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Slobs Found To Be More Productive Than Neatniks 396

writertype writes "Are you a slob? Do you pile papers on top of folders on top of game boxes? Here's the thing that those anal neat people can't even conceive of: you're more productive than they are. That's the conclusion of "A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder," by Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman, a new book that argues neatness is overrated, costs money, wastes time and quashes creativity."
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Slobs Found To Be More Productive Than Neatniks

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  • Indeed? (Score:5, Funny)

    by wframe9109 ( 899486 ) * <bowker.x@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:28AM (#18428527)
    In other news: People with Anorexia found to be more productive than normal eaters.

    "It's quite ingenious!" exclaimed one researcher, "it seems that because Anorexics do not need to take time to eat, they are far more productive!"

    When asked whether health implications or possible mortality ensuing from Anorexia could negatively affect productivity, the researcher seemed angered, and left the interview.

    On a serious note. One can get a lot done when they don't have to deal with cleaning shit up. But there is a certain point at which the stench, impossibility of finding important items, and spousal/co-worker nagging will counter any increased productivity.

    • Re:Indeed? (Score:5, Informative)

      by hoshino ( 790390 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:39AM (#18428665) Homepage

      I think you are missing the point. Messy people aren't more productive because they save time on not clearing things up. The theory is that our brains are not organized in the same orderly manner as books on a library shelf. Our minds are actually quite messy and random, which allows us to be flexible and creative by linking seemingly unrelated things together in an instance. A messy desk may just be a physical manifestation of our thought process which is why we are more comfortable with it than with an unnatural sorting system.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by eh2o ( 471262 )
        No, that isn't it either. Technically, if the mind's organization system is internally random, then it does not matter if it is interacting with a system that is random or ordered, because it sees both as random. An ordered system cannot be any better or worse than a random one. (*)

        The real truth is that a messy desk is actually a vertical FIFO sort -- most recently used thing on top. Now I myself am a very organized person, but I also know that FIFO sort is basically the most productive organization str
    • Re:Indeed? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:45AM (#18428745)
      I've noticed this before. A colleague of mine tidies twice every day, at least 15 minutes in total. Everything must be neat and tidy and filed when he leaves his desk, even at lunchtime. He belives this makes him more productive and has said so to me.

      I tidy once per month. It may take me 2 hours to do. He's spent 7.5 hours tidying. I've spent 2... I guess that the extra 5.5 hours I get to put in are somehow ignored.
      As long as no one else starts interfering with my desk then I can find everything I need as a messy desk automatically sorts itself by usefulness order. If I use something a lot then it's towards the front of my desk. The less I use something the more it migrates to the back.

      Much of the time I end up working more slowly just after a tidy as I have to start fetching things back from files. The tidying processes main purpose is as a filter. If an item no longer needs to be on my desk (older paperwork ect) it will not return unlike the regular files which will have reappeared on my desk by the end of the week.
      • by DeadCatX2 ( 950953 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:59AM (#18429735) Journal
        Sounds sorta like a caching algorithm. As items are used, they are left on top. Temporal locality says that all the important items will be on top of the other items.

        But then we get a garbage collection algorithm, too. Every so often, the short-lived objects which are no longer important are removed in your tidying process.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Synchis ( 191050 )

          Sounds sorta like a caching algorithm. As items are used, they are left on top. Temporal locality says that all the important items will be on top of the other items.

          But then we get a garbage collection algorithm, too. Every so often, the short-lived objects which are no longer important are removed in your tidying process.

          Oh to see the world from a programmers eyes. :-D
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I think there's a lot of confusion between "messy" and "disorganized".

        When my desk is messy I'll have a coffee cup in a corner, some random scraps of paper, a router, a few network cables, a bag of combos, some twist ties... You get the idea. But it's organized messiness. I know where things are, I can find them, and I can work just fine.

        TFA mentions some poor person who experienced an intervention...their friends cleaned things up for them. Now they can't find anything...nothing is where it belongs. I
      • File cabinets seem to be blackholes. Once something goes in, it is just a record, not work. So, current projects take up desk space.

        This is quite different from the principle "a place for everything and everything in its place." Aboard ship you need to have everything stowed for safety and the ability to find things in a hurry.

