Designing a GTD Office
January 10, 2006 6:06 PM   Subscribe

Designing a Getting Things Done office!

The room is approximately 14x14' square. The door is at the south-west corner facing south; there are two windows, perpendicular to one another, at the north-east corner. The east wall has a closet; the south-west corner has walls on both sides. There are electrical plugs on all walls; the plug nearest the window is switched at the door. The ceiling light is centred in the room. The room is devoid of all furniture, and awaits your best ideas.Any and all ideas for designing an office specifically to facilitate GTD is most welcome! The space will be shared between a GTD workspace (including any required wallspace), a sewing centre, and a general worktable for, well, most anything needing doing, from repairing small appliances to doing craftworks. The most important thing, though, is that the room really makes GTD fly.Lighting, audio, ethernet, storage, table heights, bins, filing cabinets, anything you think is needed -- go to it. I must have a functional GTD environment, dammit!
posted by five fresh fish to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Grrr. There were nice paragraph breaks in the above. Explicit HTML paragraph markers, they were.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:06 PM on January 10, 2006

he strips <p> to save space in the db, from what I hear.

either way, I think the most important part of a GTD office is to keep it neat, and keep it only for working - no TV, no food, no reading / relaxing space. this also includes filing cabinet(s) [and using them!] and a system for doing the things you want to - paying the bills may mean placing unpaid bills immediately in an Inbox, paying them whenever you sit down next, then placing them immediately by the front door. recognize why you aren't GTD done and design around that - it's all in your mind rather than your tools.
posted by kcm at 6:17 PM on January 10, 2006

oh and as for furniture, I prefer a big, flat desk, including a buffet-style table 6-8' if that's your thing. some people use a large door across two low filing cabinets. the Jerker desk from IKEA is a nice solution as well. keep it simple and distraction-free.
posted by kcm at 6:23 PM on January 10, 2006

What about something like this?

It is really expensive but I think some version of it (without the vises, of course, unless woodworking is something you’re into) could be improvised for a whole lot less money – it’s just a big piece of wood propped on top of some file cabinets; I’m not sure how it could best be secured in place so it wouldn't tip but I’m guessing it would not be all that complicated. I have wanted one of these, with two or three chairs sitting around it, since the first time I saw it; for me this was a case of instant furniture love. (Unfortunately I don’t have the space for it.) It would give clean access to an array of different projects, from different angles (I’ve always got more than one going, and it sounds like you do too; for me this means I always let some sink to the bottom of the pile and disappear). There is enough room for everything but since there’s no back part wedged against a wall you can’t push a bunch of pesky stuff out of the way and forget about it. And you can keep everything that is finished neatly stored away underneath. As a bonus you can put a tablecloth on it and have people over for dinner.

(ps: I’ve only read the first chapter of GTD but my tendency to procrastinate is something I’m always doing battle with: hope this is on track.)
posted by sophieblue at 7:26 PM on January 10, 2006

A possible alternative to the Jerker Desk mentioned above is a "mail sorting table". I recommend this because of your other activities (sewing and appliance repair). Such a table is largish and sturdy. Might be a problem because they tend a bit higher than a normal desk. Available from office furniture outlets, they're a bit expensive. I picked one up at the Lighthouse, in LA, 10 years ago, for $20. I've dragged the old thing now to Europe and Africa!

Next thing is having lots of shelf and cubby space. This is to keep things orderly. When things get out of order, you loose incentive to get things done.

If you don't move, building stuff in will be the most economical way to redo your office (assuming you're up to doing the work). This also makes it easier to tailor the layout to suit your specific needs (eg, I play keyboard, and the keyboard MUST be left of the computer).
posted by Goofyy at 8:00 PM on January 10, 2006

As I was trying to think of a suggestion, it occurred to me that a starting point would be to first more closely define the GTD workflow that you expect to perform in this room, and then define the space around the tasks. For example, if there are any repetitive tasks taking place, define how you will do those first.

Another suggestion would be to watch some of the Mythbusters show. I've always been impressed by the sheer amount of random stuff that appears to be in their workshop, and how obviously well organized they are.

Finally, I suggest you get one of those label-makers that makes adhesive strip labels. Give those cabinets a name!
posted by frogan at 8:31 PM on January 10, 2006

Small but useful point--all things that are in storage containers should be accessible (and returnable to their stored condition) with one motion -- and accessing these items should not create extra "stuff." i.e. keeping things in stacked boxes (no matter how cute and no matter how container friendly they seem) will result in your having to move other boxes to reach the desired box and to deal with removing and replacing the lid of said box. Use drawers, cubby holes, hanging files, or open shelving instead. Ban boxes and stacked items in order to eliminate motions and to eliminate material mess created by the storage units themselves.
posted by superfem at 8:44 PM on January 10, 2006

Response by poster: The room is bare and empty to the walls. It is reasonably large, at 14x14', and it makes sense to have desktops against walls to maximize the workspace.

