Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

July 26, 2009


A cluttered desk is a beautiful thing


      I hate an organized desk. On rare occasions I had one. It was my first day in a new office. But it never lasted.  After two days my papers, folders, and books were everywhere. And I dared anybody to straighten up my desk.

          People with an organized desk are disgustingly proud of the accomplishment. They are apt to say piously, “A messy desk indicates a cluttered mind. A neat desk suggests an organized person.” That is nonsense and I can prove it.

          My philosophy is that a messy desk is a sign of a hard-working person who is good at multi-tasking. Why settle for mono-tasking when you can do several things at once? Doing one task at a time requires much less creativity.

          I know the argument against multi-tasking. If you focus on one project at a time, you can get your work done more quickly. You will be much more efficient if you will concentrate only on one task – the one in front of you.

          But that approach can make work rather dull. It removes the challenge of trying to do three things at once. We all know that the truly brilliant person is the one who while talking to you on the desk phone can put you on hold, talk to someone else on their cell phone, and at the same time carry on a conversation with a visitor in his office.

          Now that impresses people, just as a cluttered desk convinces people that you are capable of working on five projects at a time. The clutter convinces people not that you are disorganized but that you have amazing creativity.  

It takes a lot of skill to find something on my desk. I have piles everywhere but I know what pile to look in when I need to find something. Only a person with my kind of competence could find a lost document as quickly as I can. With me, hope springs eternal; nothing is ever lost. It is here somewhere so I keep rambling until it shows up. Sooner or later it will turn up. The lost will be found.

          The best way for me to lose something is to file it. If I file it, I forget where it is filed. The other day I searched for the manual for my riding lawn mower. Since it is a John Deere, I looked under “J.” It was not there. I looked under “M” but no luck. Well, maybe I filed it under “G” for grass. Wrong again. Finally I looked under “L,” and there it was.

          I gave up on filing cabinets. I prefer now to stack folders on the floor around my office. You can lose stuff in a filing cabinet. I came across some stuff the other day I had not seen in 44 years.

          I am glad I am not looking for a pay raise. At my age pay raises are a joke. When my pay changes it goes down not up. A recent study reveals that most employers factor in an employee’s level of organization when considering annual reviews and pay increases.

          One company even dispatches workers to look in the car window of an applicant’s car to see if it is clean while the interview is being held. If there is clutter on the car floor, this indicates the applicant does not have organizational skills.

That company would never hire me. My car is cluttered with papers I may need while I am away from the office. Ride somewhere with me and you will have to wait five minutes while I move my stuff to the trunk or the back seat.

          Any fool knows that if you want to find a highly skilled, competent, hard-working person, you look for a messy car and a messy desk. The reason is obvious. The person with a neat desk does not really want to work. And inside the drawers of that neat desk are piles of paper that need attention. The person who thrives in clutter is the one who can get the job done.

          Somewhere on my desk is a new book written by Dave Crenshaw. It is titled The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing it all” Gets Nothing Done. I hid it under a pile of papers. I don’t plan to read it. He is entitled to his opinion. I am content with mine. A cluttered desk is a beautiful thing and brilliant people can do three things at the same time. That’s my story and I am sticking to it. + + +