        For very big thinkers like Bucky Fuller, a dymaxion file can work, but for me at least I need a dymaxion pile.

        For people interested in managing productivity it might be a goo
    • Re:Indeed? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Captain Splendid ( 673276 ) <<capsplendid> <at> <gmail.com>> on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:15AM (#18429195) Homepage Journal
      But there is a certain point at which the stench, impossibility of finding important items, and spousal/co-worker nagging will counter any increased productivity.

      Woah there. Messy!=dirty. My place might look like a hurricane hit it, but I keep it clean.
    • Re:Indeed? (Score:5, Informative)

      by rodney dill ( 631059 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:16AM (#18429213) Journal
      Dude (shaking head), People with Anorexia HAVE a disorder, they aren't necessarily organizing things in a disorderly fashion.

      As for me I'm set, I'm pretty messy
    • Re:Indeed? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AndyG314 ( 760442 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:25AM (#18429341) Homepage
      The secretary at a small doctors office I use to go to had a simple, disorginized and ingenously effective method of ordering her files on pacients. She kept all the pacient's files in a singe file. Whenever a paicent came in, she would search through the file for that pacient's chart, find it and give it to the doctor. When she recieved it back from the doctor she put it in the front. If you think of the worst case search time (the "Big O"), it was terrible(O(n) ), she might have to search through every single file to get to the one she wanted. But the avrage search time was very fast. Why? Because chances were very good that the file she was looking for was at the front of the file. Most of the time the same pacients came in over and over again, and their files stayed at the fron, making them easy to find. I only came in once a year, and my file was at the back, it took her a long time to find mine, but had to do it very infrequently, and she didn't have to search past mine to get to the files of her frequent visitors. This is a simple method of storing data, that requires a minimum of effort to maintain but is effective if certin critera are met: 1) Some things are used more frequently than others, and 2) the total number of things is not too large.
      Now consider the stack of papers on a slobs desk. Whenever he needs something in it, he searches through his pile. When he finds and finishes with it, what does he do? He's lazy so he just throws it on the top of the pile.
      Just something to think about...
    • "But there is a certain point at which the stench, impossibility of finding important items, and spousal/co-worker nagging will counter any increased productivity."

      And the sun revolves around the earth, I see it every day! ... How about doing some objective study instead of just pulling "data" out of your ass? The argument is that neatness hurts productivity. Although, the argument doesn't really matter, this book claims to have done a study. Indeed!
  • by timias1 ( 1063832 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:34AM (#18428593)
    The article is about clutter not hygiene.
    • And yet they would apply the same thinking. Why take a shower or brush your teeth? That just wastes time! It is far more productive to use that time to conceive of wonderously creative ways to explain to your parents why you still live in their basement.
      • To push this argument one step too far

        The time benefits of saving two minutes per day need to be offset against the productivity loss during periods of intense pain due to toothache, and time off for visits to the dentist.

        There is a similar argument about showering. Being unhygienic is unhealthy and therefore reduces the efficiency of your body. Proper maintenance of any machine is essential for maximum output.
        On the other hand the apparent chaos on my desk at work is actually the byproduct of multitaski
        • Interesting that your user name is "Sloth"...you're not biased are you? Three-toes = less productivity.

          A neatnik would take 15 minutes to shower and 3 minutes to brush teeth. So the total time saved in a year would be about 4 and a half days of time. Eventually all the teeth would fall out of the slob, so pain would only be temporary on that front.

          I completely agree that the shower/teeth brushing argument only cares about the immediate time savings, which is exactly what the article cares about. The
          • by fourchannel ( 946359 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @12:04PM (#18429815) Homepage
            There is no less time organizing = more time working, that is a mis-interpretation of the idea.

            The idea here is that a 'un-organized' person is not not un-organized. Instead this person's brain is able to keep much better tabs on where things are. Their memory serves as their reference base. Should they need something, they check their memory for its location, and knowing where it is, proceed to retrieve it. The aparant 'chaos' is not really a hindrance to a person who can literally sense where the things in his house are. There is no need to visually organize it, since visually organizing it would be an advantage to spot an item if you don't already know where it is. But since there people already know where the item is, visual organization never crosses their mind.

