Post by Scarlett De Courcier, contributing Women On Business writer
“…but then I tidied it, and now I can’t find it!” How many times has this refrain echoed through your household as you stand forlorn in front of your spotless working area, looking for that piece of paper you had last week? Do the merits of a tidy desk really outweigh the stress of not finding that thing you’ve been looking for?
There are myriads of articles out there telling you that you must have a tidy desk, or risk losing paperwork, missing deadlines, feeling ‘out of control’. Whilst having an organized desk is useful, however, this is too often associated with being tidy, which is something altogether different. Having an ‘inbox pile’, a ‘pending pile’, and an ‘out pile’ is a good idea; the fact that they occasionally become one need not cause alarm. If something ‘out’ ends up in your ‘pending’, then when you finally get around to the pending jobs, there’s another opportunity to check the completed work. Often, this highlights errors or potential changes that had previously been overlooked. We all know how good it is to cast a fresh eye over something, and piles merging into one another can provide an excellent excuse for this.
Piles of paper, books and scraps relating to different projects can also be useful things to have spread all over a desk. Projects are augmented by their applicability to other areas; writing a paper on human developmental psychology that incorporates elements of comparative psychology will be enlightening and interesting to both the writer and their readers. There is, after all, a reason why you have so many things on your desk: because you’re interested in them. And if you’re interested in them all, there are probably links between them that grasp and hold your interest. Bringing these links into your work makes it attractive to a wider audience; and often connections spring into the mind when prompted by external phenomena, such as an interesting picture sitting next to an academic article which ends up inspiring an example to be included in your work.
One of the articles I am personally most pleased with is a treatment of quantum physics which I originally wrote for my BA. In it, I discuss quantum physics and its potential implications for consciousness; and some of the main characters in the articles are mythical creatures. Why? Because Brian Froud’s ‘Goblins!’ just happened to be on my desk at the same time, and I was looking for a way to make the article more enjoyable and accessible to a younger, non-scientific audience. Not easy when you’re discussing quantum physics! But it seemed to work, and it would never have come about if I’d been some kind of ultra-tidy Athena of the Office.
If you happen to have a tidy desk and to work well that way, that’s fine too, of course. But there seems to be such a desperate yearning for the tidy, the beautiful, the perfect these days, with so little concentration on the interesting, the creative, the individual; and this is a shame. If you work well with an untidy desk, do so. If you work best in a beautifully-organized space, carry on. What you don’t need to do is feel like your way is ‘wrong’ just because it looks like a mess to other people. If you keep losing your work and missing deadlines, alter the way you do things. If you don’t, then your current method works for you. Why change?
What do you guys think? What are your desks like? Do you revel in untidiness, or find it hinders your work? I’d love to hear your thoughts.