By: Ken Austin
If you have ever had to meet a deadline head-on you no doubt know the feeling of dread that can creep in slowly but consistently. The closer the deadline looms, the more focused you become on the task at hand, and the more focused you are on this task, the more the attention to other things goes out the window.
Before you know it, your desk is cluttered with a multitude of mail (both read and unread), dirty dishes, files, post-it notes, reminders, phone messages, and a rather large assortment of other odds and ends. Yes, you have clutter! As easy as it is to accumulate clutter, it is an almost Draconian task to get rid of it, yet it is possible! A few simple steps will permit you to work in a clutter-free environment with information at your fingertips, not in a mess of other papers.
While you might have bought into the notion that it would be handy to have all the information on your desk ready to go, before you know it, the sheer volume of paper and printouts is threatening to drown you. It is next to impossible to find anything on your desk at all. Is there a compromise? Well, yes there is! Your local office supply store will have a wide array of movable filing solutions.
There are cardboard file boxes that can be put together at a moment's notice. More durable solutions are the plastic file containers that come in many shapes and sizes. Another possibility is the roll-away file caddy that will house all your project files while you need them close by. Whatever you decide, it is imperative that you resist the temptation of housing your projects files and folders on your desk.
Beware the Trap of Over-scheduling!
While focus on one project may be to blame for the accumulation of some clutter, other accumulations may be blamed on spreading your self too thin for comfort. Granted, today's work environment is fast-paced and demands that you multi-task and go in many different directions at the same time. Nonetheless, a cluttered desk is oftentimes a good indication that you have too much going on at the same time. Perhaps you have not taken full advantage of the possibilities of delegating some of your responsibilities? Maybe you could reschedule some of the projects you have taken on so you may finish up with others?
Beef up on Communication, Delegation, and Management Style
A cluttered desk is also a sign of poor management skills. Believe it or not, the sign of a capable manager is one who will entrust important tasks to others. This presupposes that you have a team of workers who are capable of handling the responsibilities you may wish to entrust to them, but in the long run it will free your desk from much of the clutter that is currently making it look somewhat unprofessional.
Don't shrug it off
Many an owner of a cluttered desk will eye it with frustration and eventually resignation, adopting the false belief that the clutter is just part of who you are, and there is not way out of this mess. Nothing could be further from the truth! A cluttered desk is nothing more than a symptom that will disappear once the root cause has been identified and dealt with.
Once you become comfortable with your coworkers and learn to delegate responsibilities to the extent that your job description permits, you will find that big chunks of clutter will be gone. Similarly, when you refuse to keep every file on the top of your desk and instead use a movable storage system, you will soon find that only materials you are currently working on will actually take up your valuable space.
It is obvious that clutter will not disappear by itself. The biggest challenge in combating it lies not with the actual moving of files from left to right and back again, but instead with the changing of procedures. Again, clutter is merely a symptom. You may have some short term success in eradicating it, but unless you deal with the underlying issues, it will come back.