            I'm not an 'authority' on this, but I feel comfortable speaking on it since 1.) I have ADD, and 2.) I can relate and understand this kind of multitasking the brain does in other people with ADD.

            I hope that explains it better. =D
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            It might not be about saving time = more productivity. It might be that people of such a mind are just better workers because they're smarter.

            For example, their minds might not view trivialities such as a clean desk as being important.

            It's been decades since psychologists noted highly intelligent people tended to disdain rules as being set up for the common man.

            Higner intelligence --> more clutter and, coincidentally, more productive, better work.

            But it would require higher intelligence to see that link
  • Motivation (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:34AM (#18428597)
    My guess -- this article was written by a slob.
  • I knew it! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:35AM (#18428609) Homepage Journal
    Which is the perfect excuse to ask for a raise!

    "But, boss, you really have to admit that MY desk is much more messier than everyone else in this company! I demand more money! See here? We are talking about a freaking 3 DAYS OLD PIZZA, buried under papers and backup tapes for chrissake!!"

    I hasten to say that I already got a raise. I am just rehearsing for the end of the year review... ;-)

    • "But, boss, you really have to admit that MY desk is much more messier than everyone else in this company! I demand more money! See here? We are talking about a freaking 3 DAYS OLD PIZZA, buried under papers and backup tapes for chrissake!!"
      That seems to be a sound strategy.... Just be careful not to lift up the pile of papers and the shitload of folders you hid the Counter-Strike box under!
  • by Migraineman ( 632203 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:36AM (#18428611)

    Clean desk ... cluttered mind. [eom]
  • by macurmudgeon ( 900466 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:36AM (#18428615) Homepage
    I'm just to busy being productive and I can't remember which stack of papers my keyboard is under.
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman@ g m ail.com> on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:37AM (#18428629) Homepage Journal
    As usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. In my experience, being a bit messy can improve productivity by shunting unimportant tasks away from your center of attention. For example, if I receive a bunch of fluff memos, they're going in the kill-file pile until I get around to reading them in detail. (Which may never happen.) But I haven't disposed of them yet, so I can still retrieve them if necessary.

    The problem is that if you let the mess grow too large, it *WILL* impact your ability to operate efficiently. So every once in a while you need to do a house cleaning of your different paper stacks, your email, your desktop files, and whatever other info you use on a regular basis.

    Which gets me to another point. It's not that the "slobs" aren't organized. In fact, they may have a very good organization system. It's just that they allow the system to be strained to the breaking point before reorganizing. For example, I might start with an email folder called "work". That's going to grow too large in short order. But when it does grow too large, then it becomes clear whether it makes more sense to reorganize around department or by project. So I organize around the most effective order until that order also breaks down.

    My point is that order is a good thing. It merely comes in many forms.

    On another note, I absolutely love the way GMail handles my email. Rather than moving things to different folders automatically (where I'll never even realize that new messages have arrived), its tagging and filtering system allows me to auto-tag emails from mailing lists, board members, fellow project workers, etc. So I can view it in my inbox, then archive it without having to worry that I'll never find it again. The result is that my GMail account has kept more organized than any other email account that I've ever used. Now if only I could get a time machine to obtain time to respond to the lower-priority stuff. :-P
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Stooshie ( 993666 )

      I completely agree. Everyone has their own system. People with messy desks don't just shove stuff anywhere. They put it where they will find it again.

      This has all been discussed before in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance [wikipedia.org].

      • by flynt ( 248848 )
        Yes, ZatAoMM was the first thing I thought of when I read this, too. I'm going to read that book again.
    • by hackstraw ( 262471 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:03AM (#18429007)
      As usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. In my experience, being a bit messy can improve productivity by shunting unimportant tasks away from your center of attention. For example, if I receive a bunch of fluff memos, they're going in the kill-file pile until I get around to reading them in detail. (Which may never happen.) But I haven't disposed of them yet, so I can still retrieve them if necessary.

      I agree with most everything said, but to add my 2 cents, I believe that moderate messyness is good because it works like a cache and a priority queue.

      If I am a neat freak and put everything away, then its a waste of time to continually get and put away what I'm working with. Think of this like a cache.

      Now for the priority queue, when I'm a little messy, the important stuff floats to the top. As the mess gets higher and deeper, after a while the stuff on the bottom becomes unimportant, and can then be cleaned up (similar to garbage collection).

