Is Your Messy Desk Messing with Your Mindset?


I ask myself this question as I look at the state of my desk. 

Working from home these past few months has really made me miss my morning trek to the office. At first, it was great not having to sit in traffic to get to work. However, this wore thin over time and my work hours began to blur. As any business owner knows, hours aren’t regular until you have great systems and processes in place.  

As any business owner knows, hours aren’t regular until you have great systems and processes in place.  

However, I don’t know anyone who was set up for such a large business disruption, as 2020 is turning out to be. Work and home life have meshed together into one endless paper trail. Running two businesses with five children means I get A LOT of stuff dumped on my desk. 

And the way that makes me feel…  I dread sitting down to start work.

It is overwhelming to look at and frustrating to try and find things. My workload seems twice as big as it is because I spend the first hour of my day sorting through everything. 

And that got me thinking, what does having a messy desk say about me? Is this mess stopping me from achieving my big business goals?

Are you a business genius?

Historically, geniuses are depicted with messy desks – so I justified things that way to myself for a while. 

It’s been said this is because they were super productive. 

But historical geniuses were asking and answering big scientific or philosophical or artistic questions. They weren’t trying to run the world like us modern-day female entrepreneurs. They didn’t feel the pressure of a signed permission slip for a school trip, an unpaid gas bill or a missed birthday party, because the paperwork was lost on your desk.

Personal, Yes. Messy, No

Now, tidy doesn’t have to mean barren, however. 

It is important to make sure that your space reflects you. An experiment written about by Economist Tim Harford would tell us that if you have workers, their inclusion in how their work environment is presented is vitally important for productivity. So personalising your workspace is actually good for your productivity. In fact, having your vision board in your workspace is both personal and an excellent form of motivation to get things done.

Personalising your workspace is actually good for your #productivity. #smallbusinessowner #fempreneur Click To Tweet

Being individual doesn’t mean cluttered either. A messy desk can actually restrict your brain’s capacity to focus and process information. 

I am a big believer in my desk being representative of my brain.

If it is piled high with paperwork, pens, dishes and everything my kids just dumped on me – it’s just simply overwhelming. I can’t find things and I miss deadlines because things are buried. I don’t like being caught off guard, so when vital information is sitting under a plate with a crust of Vegemite sandwich on it, it’s an unnecessary stress on me – and really it’s just gross.

I am a big believer in my desk being representative of my brain.

Don’t take my word for it though. Here are some words of wisdom from others who think the same.

Veteran productivity expert and creator of ‘Getting Things Done’ David Allen says 

“when your space is filled up with things you haven’t organised, all of those things are constantly ‘yelling’ at you.”  

I hear that! 

It is deafening sometimes. It is the voice in your head that starts to fill you with negative talk. As mindset is so important to our success, we just can’t have that going on.

NBC Business Culture writer Julianne Pepitone says that 

“the fix could merely be vowing on Clean Off Your Desk Day to take a few minutes every morning to declutter before you begin work.”

This is great advice.

As a night owl, my preference is to do this before I go to bed. Mornings can be hard enough for a night owl, so walking into a calm and tidy space suits me better than starting the day cleaning up and getting organised.

And journalist Mohit Tater says that 

“According to CallDrip, a study by the National Association of Professional Organisers found that cluttered workspaces can lead to a company’s financial loss equivalent to 10% of a manager’s salary.”

If you added up all the time you lost in productivity because you were wasting time finding things – what would that add up to in a week, a month or a year? How is that lost time impacting you reaching your goals?

What are your thoughts so far?  Are you inspired to get busy cleaning, sorting and tidying?  Research shows that working at a clean and tidy desk may promote healthy eating, generosity, and conventionality. For many of us this would provoke breaking out the spray and wipe, and heading to Officeworks for folders, in-trays and archive boxes.

Is Mess Best?

However, let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute – being a bit messy isn’t necessarily the worst thing. There is evidence that suggests being just a bit messy has its own merits.

Science Daily would tell you that a messy desk invokes “creative thinking and stimulates new ideas”.  

Entrepreneurs are known for their ingenuity, so maybe that time spent getting tidy and organised is actually an overvalued investment when there are more important things to pursue.

After all, life is messy – so maybe it’s okay if you’re a little messy too.


So which side of the desk are you sitting at – the super clean, pristine, everything at your fingertips side, or can we not see you sitting there because there is so much stuff piled up? 

Let’s talk about it in the comments below! Xox

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