Tidying up my desk on a weekly basis (I aim to clean mine each Thursday fwiw) has contributed to my success in more ways than I can list. Obviously there are some basic human benefits to having a spotless workspace. According to University of Michigan psychologist Spike Lee (no, not the filmmaker) simply washing ones hands seems to “scrub away mental turmoil” and “contributes to moral cleanliness as well as physical cleanliness” so it only makes sense that maintaining a pristine and organized desk is good for your soul in similar ways.
As a people manager, I find that keeping the routine in place also helps illustrate to direct reports just how passionate I am about organization, routine, and deconstructing chaotic situations. I manage customer operations for startups so there’s plenty of chaos to unwrap everyday. In an office setting it’s an easy way to signal that I’ve got my shit together and I’m ready for whatever might bubble up. WFH team members also benefit from my reminder to step away from the keyboard and clean for a few minutes each week. Our workspace is a silent hero of our professional personality, whether our colleagues are on-site or on-Zoom. Anecdotally, I’ve found the “Pig-Pen” types often suffer from similar issues circling around reliability, dependability, and teamwork in general. There are those who can work surrounded by empty red bull cans and dirty dishes but in my experience that’s a rare skillset.
In the spirit of the Rifleman’s Creed referenced in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, I look at my desk as the Marine’s view their rifle. “Without me, my
rifle desk is useless. Without my rifle desk, I am useless.” and “I will keep my rifle desk clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready.”
I could go on but I like blog posts like I like my desks: Neat and tidy.