      The problem is that if you let the mess grow too large, it *WILL* impact your ability to operate efficiently. So every once in a while you need to do a house cleaning of your different paper stacks, your email, your desktop files, and whatever other info you use on a regular basis.

      So true. Again with my computer analogy, this is when you have TLB misses, or cache misses, or you are thrashing your swap. All of those things are OK if its not a chronic problem, but if it is a chronic problem, well then, its a chronic problem.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by icydog ( 923695 )

        Now for the priority queue, when I'm a little messy, the important stuff floats to the top. As the mess gets higher and deeper, after a while the stuff on the bottom becomes unimportant, and can then be cleaned up (similar to garbage collection).

        ---

        The problem is that if you let the mess grow too large, it *WILL* impact your ability to operate efficiently. So every once in a while you need to do a house cleaning of your different paper stacks, your email, your desktop files, and whatever other info you

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) *

          So, if you let it become too cluttered, your priority queue degrades into a bubble sort?

          Actually, it's more of a Most Recently Used sort. The more recent the item, the more likely it is to be at the top of the pile. Which gives a best-case search time of O(1) and a worst-case search time of O(n). Average search time is application dependent, but it's usually quite good.

          Another algorithm that I love using is Generational Garbage Collection. Unimportant stuff that I've downloaded or have created quickly gets

  • by oliverthered ( 187439 ) <olivertheredNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:38AM (#18428651) Journal
    Slobs are more productive when there's only one person (the slob) working on something, when you start having more than one person working on a job then you'll probably find the tidy people start overtaking the slobs quite quickly.
    • There is being messy and then there is organized which are very different. An organized person can be messy. So working in a group a person with a messy desk but yet still can share information easlly with other people. Working in groups requres a degree of working by yourself and working with other. You keep the information that you are working with others available to the others and information that you work on youself available to yourself then you are all set.
    • Only if they are all "tidy" the same way ... if one "tidy" person believes that everything under the sun should be alphabetically sorted, and another believes it should all be chronologically sorted .. I'm willing to bet there may be more serious issues than if one of them was working with the "slob"
    • by Strange Ranger ( 454494 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @02:35PM (#18432365)
      Slobs are more productive when there's only one person (the slob) working on something, when you start having more than one person working on a job then you'll probably find the tidy people start overtaking the slobs quite quickly.

      This is why I was so effective a slob bachelor, but can't find sh*t as a married man.

      Wife: "Why can't you put things away?!"
      Me: "Why can't you leave my stuff where I put it?! Stop moving stuff around!"
      Wife: "How can you find anything when it's all over the place?"
      Me: "When I was a bachelor I knew where everything was. The reason I can't find anything now is that you keep moving things around!"

      AARRGH! This same thing must play out in so many households. Of course it's always the "messy" person who's "at fault".
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:39AM (#18428659)
    FTFA: "When you're disorganized, it's an expense you have no control over, the cost in lost productivity," Izsak said. "You're losing money if you're not organized."

    As a veteran "messy" person I see the deep flaw in quotes about productivity losses due to disorganization. Neatness does not imply productive ease of access and mess does not imply disorganization. I know where things are on my mess of a desk. And every single time I waste time "organizing" it, I then waste time trying to find stuff.

    For me, and for other messy-deskers, neatness is the antithetical to productivity.
    • Remember the johnson report you created three weeks ago? I WANT THAT ON MY DESK IN 5 MINUTES OR YOU ARE FIRED BECAUSE WE WILL BE SUED!

      You have been WTFPWNED by messy-desk.
      • Maybe you missed the following line from grandparent:

        I know where things are on my mess of a desk.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by digitig ( 1056110 )

        Remember the johnson report you created three weeks ago? I WANT THAT ON MY DESK IN 5 MINUTES OR YOU ARE FIRED BECAUSE WE WILL BE SUED!

        "But it already is on your desk, under the pile of unread finance magazines and your coffee mug, between the leaving card for the guy who left last month that you've not signed yet and all those unpaid invoices!"

        But I do believe that a really tidy desk is a sure sign that the owner doesn't have enough to do.

    • by Otter ( 3800 )
      Neatness does not imply productive ease of access and mess does not imply disorganization.

