examined, defined, and categorized everything around you. Edison’s desk was a marvel of precision. You can still see it, exactly as he left it, at Thomas Edison National Park in New Jersey.
Like Nikola Tesla, the electrical genius who first demonstrated the Alternating Current for utility companies, your desk has the latest technology on it, in it, and around it. Laptops, smartphones, tablets — and you’ve got an Apple Watch on your wrist. Plasma screens going 24/7, just like on NCIS. If it’s new technology, you have it on your desk or have it on back order.
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
The old nursery rhyme runs: Mary, Mary, quite contrary/how does your garden grow/with silver bells and cockle shells/and pretty maids all in a row. Writer Virginia Woolf kept that ancient verse framed above her desk and always kept a vase of fresh flowers nearby; she also positioned her writing desk next to a window overlooking her garden. Perhaps your genius needs a little bit of the garden in order to flower properly.
One in five Americans now work from home. And the numbers are rising. So maybe your particular genius needs the comforts of home, having your desk in a cozy little nook where you can work in your pj’s. There’s no record of noted naturalist Charles Darwin ever working in his nightshirt, but it is a matter of record that he did all his best work at his desk at home.
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