"If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?"
- Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was known for having a very messy desk. That much I have in common with him. I clean my desk off about once a week (whether it needs it or not), but stuff just continually piles up. By the end of the week my poor laptop is squeezed into a corner beside my phone. I sometimes catch the disparaging glances of other agents who walk by my office ( I have a prime location, right beside the bathroom - I know who the loud tinklers are), and sometimes feel a little ashamed.
I decided to handle this problem the North American way. Rather than address this problem head on, I decided to find a scientific study that justifies my shortcoming so that I can feel good about myself without actually having to work on my personal weakness. Allah be praised, there have been several such studies.
Did you know;
48: Percentage of people who are "pilers" - they organize paper by piling it on their desktops.
38: Percentage of people who are "filers" - they file rather than pile, and tend to have management titles.
14: Percentage of people who are "tossers" - they keep their desks spare and uncluttered.
Source: 2005 survey by Pendaflex, a New York-based company specializing in organizational solutions.
(I was quite relieved to discover that I wasn't a tosser.)
There has actually been a book written about this subject, a 2007 publication entitled A Perfect Mess, by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman. In this book they reveal why having a messy desk isn't really such a bad thing.
"Mess isn't necessarily the absence of order," Abrhamson and Freedman claim. "A messy desk can be a highly effective prioritizing and accessing system. In general, on a messy desk, the more important, urgent work tends to stay close by and near the top of the clutter, while the safely ignorable stuff tends to get buried to the bottom or near the back, which makes perfect sense. The various piles on a messy desk can represent a surprisingly sophisticated informal filing system that offer far more efficiency and flexibility than a filing cabinet could possibly provide."
In other words, the time I save by not constantly cleaning off my desk almost compensates more than makes up for the time I spend cursing and looking for things.
I won't lie and claim that I have read the whole book, or even parts thereof ( I did read internet reviews though), it is not necessary. The mere knowledge that such a book exists validates my position and makes me proud of my messiness, after all, it's a personal filing system, not unsimilar to the one that Albert Einstein used. Next time anoher agent peers into my office on his way to the lavatory, I won't look down in shame. No, I will meet his gaze with a steely look of my own. "Tinkle away my chum, this office is the sign of a genius at work."