I came across to this quote from Albert Einstein that says “if a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” Knowing how great the contribution and intellectual cleverness of this theoretical physicist, there is no doubt his every word is wisdom to ponder for every listener. But as a normal human creation, I have a reservation to have second thought and scrutinize what did he really meant when he quoted this. This quote is ambiguous that can be given to the readers what it ought to mean. The initial impression one could immediately think to this quote could be referring to the function of brain that is either about the quality or can be about quantity of our thinking. But either way, it is unfair if those who are keeping clutter-free desks will categorically label of doing and thinking nothing. This quote puts malign to the credibility of those who has the ability to keep their station organized despite a hectic works and heavy workload.
I assume this quote is not meant to every worker because you cannot really say a person with this quote. And I hope this was not quoted to favor the clutter desk of those claiming busy which they make it untidy to appear themselves occupied. The end should not justify the mean. Having a clutter desk doesn’t mean the owner has a large volume of works or has a superior thinking. What if the person is not really into good housekeeping, maybe he is unable to manage his space because he is poor in organizing paper works? Every company wants good office housekeeping, if not a blue-collar job then you are expected to have a professional presentation of your desk.
Or how about if this quote means empty desk is a sign of organized and clear mind? That you have a control in your occupied mind despite having workload but still managed to keep his space free from clutters. There are just people who cannot work with messy environment, the same thing there are people who are messy. Some people are more quickly, effective, comfortable, confident and not distracted when they are in an organized and without destructing clutter workplace. Going back to this hanging and interrogative phrase that sounds like a fill in the blank question, if empty desk gives the empty mind suggestion then what if this quote is interpreted as the other way? That a clutter desk is sign of troubled mind that can output less quality and garbage work?
Let us remember, office good housekeeping is not just about the huge papers and files in your desk but it is also the constraint of unimportant colorful trinkets pinned in your office like various quotes, unnecessary pictures and some promotional items or mini toys placed in your desks – and they are nothing to do with competency. Having these in your table, can you still say clutter desk is a sign of clutter mind? It is not about brain function anymore but it’s your personality. If these papers show the discursiveness in things, then most likely the same thing goes to your e-file. It is office decorum, remember: it is office decorum.
It is actually and certainly depending on the nature of your work. It’s too difficult to achieve paperless office for journalists, design engineers, accountant, teachers, librarian and other jobs that are literally dealing with papers but we can see if the huge bundle of paper works are properly pile. Even in times there is occasionally mess of papers and disorder in your desk, the mark of an actually systematized office set-up can still be seen. And again, this is not just about paper but the presentation of your desk and office presentation whether it is vulcanizing shop, recruitment agency, etc. And we are just talking about workplace here, not including about home because it is another issue that may hit those guilty because it is said that your attitude, characters and manners inside your home are taken out up to outside.
By Alex V. Villamayor
October 19, 2015