Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Clear desk policy

Do you have friends who manage to give presents that are just so RIGHT? I have one such friend – and she is a marvel at choosing wonderful, wonderful books. For years we have exchanged Christmas and Birthday presents – mostly books because we are both total bookworms.

It’s always fun – in amongst the serious presents are the occasional daft ones. “Is Your Cat Gay” comes to mind as being particularly silly.

This year I was given “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. Some of you may know that he was a Professor in Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University who died of Pancreatic Cancer last year. It’s a fascinating little book that has some great insights. He delivered his Last Lecture knowing he had only months to live. It’s a pretty popular video on YouTube if you want to look it up.

One of the things Randy Pausch was extremely keen on was Time Management. Even before his illness he felt strongly that you can always make more money, but you can never get back wasted time. He tutored PhD students, and imparted his time management advice as part of his teaching.

He has some interesting things to say about tidy desks:

Clutter is death, it leads to thrashing.
Keep a clear desk; focus on one thing at a time.
A good filing system is essential

Judging by his work - projects and publications – as well as his popularity amongst students, he was successful in his field. He was passionate about time management and had a whole host of ways to stop his time being wasted on activities that would not further his goals. If that makes him sound clinical, I don’t believe he was. He spent time making soft toys (he had worked for Disney so wasn’t afraid of the child within) and had a young family.

Time, he said, is the only commodity that matters. Piercing words from a dying man, but ultimately we are all dying: most of us just don’t know when.

I’m writing this at a beautifully clear desk, but I admit it’s an on-going process. Clutter is death? His words are strong, but his message clear. And it's one I am increasingly agreeing with.

12 comments:

  1. Where I stand now on clear desk policy, and where I stood before reading this article are two very different places. Although my observation is that the enforcemewnt of "Clean Desk Policies" by corporations is motivated by very different drivers than that of Pausch. And Pausch is the one I would pledge allegiance to. Have to go and clear my late night desk...

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  2. i believe the environment that surrounds me, the one i've created, like my desk top, is a physical manifestation of the state of my mind. if it's clear, then I'm clear and focussed. if it's a mess, well... I have to say I do start every day with a clear desk, but I never end the day with a clear desk - that's the nature of work/creativity. I'd like to know more about that essential filing system caroline, something which i wrestle with constantly. how do you manage it?

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