Man-Purse Desk

An ecology of desks:

To do GETTING THINGS DONE (hereafter GTD), I need to have some kind of desk to work from.  When in my Concordia University - Portland office, which I feel very lucky to have, I work from my “perfect GTD desk“.  While away from this desk, I need other desks.  The subject of this post is to document my man-purse pico desk on the road to documenting all the desks that I’ve reengineered to support GTD.  To date I have five desks:

  1. CU office “perfect GTD desk
  2. Man purse  pico desk (subject of this post)
  3. BookBook Micro Desk (future post)
  4. Kensignton/Vuylsteke rolling desk (future post)
  5. Home office desk (future post)

Having five desks has just kind of happened.  Every desk is a compromise.  In fact, being able to design the perfect desk without compromise, is not even my goal anymore.  There is an element of bricolage in taking the stuff you have and recombining it in a fortuitous way. Discovering GTD designs that work, produces:

a marvellous, deeply satisfying aptness that marks a beautiful proof in mathematics, or a great symphony.


Half the fun of writing this blog is looking back and reflecting on the designing, the prototyping, and the results of what has really moved the GTD needle for me.  And though it is sad that my insignificant life could be improved by having a pico desk, alas, it is true, the pico desk has helped.

The man purse pico desk story:

When I first adopted GTD I was “Dr. Monkey Mind, Ph.D.” thank you very much.  I had so many ideas, making so little progress, that my mind felt like an outside-in Medusa.  With hundreds of snakes wriggling in my subconscious, demanding to be heard, but interrupting to be heard at times terrible for capture and taming of the snakes.  So, the the GTD idea of “one idea, one piece of paper” hit me very hard.

One idea, one piece of paper put me into the GTD Wonkavator of stress reduction.  Instead of feeling like Agent Smith At 2:06:36 into the original Matrix movie, forehead splitting open from the wriggling snakes of unarticulated ideas, the pressure was going down.  I was feeling calmer.

My wife asked me “Why are you so happy?”

But, once my mind became used to blurting out an idea any time it pleased, and having said idea captured and processed, I needed to have the pen, blank paper, and container functions of my desk, while I was away from my desk.  My solution was the man purse pico desk.

Manpurse Pico Desk

The components of the pico desk are:

  • Zippered passport wallet.  I bought mine at REI and removed the shoulder strap.  I looked at and and can’t find anything similar enough to recommend.  
    • A cloth model is probably better than leather because the cards and pen need some give in the material to fit.  Leather models look too stiff to fit pens and cards to my eye.
  • Groupings of like “stuff” that you need while mobile.
  • 31 fresh 3″x5″ cards (you don’t need this many, that is just how many I happened to have today)
  • Two pens

Here is what the pico desk looks like:

Groupings inside:

Benefits of man purse pico desk:

  1. Have gone 3 years without loosing a receipt.  The 2nd inside pocket provides a home for receipts.  Much of the benefit of GTD to me has been in realizing that I’m a mess because I don’t have slick simple places to put things (receipts in wallets, paper in general reference files, ideas on their own pieces of paper, etc.).  An extra pocket inside the wallet was more useful than I would have forecasted.
  2. I always have business cards.  The coin pocket part of the wallet is great for holding enough cards that you will never be caught short.
  3. I always have 3″x5″ cards.  With 5 desks, oddly, the Inbox folder in my BookBook Microdesk has become the one inbox I use most.  I carry the cards and stuff around with me until I can process it.  3″x5″ cards are the key capture tool for me.
  4. I always have pens.  I keep two pens in the pico desk because if I keep only one, then the cards fall out.  So two pens is a tight fit, and I’ve always got a pen for me and one to share.  It is surprising how often I share both 3″x5″ cards and pens with people.  Most people in this world walk around “capture naked” that is, with no means of capturing important stuff to process.
  5. I don’t have to think.  Over the holidays my family traveled back to Chicago from Seattle.  We unexpected parked at the Thrifty car rental at the SeaTAC airport.  Because all my travel cards are in my wallet, I was able to flash my member card and save $30.  Very cool.  No worry.  No planning.  Just situationally ready to get it done when opportunity knocks.
  6. I can’t fall off the GTD wagon.  The pico desk is so simple and effective, I’ve never not used it.



2 thoughts on “Man-Purse Desk

  1. That looks very useful. Practically speaking, how do you carry it around? Do you stick it in your front pocket like a regular wallet?

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