Tidy desk = tidy mind (for me, at least)! by Sarah Steel, Office Manager

Apparently, the scientist who discovered penicillin – Alexander Fleming – was pretty untidy. Perhaps he could see past the mess, but I know I can’t concentrate if my environment at work (or indeed at home) isn’t neat and tidy (most of the time).

I’m just not sure an untidy (and, perish the thought, unclean) desk is going to help me make any breakthroughs anytime soon though…. Other than to vouch for the fact that keyboards harbor more bacteria than the average loo seat does. Eugh. Pass the Dettol wipes.

My case for keeping a tidy desk is basically that if I don’t, I don’t know where to start with my work. I’m not even talking about filing papers, just simple things like dirty pots, too many pens and multiple dog-eared notebooks. Less is definitely more when it comes to desks, and in our tech-driven age it should be easy to achieve.

On the other hand, it can be taken to the extreme. I recently witnessed (v. long story) a consultant orthopaedic surgeon ‘tell off’ his assistant for having placed his notepad and pen on the left side of his desk when he much prefers it on the right…. So, Mr Fleming must have been an anomaly by being able to work in a messy environment, let alone making medical breakthroughs.

I like to think I’m somewhere between Alexander Fleming and the nameless orthopaedic surgeon. But then again, I’m not about to make any medical breakthroughs….. so maybe an ‘extreme’ approach is better? Perhaps an extremely messy person is simply so focused on their work that they don’t have time to preoccupy their minds with organisation, and perhaps the extremely ‘particular’ (I’m being diplomatic..) person needs things exactly, EXACTLY as they require in order that they can get on and achieve great things.

I think the point of all this, is that it takes all sorts and what works for one won’t work for another. But I still want a tidy (enough) desk!