Ergonomics Wednesday – 4 – Desk Space, the Final Frontier

Desk Space and Clutter

A tidy desk is a sign of a sick mind.

Seen on a poster in university.

There is this notion that a cluttered, messy desk is a signal that you’re working hard, “See all this stuff, boss, look how busy I am.”

The only problem with it is that the opposite is actually true. A well-ordered workspace is an efficient workspace. An efficient workspace is good, a messy, inefficient workspace is bad.

There’s a fair bit of psychology underpinning this. I would direct you to Robert Cialdini’s PreSuasion for more details, but the basic thrust is that our inputs have a tremendous influence on our outputs. If we have an untidy, cluttered workspace, our minds will be untidy and cluttered, and our work will be less than it can be.

So tidy up.

But what does that have to do with the Star Trek reference? You’re not a Trekkie, are you Andrew?

Hell no, not since I was a teenager after which I grew up and left that dreck behind. It did make for a catchy headline, though.

What space has to do with it is our natural tendency to expand to fill whatever space we have available to us. Youi need a decent area to work in, something large enough to contain all the tools necessary for you to do your work.

What you must do, is fight a constant battle to keep that space tidy. A place for everything, and everything in its place.

Do this to ensure optimum working conditions. Have sufficient room on your desk for your

  • Coffee cup (start with the important stuff)
  • Computer (whether notebook or desktop)
  • Monitor
  • Mouse
  • Keyboard
  • Writing utensils
  • Notepad
  • Other tools for doing your job

Make sure there is space between all the bits and pieces that you need, that they’re not banging into one another.

Regularly, by which I mean at least weekly, tidy up. Take inventory of what’s there, keep what you need and discard the rest.

A tidy desk is not a sign of a sick mind, and a messy desk is not signalling to anyone that you’re working hard. It’s signalling that you’re a slob.