Monday, 19 October 2009

6 more reasons why being tidy and organised encourages high performance

I was sent a quote recently:
Disorganization wins! (Love the mess!) - Tom Peters
Now I’m all for free speech (even opinionated free speech), but I have to say my opinion differs here. Whilst there may be some brilliant folk who work in a disorganized mess, I suspect they are few and far between. For the rest of us who want to excel in our chosen field, there are compelling reasons to be tidy and organised:
  1. You can find things. So basic, but so important! Whether it is in your filing system (or lack of it), hard disk, or the bottom of your briefcase, inability to find things is uncomfortable, annoying, inconvenient and can sometimes royally mess things up. Having a place for everything, and putting most things in their place, spreads calm and organisation. And sooner or later you will think of looking for it in your filing system.
  2. Work on current priorities. Mess and disorganisation hides out of date priorities we are unwilling to let go. My paper filing cabinet is small; holding only 15 or so files. If it doesn’t fit, I have to go through and figure out what can be thrown out. It’s a great way of ensuring I don’t have too many projects on the go at the same time, and that out of date stuff gets thrown away. If only my hard disk were that limited!
  3. Make better decisions. The late Randy Pausch was adamant that his students’ email inbox was not their To Do list. Organising, reorganising, prioritising and planning may sound like more work but it produces better results because you work on what’s important and not just what’s in front of you at this moment.
  4. Improved focus. It’s easier to focus if you have everything you need all together, without stuff pulling at your attention. I have a VERY small desk which is designed to be super ergonomic for computer users, but a BIG benefit is that I can’t have much on my desk at a time.
  5. Where there is mastery, there is no mystery. This came from the tag on my spicy tea bag, and it made me smile because it’s true. To master something you have to understand it, and you can’t understand it if it is scattered all around your office. Or am I missing something Mr Peters?
  6. It gives a sense of control. Whether it is a real or imagined sense of control, I suggest doesn’t really matter. What matters is the frame of mind in which we do our work. Clutter and disorganisation are not great reminders of the importance of turning out high quality work.
There are probably many other benefits besides the ones I have listed, and I’d love to hear of others – either for or against.


  1. Hi Caroline

    Now you know I like a challenge so apon reading your latest thoughts I wondered what I might say, if anything that is?

    To be organsied or not, was the question I think?

    When one is less structured one can often find things in ones random wanderings that may in our tidy world have lain untroubled for ever and be an inspiration when discovered by chance.

    The act of bringing structure is often benificial and an eye opener to our cluttered world.It has to get cluttered first though.

    Order is possibly constraining and could be viewed as a success when in fact it adds no value on its own.It is the thoughts we have that make the difference.

    Are we trying too hard to structure a brain that in reality is both of these worlds and thrives as east(LH) and west(RH) do on challenges and spurious thoughts.

    As always not the answer rather possibly a different perspective. Maybe we can think in colours,shapes or dots rather than lists?


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