Monday Mornings with Madison


Some managers expect their most creative, productive workers to have messy desks, while others are convinced that a messy desk means a messy mind. What do you think? Do you need a clear desk in order to work efficiently? Or is a search team going to have to come rescue you from all the papers and files and samples and who-knows-what piled up in your office?

Messiness might be a useful tool for creativity. Think about it: if you have to go through a whole pile of stuff each time you need a particular piece of paper, maybe your search will get interrupted by an unrelated document that sparks an unexpected idea or solution. If you hadn’t gone through all those papers, you might not have made that new connection.

Entrepreneurs tend to be work on many different projects simultaneously, so they often have messy desks. They don’t have a lot of time and they want to have everything handy at all times. And a study of hundreds of CEOs showed that the more creative they were, the messier their desks were. According to those executives, however, their desks weren’t at all messy. They had actually organized their desks according to how their minds worked: as far as they were concerned, everything was perfectly in place.

So if your desk is messy, be proud of it–you might be the most creative person in the office.

Too busy to clean up  On the other hand, it may be that a clean desk would require you to focus on the important stuff. A messy desk suggests that you’re very busy and thus very important—maybe too busy and important to actually produce what’s being asked of you. Many people would rather be busy than productive. A clean desk is scary because there’s nothing to hide behind.

What if you know you would be more productive with a clean desk? Well, you have to unclutter your mind first. Begin by asking yourself: Do I have a clear plan of where I am going and what I am trying to accomplish here? If you don’t, then this might be the right time to get clarity on what’s really important to you.

Your next step is to list on a piece of paper all your unfinished items. You know the ones: we all have a list of things that we should have completed by now. The problem is that no matter how much we try to ignore these items, they keep coming around to nag us, which leaves less mental energy for new and more important projects. So write down that list of unfinished items, and then either do the task, or decide to let it go.

Now you’ll be able to clean up your desk in a few minutes flat and you’ll actually keep it that way for a while.

Before you do anything else, block out two hours from your schedule and create a clear plan of  goals for yourself. Then compile — on paper — that list of unfinished tasks that are cluttering up your head. Write them down as fast as you can. Once you’ve done this, go through the list and either complete the tasks or just let go of them.

Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. 
William James

© 2008 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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