Ep. #32 – Clean Desk Makes Us More Productive


“If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is the significance of a clean desk?”

– Laurence J. Peters – Creator of the Peter Principle

In This Episode

We going to look at the debate over whether a clean or dirty desk is best for your productivity and what you can do to not only create a clean desk environment, but also maintain it.

Great Debate: Messy Desk VS Clean Desk

There is a lot of debate revolving around the cleanliness of our desks

A study by a team of researchers at the Univ of Minnesota people are more creative when they’re at a messy desk.

This didn’t determine whether creative people tend to have messy desks or if a messy desk makes us more creative people.

Another study estimates executives waste a total of 6 weeks each year, looking for lost items on or in their desk.

Office Depot, who admittedly sell items to help organize your desk found that a survey of 1000 people found 77% believe a messy desk hindered their productivity

Another study suggested people see a person with a messy desk as being lazy.

Even if you’re not, you may be losing credibility with those around you.

Success comes when we take action on our creative ideas.

Just being creative at a messy desk isn’t going to translate into using that creativity for anyones benefit.

I’d also offer up the idea that having a messy desk isn’t the ONLY place to go to become more creative

  • Showering
  • Nature
  • Exercise
  • Meditation

So, find your place and then bring your ideas back to your clean desk so you can go to work sharing them with your audience.

Ways to Keep Your Desk Clean

Leo Babauta the creator at ZenHabits.com has a system for keeping a clean desk.

I’ll share it in the shownotes

He bases his system on the teachings of David Allen in his book Getting Things Done or GTD

I’ll put a link in the shownotes

Take everything on your desk (and your floor, computer bag, drawers and shelves too if you’re feeling ambitious, and put it all in ONE BIG PILE

Go through each item and take action on it

If you can eliminate the item in under two minutes, do it.

If you can trash it, delegate it or file it for future reference, do it.

Otherwise, put into your system.

This means, creating an organized to-do list.

Do this at least once a day.

The second day is a LOT easier

Your Desk is NOT A Storage Area

Have a rule, if it’s within arms reach, it should be needed immediately.

If you don’t need it immediately, trash it, delegate it, file it or put it into your system

Try to use digital filing as much as possible.

It’s much easier to search

It has a much smaller environmental footprint

It will store a lot more of your documents in pretty close to zero space

I suggest using Evernote for a lot of your “recall items.”

Stuff you need later.

Data you’ll want some day

It’s Easy to Go Back to Messy

Give this plan a try for a couple of weeks

If you find you’re not as creative or you feel you’re less productive

Take all those files back out of their folders and pile them back on your desk.

This is a problem that takes less than 5 minutes to fix.


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About the Author

A formerly frustrated entrepreneur who has learned how to go from dreamer to doer to done. I help you discover your purpose, explore your psyche, maximise your productivity, and grow your platform so you can bring your unique gift to the world and live the life you deserve.