Being organized comes in different forms. During my history as an employee and business owner, I was told that a clean desk surface with no material on it is a sign of organization. I actually worked somewhere with an unwritten policy that desks needed to be clean of any materials or papers.
When employees were asked to work on a certain project, I would witness them open their drawers to packed chaos where paper was arbitrarily placed in the drawer. As many people say, a clean desk means dirty drawers.
Personally, a clean desk makes me nervous. I organize myself by keeping active piles of material that is logically ordered by priority and deadline. Even though my desk is not ‘clean’ and is covered with paper, I am able to find any piece of information within seconds.
Organization is not something that can be judged or perceived by the look of an office. There are different ways for people to organize themselves, but I have noticed that they can be placed into two general groups.
Clean Organizer: The Clean Organizer is someone that has everything in their colour coordinated file folders which can be found in a filing cabinet.
Dirty Organizer: The Dirty Organizer, like myself, has numerous things in the open. This person has either structured piles or a loose organization system that allows the person to find information.
Neither system is incorrect; it depends on the personality that is using the system. I have tried to use files and filing cabinets to organize myself. With this level of organization, I found myself spending a lot of time dealing with housekeeping of making files, ensuring the right thing was in the file, and that the file was placed in the appropriate place. Surprisingly, with this ’organized’ system, I was losing items and taking time, sometimes an hour, looking for something.
With my current dirty or clutter system, I have my piles set out where current projects are within arms reach. I have my plan sheet on the top of each appropriate pile so I know where I am in the workflow of the project. Lastly, I have found that I haven’t lost anything (knock on wood).
Organization is not something that can be determined by the look of an office. The effectiveness of the person and their level of responsiveness to request is a better estimator or gauge to their level of organization.
As someone that keeps their desk dirty, don’t force someone into using a system that is not natural to them. Respect their system and review the performance of the employee instead.