By Andrew Neitlich

Aaah, the wonders of a clean desk

By Andrew Neitlich

It is the little things that count.

I’m a slob when it comes to my office. Today, after two months of accumulated bills and documents, I cleaned my desk. Now it is clean, and the difference is remarkable.

Today was one of my most productive days. Plus, it felt serene.


Clean you desk! It might not get you more clients, but it will sure help you do better work for the clients you have.

Some say that success is all about taking care of the little things. Cleaning your desk is one of those. They don’t teach it at the business schools, and it may appear to be a stupid and trite piece of advice — but it sure worked for me today.

  • Let’s see a picture :)

  • SeanMcK

    I agree totally! I usually leave my desk dirty for a while, the junk just piles up. Then every so often I get up the courage to actually clean my desk and what a difference. Almost feels better.

  • If you are customer facing and you expect clients to come into your office, I strongly suggest keeping your desk clean. That could easily mean the difference between getting a contract or not. Once should leave as little to chance as possible!

  • MickoZ

    A solution (that I don’t entirely apply, but where I sometime get better at) is to instaure a system (and that is valid for any cleaning). And when something’s lifetime is stopped, you have to eliminate it.

    For example, I have some pile:
    – paper to recycle (I use to do draft, etc.)
    – todolist (even if I have some todolist software, I often write them on paper, keeping all of them in one place is a good idea)
    – I keep the project/project-part I work on near my working space
    – I try to archive what is finished when I don’t need them

    It is when you begin to slip from your “good habit” that thing accumulate, get out of hand, etc.

    Way easier say than done, but I feel the solution is to have a kind of system to not have to make the same decision over and over again.

  • hdsol

    I was the kid who was always banished to my room to clean it. To the average person it was the mother of all messes but I could almost always find what I needed. Now that Iam in the “Grownup World” I keep my stuff neater. If you added up all of the time spent searching for things you would be amazed. I just work better in a clean desk. I laugh that now I am on my 4 kids to pick thier junk up. Funny how you end up like your parents.

  • Clean desk, yeah for 5 minutes…. tops ;)

  • webnology

    I always have a clean desk, and I immedeately file every paper I receive. It gives a very quite feeling in my head, I know I will find what I look for, and it sure looks or sounds great if a client calls me and asks me for that document he sent me last week. I don’t have to look for it, and that sounds professional to the client. Good advice, Andrew.


  • yes Andrew, cleaning the desk is so important. it refreshes your mind and gives the feeling that you got a new desk without paying money :). I like it.

    thank you Andrew.

  • Kaystarmaker

    i recently found out about that too. a clean desk is so much more productive! sadly i have to clean it up again, there are little things appearing all over my desk again.

  • kungfukenny

    Ha ha, we had some guy at work give us a lecture on the ‘clean desk policy’, only having the necessary paperwork on your desk and filing everything in it’s correct place according to how often you have to access it. Followed all this to the letter and I found it works really well.

    Funny thing is the guy who gave us the big lecture is now my manager and I’ve now found his desk is the untidiest in the company bar the director (who also attended the lecture). They’re both losing so much paperwork and productive time it makes me laugh.

  • RollyPolly

    You made a blog post. On SitePoint. About cleaning your desk. Fascinating.

  • “a clean desk, a clean mind”… how very true.
    I often find an uncluttered desk makes me focus on the task at hand, not being distracted or stressed over where to find things.

    If this seems trivial to you why not try it for yourself!

  • pdxi

    Hmm… having a desk clear of burrito wrappers, bottle caps, bike parts and loose change really does help!

    Yes, I read this article and immediately got up and cleaned my desk. It’s nice!

  • aneitlich


    My experience from the dot com days is that there are two types of companies and executives: Those that focus on the boring stuff, and those that focus on the “fascinating” stuff.

    The ones who focus on the boring stuff usually win.

  • I agree. It’s great to have a clean desk, but it’s really hard to keep it clean. For me, it takes about an hour from it’s clean until it’s all messy again. It would be great if someone could invent an automatic-self-cleaning-desk.

  • Dave

    romme: How about a robotic arm that just swoops by your desk every hour or so and moves everything into a waiting trash bin?

  • But how will the robotic arm make sure that nothing important is thrown out?

  • Dave

    Listen, I’m just trying to come up with a solution here. I don’t know that we need to consider things like “making sure important things are kept.”

  • www.Enovabiz.com

    pepping yourself to clean your desk – 1 hr
    cleaning the desk-3 hr
    dumping the waste – .5 hrs
    resting after operation cleanup- 1 hrs
    self congraluting – .5 hr
    Giving your self reward(watching T.V.) – 2 hrs

    Next day the junk starts piling up again. No productivity gain for me.

  • matthewmurcia

    If you’re interested in this, you should check out something called Getting Things Done by an American called David Allen. He is the antidote of my old Spanish professor who just used to call his secretary to bring him a big cardboard box to spend 5 minutes ‘filing things in the bin’ whenever his desk got too full of useless pieces of paper. Whilst the box system is cooler, I resorted to the more formal system last year and found all sorts of useful pieces of paper towards the bottom of the mess, including invoices and contracts!

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