I am starting with four legal-width filing cabinets and a door. All else is possible, including building custom desks, cubbies, whatever.

One of my ideas has been to make a six-week calendar with each week as a separate "slat." Once a week, the slats are bumped up one slot, the week two weeks ago is cleaned and dropped to the bottom slot: the view gives one week back and five weeks ahead.

Another idea has been to build cubbyholes that are about six inches deep, running the length of the desktops, with their base flush to the desktop; the area under them can be where a folding bracket or legs can store when the desktop is dropped down to make floorspace. Yet another: emulate the Ikea bracketless shelves, and have them all over. Another: magnetic paint. Or whiteboard. How about one of those pen-tracking whiteboards? Lighting -- I like the tightrope-suspended halogens: snazzy looking, infinitely repositionable, task-lightin.

The possibilities are endless, because I have an empty room, a reasonable amount of money to furnish it, and the ability to custom-build anything I need.

All I need is to know what I need. The process will undoubtedly be evolutionary as I progress from door-on-cabinets to properly constructed workstations... but, eh, I might as well start out on the right foot!
posted by five fresh fish at 1:33 AM on January 11, 2006

I'm a "piler" not a "filer," so I've been playing around with an idea to build something between a vertical file and a corkboard/bulletin board.

I'd like to get items off my desk, but not to hide them in a cabinet. I need the visual reminder that a full inbox creates (a kanban of sorts). I'm thinking of using those monitor stand arms to create a bulletin board that can be repositioned and even worked from (i.e., pull toward you until you can comfortably read the words, re-sort, etc.). I'm imagining that the "board" would consist of a collection of clipboard style clips to hold stacks of sheets vertically, and some inbox / outbox shallow bins, and even some sorters and other tools.

I'm just at the sketching stage right now. But I'm making some slow progress.
posted by zpousman at 6:13 AM on January 11, 2006

I'm in the midst of a major remodel right now. I'm not following GTD per se, though I suspect that there's a pretty good alignment between what we're doing and what GTD would recommend.

1. We're putting in a long, shallow built-in desk: 12' x 2', across an entire wall, at type-height (basically a giant shelf). With flat-panel displays, you really don't need more depth than that (standard desk depth is 30"). This will be our primary work surface. Frequently accessed reference books will be on shelves just above (less-frequently accessed ones won't be far away). Pen/tchotchke storage will be in freestanding drawer units below. Somewhere on this desk we're going to put some kind of bin for mail-sorting.

2. We'll use a giant desk we already have as a separate project table. This also has a huge amount of built-in storage.

3. We've put in a lot a lot a lot of storage--two closets each 4' long, with shelf cleats on 14" spacing. We'll probably be able to fit each project-type (sewing, papercraft, etc) to exactly one shelf (with many shelves left over). Plus there will be a head-end with a structured wiring panel in another very small closet, so I can get the cable-modem, router, and (I hope) printer out of the way.

4. Lots of lighting. We're putting in a track of monorail running over the long desk; a light-kit for a centrally mounted ceiling fan will have 4 spots that can be aimed; 2 cans near the closets will light them up. Dimmers for everything, of course. Those tightrope lights are nifty, but don't give you as much flexibility as track/monorail lighting--I get the impression they're better for when you need to provide regular lighting across a long expanse.

5. We still need to consolidate and rationalize our filing, but our paper filing needs are not great, and I think we can probably get by with one drawer in a drawer unit.

6. We may hang a piece of sheetmetal to pin up stuff with magnets (neodymium magnets are fun!).
posted by adamrice at 7:45 AM on January 11, 2006

If I had the money, I'd definitely have a standing/sitting hydraulic desk. Sometimes, I just don't want to sit for as long as it takes to get things done. I'd love to be able to stand and work at the computer, but not all the time.

Skip the neodymium magnets in a room which has computers. You are asking to get spanked.

I like the idea of the shallow shelves. In my experience, deep shelves result in clutter and mysterious disappearances.
posted by Invoke at 9:05 AM on January 11, 2006

I'd suggest letter-width filing cabinets, instead of legal(Unless you actually use a lot of legal-size material) - You're going to be in and out of them a lot. Also suggest two seperate cabinets, a regular cabinet for the 43-day+month file, and possibly a lateral file for long-term alphabetical storage.

You might find, and this article in particular helpful.
posted by Orb2069 at 11:25 AM on January 11, 2006

a regular cabinet for the 43-day+month file

I'd make sure your tickler file is right on the desk next to your computer so you can't forget about it for a few days.

Even cooler: build a recessed box about 4"x12"x8" deep right into the desk surface for your 43 folders...
posted by jacobsee at 2:42 PM on January 11, 2006

Response by poster: Skip the neodymium magnets in a room which has computers. You are asking to get spanked.

posted by five fresh fish at 8:42 PM on January 11, 2006

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