      In fairness, Izsak makes exactly that point a few sentences above. It's the guys promoting their book, with their made-up "findings", who are blurring the difference between the two.

      • In fairness, Izsak makes exactly that point a few sentences above. It's the guys promoting their book, with their made-up "findings", who are blurring the difference between the two.

        No doubt both sides overplay their hand in promoting their beliefs of the costs/benefits of neatness/messiness. It always amuses me how everyone thinks that "normal" comes in one flavor. Perhaps its actually due to excessive empathy -- neat people shudder at the thought of living the messy-person's life and messy-people shu
  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:39AM (#18428661) Homepage Journal
    time being spent on the upkeep of said neatness:

    "People who are really, really neat, between what it takes to be really neat at the office and at home, typically will spend anywhere from an hour to four hours a day just organizing and neatening," he said.

    Why not automate your neatness instead? I am a very messy person, which is actually one reason I like my mac. iTunes automatically organizes my music collection in a very accessible manner, with a few rules applied to mail I can quickly organize all my email messages, with expose I can find the window I need with the touch of a button(since I tend to leave too many open), and with spotlight I can quickly find the version of my resume I want to use with just a few terms. I am much more productive because I can be neat without having to slave over it. Time saving and neatness aren't mutually exclusive.
  • Chaos (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JoeRandomHacker ( 983775 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:42AM (#18428703)
    True personal clutter amounts to a chaotic system based on the mental patterns of the clutterer. There is a pattern in the chaos, but the initial state and the chaos function are in the mind of the creator, so while to any outside observer it just looks like a mess, to the creator it makes perfect sense.
    • Re:Chaos (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:08AM (#18429101) Journal
      This is probably the most insightful post on the topic so far. The key to productiviy is that the producer must be able to catalog the information for efficient retrieval. Filing cabinets and stacks and folders are all very good storge methods for retrieval, especially when there is more than one individual involved. But for an individual project, someone who can remember where everything is in a "mess" by using their own mental filing index can be just as efficient, and moreso if the retrieval of the information takes less time than waliking to a defined filing area.

      The danger of this is that you are zero fault tolerant - one bus (or lottery ticket, for you optimists) is all it takes to cause a significant setback in the project schedule. It also reduces parallelism on projects which require the coordination of many people who must access the information on a regular basis.

      I am, admitedly, a piler, and I have a very large desk (3'x8' plus a 3'x4' section for the computer) but I find that beyond a certain level of randomness I lose efficiency. I keep things out so I don't forget about them, but it make it very difficult for the others in my office to find things. I have to let my efficiency suffer a small amount by filing things, but the overall productivity of the office increases when I do so.
  • by slaker ( 53818 )
    My desk is covered by a six inch high mound of papers, optical discs and spare kit (no food, contrary to the accusations of other people), but I can find anything I want in that pile in under 15 seconds. The only thing that actually messes me up is when co-workers put things on my desk and don't tell me. I have an in-box on my door for that, but they like to stick things on my desk anyway, just so it can be my fault when I don't know about some new item.
    • by slaker ( 53818 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:45AM (#18428743)
      Clutter hint:
      Switch to a trackball as your primary pointing device. That way you'll have an extra square foot or so of horizontal desk surface on which to pile things!
      • Or, speed up your mouse pointer so you're not waving your arm all over the desk to get the pointer to go across the screen. Set it up fast enough, and just flexing your fingers on the mouse will do anything you need.
  • Whether a messy person is more productive than a neat one depends on several factors, which the summary and article fail to mention -- I have no idea if the book touches on them.

    1. Method of maintaining neatness. The article talks about time wasted maintaining neatness, and says that neatniks spend 1-4 hours per day on this. But I didn't see any discussion of time spent looking for lost items, nor did I see any mention of time-saving organizational techniques such as "handle it once" or file-as-you-go.
    • Agreed, particularly on the method of maintaining neatness. Personally, I subscribe to the "everything has a place" method. Once you're done using something, put it back where it came from (or where it is supposed to go) rather than just placing it wherever. You never have to actually set aside time to tidy up, since you're in a perpetual state of tidiness. Really, this can translate into either ordered messiness (which is what most people seem to agree would be productive) or tidiness. In either state, it
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Belial6 ( 794905 )
        "Once you're done using something, put it back where it came from (or where it is supposed to go) rather than just placing it wherever. You never have to actually set aside time to tidy up, since you're in a perpetual state of tidiness."

