That fact that your desk is a mess isn’t what is stopping you from doing the work that you need to do.
It feels great to work in a clean environment. It’s nice to have clean lines, with everything in its place. A lot of people find it much easier to get started working in a neat, organized space (I am one of them). But unless the greatest outcome you need to produce is a clean desk, cleaning your desk is exactly the wrong the thing to do.
First Things First
The important work you need to do isn’t going to get done while you are completing tasks that do nothing to produce the outcomes you need.
- No prospective customer is going to pick up the phone and call you once your desk is clean. And the time you spend cleaning your deck does nothing to fill your calendar with the meetings you need.
- No follow-up communications are going to be written, or emailed, or mailed while you are organizing your stacks of papers and files. And no one is ever going to notice that you restructured your email file folder hierarchy.
- The phone call that you need to make to your most important client or prospect isn’t going to make itself while you are organizing your workspace. You will still need to make the call, and the outcome will be the same whether your desk has a stack of papers on it or not.
A clean desk cannot be your highest priority.
What Are You Resisting?
We tend to clean our desks when we are resisting doing something that we should be doing or when we are overwhelmed. If you are resisting doing some work, you need to deal with the source of your resistance by asking yourself what it is you fear (almost always the wrong danger). If you are overwhelmed, make a list of what you need to do on a yellow legal pad, sort it in order of importance, and do the first thing on that list.
Develop the habit of doing your most important first work. You can clean your desk after you have used your best energy on what’s most important. No one is ever going to look back and remember you for the great contribution you made to the world by having a clean desk.