Is a neat desk good for you? Well, that depends…
Is your office desk looking a little messy? Do you have piles of papers and folders stacked everywhere? Before you rush to tidy it, an interesting piece of research suggests there might be a link between cluttered desks and creativity in the office.
As part of a series of experiments, researchers from the University of Minnesota asked participants to fill out a questionnaire in an office. Some people did it in a clean and orderly office, while others were in a unkempt one. Afterwards, the participants were asked if they wanted a snack (chocolate or an apple) and were given the chance to make a donation to a charity.
Those who filled in the questionnaire in the clean room donated more to charity and were more likely to choose the apple. It seems that neat desks make people more conscientious and likely to ‘do the right thing’.
In another test, people were asked to come up with new uses for ping pong balls. Again, participants were split into clean and messy rooms. Both groups came up with the same amount of ideas, but those in the messy room came up with more interesting and creative ones. In this case, it seems that untidy desks might be good for lateral thinking and taking risks.
Don’t just think of your desk as somewhere to work, think of it as something that affects how you work. In a way, tidiness or messiness is a tool that you can control depending on what you need. I think we all know how to end up with a messy desk, but if you want to clear yours up a bit, here are five simple tips:
- Clear clutter weekly. Keeping a tidy desk isn’t about a monthly blitz with bin bags and rubber gloves. Instead, it’s about making a habit of cleanliness.
- Have an ‘In’ tray and an ‘Out’ tray. That immediately sorts your papers into two organised piles. Could other papers and files go into an archive box? That would free up more desk space for current paperwork.
- Organise desk drawers according to frequency of use. For example, items you use everyday could go into upper drawers, with other items stored lower down. You will find it easier to retrieve things when they are ready to hand.
- Hide your cables. A tangle of wires is unsightly and a possible safety hazard. Use a cable tidy to keep power cords and chargers in their rightful place, and out of sight.
- Smarten up your stationery. Old notepads and dog-eared folders can make your desk look tired. Try colour-coding your folders (maybe red for urgent and green for projects). You’ll be able to locate them easily and brighten up your desk in the process.