If you’re entering the New Year with a nice, bulleted to-do list, you probably have organization somewhere near the top. A clean slate may be a good plan for some but think about procrastinating on that organization. Scientific studies point to messiness as a source of creative productivity.
Before you reorganize that mountain of papers in front of you, take a look at what research tells us about the benefits of a messy desk, and learn about some notoriously disorganized thinkers.
Science Saves The Day For Disorganized Workers
A messy desk is a state of disorder: papers are piled here and there, pens are stuffed under open books, and yesterday’s half-full coffee mug teeters perilously on the edge.
Neat freaks might bug-out at this typical workstation for some people, but recent research suggests that such disorder may, in fact, produce creativity. Researchers at the University of Minnesota hypothesized that since both order and disorder occur in nature, order cannot always be the optimal method for accomplishing goals.
A book on this topic called A Perfect Mess concluded that organization and order are not always ideal. Consider, for example, the costs of neatness in time and money. Great discoveries in science and technology were made at messy desks where the time cost of organization was deemed unproductive.
Super Geniuses Knew The Power Of Disorder Long Ago
Albert Einstein famously said, “if a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”. Productive geniuses, it seems, are too busy making things happen – creating, inventing and innovating. Einstein would think it a tremendous waste of time to spend hours making neat stacks of papers or date-ordering a magazine collection.
A more modern Megamind, Steve Jobs, also was known to have a cluttered work desk, with shelves above it teetering and strewn with books. Would the iPhone exist if Jobs were more meticulous?
How exactly, then, does disorder equal productivity? Scientists suggest that a messy workspace fosters spontaneity, encourages unconventional thought, and inspires creativity. On the other hand, orderly workspaces suggest convention and control. As a practical manner, a messy desk moves urgent items to the top, while less pressing work gets pushed aside, so one can see how there actually may be order in the chaos.
So, don’t be so ashamed of your messy workspace. Embrace it as the necessary component of your creative and productive mind. Just maybe dump out that old coffee when you have a chance.