A quick way to tackle your messy desk while focusing on progress and not perfection

Messy desks. They’re a distraction that you want to clean up, but it feels like a HUGE project.

And honestly, it probably is, or you’d already have cleaned it.

A couple of years ago, my desk was in quite a state. It has a large surface area, and every bit of it was covered.

I wanted to clean it up because I knew it was distracting me, but I felt these things stood in my way:

  • I needed a system for the business cards that were piling up on my desk so they wouldn’t start piling up again.
  • I needed to remove old papers from my file cabinet to make room for the new ones.
  • I wanted to update how I filed things in the file cabinet.
  • I needed to make decisions about where I was going to store some larger items.

The list goes on and on.

To sum it up, there were systems, processes, and lots of decisions that needed to be made in the process of cleaning off my desk.

Cleaning off my desk felt important, but all those other things didn’t.

In a fit of frustration one day, I grabbed a laundry basket and put everything that I didn’t want to stay on my desk into the basket.

It felt so good!

My desk was clean in under 10 minutes.

Yes, basically, I had moved my mess to a different location, but it worked for me. The main problems where addressed: my desk was clean and I didn’t spend 2 hours cleaning it that I felt would be better spent elsewhere.

For the next month or so, the basket sat behind me. If I needed anything, it was easily accessible.

Then, one Sunday afternoon, I spent a couple of hours going through the basket and putting things away. 

When I’ve shared this story with people who have told me they’re frustrated with the state of their desk, it’s like a weight has been lifted from their shoulders. Or a big project they felt like they should do, but didn’t have time to do, was removed from their to-do list.

Sometimes we need permission to do something imperfectly and still enjoy the result we wanted!

If you need this, I give you permission!

In this example, cleaning my desk perfectly involved lots of time and decisions. Yet, I was able to get the ultimate result I wanted in a fraction of the time by not being tied to the way I thought it had to be done.

Yes, I still did that work over the next couple of months, but I was able to do it without the guilt and give myself time to figure out systems and processes that worked for me.

Is there an area in your business or life that keeps nagging you? How might you more quickly get the result you want by doing it imperfectly? Share in the comments!