        This is one of the myths that tidy people tend to believe. It looks like a truth on the face, as the statements are technically true, but you must remember that 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 5. If you spend one minute each time you put something away, you didn't save that time, y
  • Not surprising (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Per Wigren ( 5315 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:44AM (#18428733) Homepage
    In the places I've worked, people's desks' messiness has been quite proportionate to their tech knowledge and productivity. They have been the most skilled, most productive, and also often the most humble and nice. Yet usually they are the ones least appreciated by the bosses...
    • It is not causitive relationship. It is a correlation. There are a high percentage of tech job workers that feel organization is lower priority than writing lines of code or whatever their job is. There are software engineers who feel that it is unnecessary neatness to use source control...and then the tower of half filled mt. dew cans topples over on their computer nuking everything and they take the day off because they no longer have anything to work on.
  • This is nonsense. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:44AM (#18428735)
    It sounds to me like someone is trying to justify their sloppiness.

    Visit an organized, smoothly operating factory; everything is neat and clean. Go so a good mechanic; the shop is organized and neat. From personal experience I have yet to deal with a slob that is exceptionally productive.

    This is yet another example of cause and effect getting mixed up. I tend to keep my work and living space neat. I have trouble focusing when things are too much of a mess. More importantly, if things are disorganized I end up wasting too much time trying to find what I need. However, when I get busy, when I'm under a tight deadline, I tend to leave things a mess. I have more important things to do than to worry about cleaning up.

    If anything, a mess is counter-productive. Again, I submit an example from personal experience. My father tends to be very disorganized with his tools. His office and workshop are both a mess. Although he will always insist he can find anything he needs if no one disrupts his mess. But then he'll spend twice as long working on something because he can't find tool he needs. And I can't count the times he's spent ages looking for something buried under all his paperwork.

    So it's not necessarily that slobs are more productive, but that these people are possibly too busy to clean up. The guy who's workspace is always excessively neat probably has too much free time on his hands. I certainly believe that, but it doesn't mean slobs are somehow more productive.
    • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman@ g m ail.com> on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:55AM (#18428903) Homepage Journal

      Go so a good mechanic; the shop is organized and neat.

      I respectfully disagree with you on this point. Some of the best mechanics I've seen have spare parts, dismantled vehicles, and toolboxes seemingly strewn about in a haphazard fashion. Yet they can diagnose and repair an issue inside 15 minutes. They even know how to bring a past-its-prime vehicle back from the dead.

      On the other hand, the corporate meathead mechanics (who couldn't diagnose a flat tire without a computer telling them that it's flat) tend to keep incredibly clean shops. All their tools are put away neatly, old parts are never kept as spares, oil is cleaned up as soon as its spilled, and all the new parts are safely warehoused in their original boxes. Very neat and tidy, but utterly useless to the customer. Especially when it takes then three and a half hours to put a new battery in a vehicle. :-/
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SharpFang ( 651121 )
      Go to a big, neat, shiny computer shop. A sexy blonde welcomes you and asks how she can help you. You'll get some common hardware for excessive price, you'll get dismissed ordering something more fancy and unusual, you will hear meaningless marketspeak as answers to your technical questions. The computer breaks, and you find you failed to fulfill some formality and your warranty is invalid.

      When you enter a computer shop and see computer cases stacked to the roof, overhanging you, endangering you with colla
    • by King_TJ ( 85913 )
      I have to disagree. The real issue is not the level of neatness you see, but the way an individual handles the organizational process. For example, my office at home is rather messy (at least by a neat person's standards). But it doesn't get in my way unless one of two things happen. A.) Another person starts working with my things, putting things in different places than I had them originally. Or B.) I'm not paying attention when I put things down.

      As others posted here, neatness and organization star
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tim Browse ( 9263 )

      Again, I submit an example from personal experience

      Say it with me: "The plural of anecdote is not data."

