Is a Clean Desk a Blank Slate? (part 1)

I’m a long-standing struggler with workplace organization.  I hesitate to say “cleanliness” because my desk isn’t dirty, it’s messy.  And when you’ve had to defend your messiness more than a few times, you usually end up explaining the difference between the two.  For example, I don’t keep used dishes or gym clothes at my desk, but I do suffer the occasional paper and device build-up.  Right now, I have 3 projects, 5 books, 2 cameras, 2 mice, a tape measure, well, here:

There’s bunch of other random junk, too.  Headphones, business cards I’ve been meaning to file, lots of cords, external backup hard drive, etc.  I’m messy, but each of these piles projects are relatively recent and require some attention in the next week.

So what does this say about me?

Albert Einstein says:

If a cluttered desk signs a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?

Here’s a picture of Einstein’s desk:

Albert Einstein's Messy Desk

All this really tells me is that even geniuses are messy.  But nobody said geniuses are the day-to-day productive types, and we’ve all heard of the fine line between genius and insanity.

Lots of business and productivity books recommend a clean desk, and one of the reasons is the halo effect on those around you.  That is, other people see your clean desk and make logical leaps from clean desk to places that aren’t necessarily related.  For instance:

Clean Desk –> Organized –> Thoughtful –> Attentive to Detail –> Analytical –> Makes Good Recommendations –> Must follow this person’s advice!

So if you have a clean desk, you have great ideas and should be taken seriously.  Having a clean desk doesn’t mean you have great ideas, but those around you will leap to that conclusion.  Potentially.  Most people agree that a clean desk is a good thing.  But is it?

(Go to Part 2)


One response to “Is a Clean Desk a Blank Slate? (part 1)

  1. Pingback: Is a Clean Desk a Blank Slate (part 2) | Get a Leg Up

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