When was the last time you looked at the top of your desk? I mean really LOOKED at it, surveyed the landscape, noticed each and every item taking up space. If I blindfolded you and asked you to name all of the items, would you pass the test?
When I ask my clients to clear off their desk, the first pass typically involves removing piles of paper and loose sticky notes, and leaving everything else as-is. When I begin to ask about the items left behind (picture frames, paper weights, knick-knacks) they quickly realize how “immune” they have become to the clutter. With a slight shift in perspective (lesson #1 is that this area is their Prime Real Estate) they quickly discover the truth behind the idea that a clear space leads to a clear mind, which in turn leads to increased focus and productivity.
Do me a favor. Take a good look at your desk and if you see any of the following, let’s make a plan to take some action. Your productivity and success are likely on the line.
1.The In/Out tray cannot be seen under its paper tower. I do endorse having a tray for incoming, not-yet-processed paperwork and mail. I also enforce the 24 hour rule, which means the items in the tray need to find a more appropriate home within the day. You don’t leave your mail in the mailbox for days on end (do you?), so you also should not let unprocessed papers collect dust in the Inbox. Keep it moving!
2. Multiple “traditional” desk accessories are amongst the mix, many with a layer of dust. Do you still have the matching pen stand, business card holder, desk pad. etc. consuming your prime real estate? When was the last time you actually used tape from the clunky dispenser? Chances are, you do not really need or use all of these items. Here is what you want to ask yourself about each and every item on your desk):
- Is this item functional on a daily basis?
- Did I place this item here intentionally?
- Do I need this to be within arm’s reach?
If the answer to these questions is not a resounding YES, it is time to relocate the item(s).
3.There is one stack (or more) of business cards piling up. Be honest, are you looking up right now and glancing at your pile? You know the drill: you attend a networking event, come back to the office, empty your pockets, and stack the newest cards on top with the intention to call a few of those folks you met when time allows. Guess what? Time will not “allow” unless you schedule the task, and the top of your desk is not where any of those contacts’ cards should be living. If you have not yet defined your system for managing business cards & contacts, put that at the top of your priority list. Why? Because some of these business cards represent money to be made and opportunities to be pursued.
4.You have more than one pile of papers you classify as Urgent/Important. I firmly believe we need to File not Pile. Piles of paper quickly become a mix of high, medium, and low priority tasks, some with hard deadlines and others without. Eighty percent of my clients have success with a Tickler File system to prioritize tasks and assign specific days and times to get the tasks done. Check out The Swiftfile™ which is my must-have tool for any/all professionals. The pile alone is not going to spur you into action; those documents and the tasks they represent must become scheduled appointments with yourself (or your team) for execution/completion.
5. You have to “tidy up” your desk every time you are expecting a visitor to your office. When you stop what you are doing to straighten up, you are diverting focus and mental energy to a non-essential task. Current research says it will take most people up to 20 minutes to fully re-engage and refocus following a distraction. You are one of your most valuable clients, so it behooves you to keep your desk as clear for yourself as you would for your VIP clients.
Creating better organization and improving your systems will take commitment, discipline, a plan, and time. The investment, however, just may be one of the best you’ve ever made.
To Your Productivity-