Jeff Davidson's book, Simpler Living, was Amazon Kindle #1 in its category, first quarter, 2012. Jeff is featured in the NY Times, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Businessweek, Fortune, Organized Executive, and Success.

Decluttering Your Workspace

Keeping in control of your desk is divine, speaking of which, if Moses himself climbed to the top of Mount Sinai today, considering all the desks that are hopelessly disorganized, here’s what he might bring back:

The 10 Commandments of Deskmanship ©1990

  1. Thou shalt clear thy desk every night. Yes, every night.
  2. Thou shalt continually refine what goes on thy desktop.
  3. Thou shalt not use thy desktop as a filing cabinet.
  4. Thou shalt predetermine what belongs inside thy desk.
  5. Thou shalt keep 20 percent of the drawer space vacant.
  6. Thou shalt furnish thy surrounding office to support thy desk.
  7. Thou shalt take comfort when at thy desk.
  8. Thou shalt keep clean thy desk and thy surrounding area.
  9. Thou shalt leave thy desk periodically.
  10. Thou shalt honor thy desk as thyself.

It’s Divine to Refine

Let me expound upon a couple of the essentials.

* Furnish thy surrounding office to support thy desk – with familiar and comfort inducing objects such as plants, pictures, slogans, anything that supports your efforts.

* Clear thy desk every night. Yes, every night – Joe Sugarman in his book Success Forces explains the values of clearing your desk every night which essentially forces you the next morning to start on those things that are truly important and not to continue with what happens to be cluttering your desktop. I practice this and find that it pays off.

* Keep clean thy desk and thy surrounding area — this is crucial if only to maintain the perception of being in control. Also, take comfort when at thy desk -meaning that your desk should be a comfortable place for you, not a war zone.

* Continuously refine what goes on thy desktop — What you used to keep on your desk because it was convenient and useful may no longer be so. Also, continuously assess different items that support your desktop arrangement, such as computer trays, hanging lamps, and swivel mechanisms to conveniently move equipment as needed.

Always remember, keep 20 percent of thy drawer space vacant — in an information-overload society, your desk will not serve you if all available compartments are filled to the brim. Cut back now and acknowledge what is coming, i.e. manage the beforehand to stay in control.

The Perils of a Messy Desk

In the over-information era, your desk needs to be a comfortable place for you. What does it say if your desk is continually a mess? You met the din, and the din won? Beyond the logistical problems of not being able to find things, a messy desk sends the wrong message to those who might otherwise include you on big, important projects!

Penelope Trunk wrote in the Post-Intelligencer that personal organization is important in the quest to getting things done and that disorganization is costly. A cluttered desk, she says, reflects badly on one’s efficiency and ability to think clearly.

Also, a good way to stifle your career is to have a messy desk. If your desk is a mess, you look like you’re not in control, independent of whether or not you are! Also, the University of Texas conducted a study that found people with cluttered offices get very little done, are less efficient, less organized and less imaginative than people with clean offices.

Trunk suggests that a messy desk sabotages your career in subtle ways. For example, you look as if you cannot handle your responsibilities. When a supervisor is delegating assignments, she may not think of you for fear the assignment will go into a pile and never find its way out. Even if you get every project done on time, the perception of your boss may be that you’re an erratic worker.

Appearances are powerful, and the desk in your office is just as important as looking professional in business meetings and in meetings with clientele. To change a negative perception spawning from a messy office, take control of your desk and office environment. If your situation currently appears hopeless, at the least establish a drawer where you can temporarily house what you want out of sight, and keep the drawer closed.

High Accomplishment Through Shelf Management

Shelf management and self-management are not dissimilar! Your shelves are generally home to items you’ll probably use in the next two weeks, items too big for your filing cabinet (or collections of such items), current projects that you’d rather not file, and supplies (that ought to go in supply cabinets).

It makes sense to shelve the following: items that you might use within a week or two include reference books, directories, books, phone books, manuals, instruction guides, and large magazines. Items that are too large to put in a file cabinet might include books, large reports and any item that is part of a series. If you’re working on a task or project that requires a variety of materials and they can be neatly housed on your shelves, go ahead – as long as the project has an end, and these items don’t linger there forever.

What doesn’t go on your shelves? Anything that belongs in a supply cabinet! Now you know.

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®," is a preeminent time management authority, has written 65 mainstream books, and is an electrifying professional speaker, making 886 presentations to clients such as Lockheed Martin, Eckerd, Kaiser Permanente, IBM, American Express, Lufthansa, Swissotel, Re/Max, USAA, Worthington Steel, and the World Bank. Jeff is Executive Director of the Breathing Space Institute and the author of books such as:
  • Simpler Living (Skyhorse Publishing)
  • Dial It Down--Live it Up (Sourcebooks)
  • The 60 Second Innovator (Adams Media)
  • Breathing Space (CreateSpace)
  • Accomplishing Your Goals (Smart Guide Publications)
Jeff is the premier thought leader on work-life balance issues and has been widely quoted in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, USA Today, Businessweek, Forbes, and Fortune. Cited by Sharing Ideas Magazine as a "Consummate Speaker," Jeff believes that career professionals today in all industries have a responsibility to achieve their own sense of work-life balance, and he supports that quest through his website

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