REPORT: Neat people are less productive than messy people

Revenge is a dish best served cold. – Klingon proverb

  • To my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Snyder, that gave me consistent "S minuses" for neatness…
  • To our office manager that annually berates me for the condition of my cubicle…
  • To my parents who said that if I didn’t improve my neatness, the family wouldn’t go to Disneyland for summer vacation, then made good on their promise when I came home with Mrs. Snyder’s dreaded "S-"…

…well, how ya like me now?

Are You a Slob? Good, You’re More Productive (Reuters)
Karen Jackson would be the first to admit her desk looks like a disaster area.
Her stacks of papers and photographs are so sloppy that the Texas schoolteacher won first place in a contest to find America’s messiest desk.
Sponsored by publisher Little, Brown and Co., the competition promoted "A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder," by Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman, a new book that argues neatness is overrated, costs money, wastes time and quashes creativity.,1697,2105584,00.asp

I’ve always told new employees that if you have time to clean up your cube and organize your desk, you clearly don’t have enough to do.  Every spare moment should be spent either face-to-face with your customers, on the phone with your customers, or doing things to help your customers. 

Organizing your damned CDROM library or restacking your computer book shelf does not fall into this category.  Imagine telling your customer:  Gee I’m sorry My Fortune 500 but I couldn’t do any proactive research for you on technologies X, Y, and Z this week because I was too busy reorganizing my drawer of status reports and organizing the corkboard in my cubicle.

I’ve heard some say that "if you can’t find things, you can’t be productive" and I think that’s a complete crock.  I’ve never met anyone that spent hours trying to find something that they were "missing" because ultimately, people just don’t throw things just anywhere:  It’s alway organized in some way or placed in a somewhat narrowed down location in their workspace.  In fact, even if it WAS lost somewhere in a cubicle, who cares?  How long would it take you to search from something in an 8’x8′ piece of floor space anyway?

I’ve been a mess my whole life.  My former manager was a total mess as well.  Well, he retired at the age of 38.  My financial advisor says I can retire when I’m 45. 

How’s that for productivity, Mrs. Snyder?  At the same age you were slapping that school ruler on my desk forcing me to rewrite my book reports with "neater handwriting", I’ll be on a beach, sipping a pina colada, dragging sand all over the place, making 20% on my portfolio. 

At that point you can call me messy & unproductive all you want.

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