Desk: Clean It Off or Pile It Up?

I admit it, I have mild anal-retentive, obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I had to travel out of town yesterday and today for court and as entertainment for the drive I listened some podcasts from the David Allen Company on Getting Things Done. When I got back to my office I read a post by Kendra Brodin entitled Productivity… and a Clean Desk on Lawyerist.com. These kind of things interest me. Sometimes it is more interesting thinking about how to process and organize the things I need to do than actually doing the thing.

I agree that having a clean desk is helpful for my productivity. My problem is I work with slobs. They would rather pile file upon file on their desk until they cannot even use their desk as anything other than a visual reminder of all of the things that they have to do. Somehow they are able to function in this environment, but I agree with Ms. Brodin that they would be more productive with a clean desk.

Why should I care if their desks are clean? I’ll give you a reason, it causes more work for me. The slobs tend to lose more files which at a minimum means they will stop in my office to see if the file is in my office. But a deeper problem is the perception that I am not working as hard. Because they associate having a big pile of unorganized chaos sitting on their desk as an indication of all the things that need completed, they view my clean desk as an indication that I am getting very proficient at mine sweeper or solitaire. Obviously I am not busy since I can see the wood grain on my desk.

I have given up on trying to change the slobs, but I sometimes wonder if I should throw a stack of files on my desk every once in a while and maybe even have some boxes of files strewn about on the floor. I would wager that such an environment would make the slobs think that I am hard at it but in reality I would find it near impossible to concentrate on the task at hand.

So, who is right? Clean it off or pile it up? Does a clean desk enhance or hinder productivity?

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