We could argue about messy desks versus clean desks until the lights shut off and the cleaning people arrive. But, one thing is for sure: the way you keep your desk tells your coworkers something about how you work. Whether that message is positive or negative is largely up to interpretation.
The good news is that there’s almost always a positive spin for any approach to workspace housekeeping. After all, you’ve got a system, right? Right.
What does your desk say about you and your approach to work?
“I’m too busy for this.”
Your desk is organized but packed. You know where everything is, it’s just that there is an awful lot of stuff, and it’s all over the place. You have files and folders everywhere, which indicates that you do strive for organization, and that you can be trusted to keep items safe. However, you sometimes fall behind when it comes to taking the time to actually file those items away once you’re done with them.
One look at your desk and you know (and probably everyone else does too) that you have a lot going on, and also that you’re feeling like you’re a little too busy to keep up with your organizational responsibilities. Make sure to take the time for that soon, before you slip into another category. Right now you look busy and are probably still feeling pretty confident and on top of things, but it’s a slippery slope from here to a level of chaos that is more out of control.
“I am in complete control here, so don’t get too close.”
You work best when you are able to completely and entirely focus on the task at hand. You clear everything else away, literally and figuratively, in order to hone in on what you’re working on at any given moment. As a result, your desk is often mostly clear. There are only a few things on it at a time — and these items relate directly to your current task.
Your way of doing things probably helps you feel in control and on top of tasks, but your coworkers might have a different takeaway. A desk that is almost entirely empty seems like it belongs to someone who is perhaps spending too much time on organization and not enough time on more important matters. Also, not leaving much of a personal mark on your space could indicate that you don’t intend to stay in your current job for too long. Such a minimalist space can feel a little controlling or rigid to an outside observer. There is something inflexible about a workspace that is a little too orderly, and it could cause others to paint you with a similar brush.
“I’m just barely holding it together.”
Your desk is cluttered and chaotic, and you struggle to find items when you need them. Your system of organization is … well, you don’t really have one.
It is true that some clutter can be an indicator of creativity, and many wildly successful people have had really messy desks. Still, even if you have an awesome reputation around the office, folks still might take note when they pass by your desk and notice the chaos. A cluttered space doesn’t exactly inspire ease, comfort, or trust. Instead, it’s a little concerning. It can indicate that you’re sort of barely keeping things together and that one more thing could send you over the top. Even if you feel comfortable with your excessively cluttered space, it’s important to keep in mind that others don’t necessarily see it the same way.
Ultimately, it’s important to organize your desk in a way that’s best for you. For the most part, don’t worry what others might think. Instead, focus on doing your job to the best of your ability. In terms of your reputation at work, that’s all that really matters. But, no matter the current state of things, taking the time to straighten things up will likely feel like time well spent.
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