Friday, March 23, 2007

The significance of a messy desk

Looks like there’s a new book out that says having a messy desk isn’t so bad after all ("A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder," by Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman).

That’s good to know, since I’ve never been the neat and orderly type. I’m organized, make to-do lists, have never missed a deadline. But things tend to accumulate in stacks on my desks (at home and work) and the stacks tend to grow. The authors say that messiness happens more often now because more of us are multi-tasking at our jobs and at home. I would agree with that.

Because of the nature of my job, I may be in the middle of writing a grant, then have to stop and answer a phone call from a person who needs help finding affordable dental care and housing, and then one of my co-workers pops in my door to say that her computer is giving her a strange error message. And then there’s the stack of general agency mail I need to process and record, and I receive an email from my boss asking me to change some information on our website, and a phone call from another organization wanting us to schedule a presentation. So I have stacks of tech stuff, grant stuff, resource information, meeting and presentation stuff, client charts to update, and the mail.

And at home: a stack of magazines I intend to read, books and notes about topics I’m researching, notebooks of my writing I need to type up, art and collage stuff, photo stuff, music stuff, stuff that needs to be shredded, catalogs sent to me that I never asked for, and all those annoying records and receipts we have to keep for several years in case a problem should arise with a utility company or a governmental agency.

The book’s authors argue that spending time trying to be neat and tidy lessens creativity, wastes time and money and actually causes more disorder. But the head of the National Association of Professional Organizers disputes that, of course, and says that messiness is generally just disorganization, which does waste time and money (and you should hire a professional organizer immediately!). But he doesn’t address those situations where you have really cleaned and purged—and later you found you accidentally got rid of some things you desperately need.

I think I’ll keep my system of stacks (which I do actually go through and clean every so often). Besides, there’s something so delightful about going through a stack and finding a treasure you’d almost forgotten you’d kept: "So THAT’S where that was!"

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is the significance of a clean desk?
--Laurence J Peter

Three Rules of Work:
Out of clutter find simplicity;
From discord find harmony;
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

--Albert Einstein

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