Leadership Tactic #72: The Clean Desk Club

Cats need desks too.

One interview question that I used to ask to applicants was, “What does your desk at work look like?”

I didn’t put a lot of weight in the answer (hence my omission of that question from more recent interviews), but my theory was that a person’s desk is reflective of the way he works. If your desk is organized, the person is probably organized. The opposite is true if a person keeps a messy desk. Thus I would slightly prefer someone who keeps their desk organized.

A recent article didn’t exactly confirm my theory, but it did affirm the idea that having a clean desk is better. The problem is that physical clutter impedes a person’s ability to focus. This makes perfect sense. If your desk is covered in hundreds of papers and sticky notes and gadgets, the distractions get in the way of your productivity and creativity even if you don’t notice it.

Here’s a snippet from the article:

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and other physiological measurement tools to map the brain’s responses to organized and disorganized stimuli and to monitor task performance. The conclusions were strong — if you want to focus to the best of your ability and process information as effectively as possible, you need to clear the clutter from your home and work environment. This research shows that you will be less irritable, more productive, distracted less often, and able to process information better with an uncluttered and organized home and office.

Naturally, I keep a very tidy desk–maybe 8 out of 10 on a sliding scale of tidiness at work and 7.5/10 at home due to a stack of notes and the cats. What about you?