Before you start reading this post, take a look around you.

Are you sitting at a desk?

Yes? Keep reading.

No? Okay.

messy desk

Picture yourself at your desk, or whatever your most frequent work environment might be. Then keep reading.

What do you see around you (or in the picture in your head)?

Are you fairly organized… or awfully messy?

Are you awash with files and papers, or is every sheet neatly stacked and filed (or even paperless)?

Are you stocked with carefully chosen office supplies… or would you need a few days to find a pen?

Are you tripping over cords… or wirelessly going about your business?

Are you surrounded by photos and keepsakes… or would the FBI have trouble tying you to anything they found there?

Are you sitting by a window or lit from overhead… or does a dusty desk lamp provide you with just enough glow to make out your mouse pad?

Are you air conditioned to a perpetual state of AWAKE!… or cozily outfitted with your trusty Slanket?

Are you wondering why I’m asking all these questions?

I’ve found — after working in a series of different office environments, with fairly different sorts of teams, and a long list of unique personalities — that the state of someone’s desk (while not always a reflection of their state of mind) often hints a bit at how they operate.

After reading Matt’s post from a couple weeks back about the soundtracks people listen to at work, I found myself wondering if the way I organize my environment is similarly telling.

If I have stacks and stacks of paper lying around me, does that mean I’m disorganized — or do I subscribe to a form of organization that only I understand?

If my lunch containers are stacked up around me, does that mean I’m too busy to leave my desk — or that I need to structure my day more effectively?

If I’m surrounded by scores of gadgetry, does that mean I’m ultra-connected to the world around me — or that I’m perpetually distracted?

I’m betting that most of us have a solid defense for how we manage our space — or if we’re disgruntled with what we see, that our environmental chaos speaks to frustration with something bigger than the thick layer of Post-Its trying to take over our monitor.

Or am I reading too much into appearances (and your collection of keyboard-side coffee rings)?

Tell me:

What is your ideal working environmental work state? Are you in the midst of it now?

Do you think your surroundings reflect how you feel about your work and your career in general (or even your employer)?

Are you stressed by proximity to other environmental work styles?

Does your environmental style have an impact on the work you turn out?

And if you don’t think much of your current environment, what can you do (and are you going to do) to change it?