A messy desk signifies creativity or, so I’ve read. (See this post.) Stacks of files, overflowing garbage cans, and general disarray supposedly point to an imaginative brain. The occupant of such a desk, such as Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein, might be more likely to think “outside the box” and dream up innovative solutions.
If that’s true, I’m no creative genius. Cluttered spaces stress me out. In the past, I let articles like the one above upset me. Yet if I’ve learned anything from my creative writing studies, it’s that one technique never fits all. The absence of a messy desk doesn’t mark me as unimaginative. (See my post about capturing ideas here.) It marks me as a person who works best on a clean desk.
Imitating someone else’s methods might work, or it might not. Like a pair of shoes, it depends on the fit. Through years of trial and error, I’ve learned to implement the suggestions that help me and ignore the ones that don’t. I keep an open mind, give the technique a try, and then evaluate the results. (That sounds technical but it’s more like this…They do what? That’s cool. Let me try. Then WOW that helped, or NO FRICKIN’ WAY will I EVER do that again-i.e. the cottage cheese diet.)
Some things I’ve learned about my style?
- I like to check things off my list. To finish BIG projects, I need to break them down into small actionable steps. (I feel like I earned a gold star!)
- I like to work ahead. When I’m rushed, late, or stressed I make mistakes. (Read about my socks!)
- To-do lists and notes are non-negotiable. I’m easily distracted, and I have a poor memory. (See this post.) If I don’t write it down, it won’t get done. Alternatively, if I don’t write it down, it will stick in the front of my consciousness and prevent me from doing ANYTHING else. (Like an ear worm, but less melodic.)
- If I keep my stuff organized, I can find what I need. (Plus, I can buy the cutest containers!)
- Start with the thing that is bugging me most.This week that meant going to the post office and mailing Christmas presents.(Another gold star!)
- I like to check out all the options. That means I need to allow time to read blogs, take classes, and learn new techniques. (And recipes-I love trying new recipes!) I posted about classes here.
- I tend to underestimate how long a task will take. My available time is limited. (Yes, I know everyone’s available time is limited.) It may not be possible to do ALL the things I plan to do each day. (Try to pick the top three?)
- When I stop working, I need to leave a note for my future self. I never know when I will get back to THIS project. When I do, I don’t want to waste time trying to figure out where I left off. I posted about learning to use Evernote here.
I don’t consider myself a minimalist, but I feel claustrophobic in cluttered spaces. If I get too many files, ideas, projects, or choices flying around, I shut down. I feel scattered when papers topple from unstable piles, unread e-mails or social media posts climb into double digits, or leftover containers mold in my refrigerator. To recover, I take the time to purge, unfollow, and toss. (See this post).
I like the kitchen counter clear (ready to cook my next meal), my dust-catching Tchoskies limited (much more efficient for cleaning), and my to-do list manageable. So, I won’t apologize for my neat and tidy desk. I need to work the way MY brain works. My mess lives in files, containers, drawers, and closets. A clean desk invites me to dive into an activity. It gives me space to pull out whatever project strikes my fancy, dump the contents onto the surface, and get to work.
After I finish the task at hand, I tuck my projects safely away for the next session. It’s not that I’m incredibly neat and organized, but like my time, my space is limited. Maybe those messy-deskers are lucky enough to have a dedicated work space with a door to keep out pesky children, pets, or nosy neighbors. I don’t, so my desk will stay clear, except when I’m working and then it’s a disaster!
What type of work space makes you the most productive? Share in the comments!
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