  • While i want my house CLEAN - it is about as organized as any insane emu on acid would have anything organized. i mean i will clean house, but if i find a stack of papers or books or CDs, the just go into a stack. also, i don't hold on to a lot of things, i give away and throw away a lot of crap i don't use or need. that being said, clutter doesn't bother me that much. filth, on the other hand, bothers me.
  • by aicrules ( 819392 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:47AM (#18428783)
    But I can't count the number of times that either being more of a neatnik about something has saved me a huge headache or if I had been more organized how much of a headache I could have avoided.

    Yes, if everything goes well then NOT taking the time to follow proper procedures will save you loads of time. However, proper procedures are there because when things go wrong (and they always do) you save more than just time. While the study may try to account for the time saved by being neat as not overcoming the time lost, a straight time-to-time comparison just doesn't cut it. For example, on Project A the Project Manager ensures that everyone follows a strict quality assurance plan. On Project B they let everyone handle their own quality and just trust that it is happening. Project A takes two weeks longer to deliver than originally anticipated because of some random occurence. Project B was affected by the same random occurence but launched early because they didn't go through a quality assurance process. Client suddenly realizes that Project B only half works and fumes but there's time to fix it. Project B then launches on-time (instead of early) after fixes. Even assuming Project B doesn't require additional fixes, Project A is better off because the client received a quality product the first time.

    And furthermore, saying neat squashes creativity is the true slobs excuse for not trying. If your creative process is so fragile that it requires things to be cluttered all over the place, you're creative value is NILL.

    Anyway, I doubt there will be too many people here who agree with this study, though there can certainly be cases where neatness is taken too far.
  • by Canthros ( 5769 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @10:49AM (#18428819)
    It's just an efficient hashing algorithm.
  • by dkf ( 304284 )
    I must've maxed out my productivity then...
  • If a messy desk is the sign of a messy mind, what is the empty desk a sign of?

    Messy desk owners unite!
  • I'm a neatnik at heart, but a slob in practice.
  • I find that being a slob helps exercise my 3d spacial awareness skills. No kidding. I know where things are in my piles 'o' crap and can usually retrieve them instantly by plunging a hand in and grabbing them. It's an O(1) retrieval. Of course, when I forget it becomes O(n^2), but we don't discuss such things in polite company. :)
  • About 3 months ago our boss tagged us to get our office and network lab spotless and to throw out all the "junk we don't need." So far I have found that in our need to be really clean we threw away at least $5000 worth of stuff that was needed for future projects. Has anyone eles had problems like this.
  • NAPO? (Score:2, Funny)

    by GBC ( 981160 ) *
    Who knew there was a National Association of Professional Organizers ("The Organizing Authority® Since 1985")? [www.napo.net]

    Don't bother to RTFA. That was the only interesting thing in what is an incredibly lame piece of writing (presumably with a worse book to come).

    So, now that I have saved you some time, clean your desk!

  • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:10AM (#18429127) Journal
    Neatness is antithesis of creativity. While Clutter yields (at times) unexpected serendipitous convergence of seemingly un-related items.

    My mother was a neat freak. A place for everything, and everything in its place. She could never understand how I knew where everything was in my piles of messes. Nor could she understand how I saw patterns in the seemingly random piles of stuff.

    The time it finally hit me, was when I was looking for one thing or another (I don't remember the specifics, this was 25-30 years ago), I saw two things together, which suddenly gave me a brilliant idea of combination.

    Now, if everything was in its place ...ect ... there would be no way I could have seen the new pattern. It would have been impossible. But because I saw the two things together, and saw something I never realized before, I was able to create some new idea.

    Its like that movie Working Girl where the Melanie Griffith's charactor describes putting two un-related items together to solve a problem. In that case it was a wedding and someone wanting to get into TV Station Ownership.

    Creativity often requires the serendipity of a confluence of unrelated items.
  • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @11:11AM (#18429149)
    I bet I'm not the only one with a significant other that drives them nuts by tidying up all the time. A typical conversation might go something like this:

    Me [settling down to watch a movie]: Where is the HMDI lead?

    Her Wherever you last left it.

    Me I left it on the floor behind the TV.

    Her Well I haven't touched it.

    Me You must have, it can't have moved itself.

    Her I definately haven't moved it. You're always loosing things.

    Me Do you even know what it is?

    Her What is it?

    Me It's a black cable. It was on the floor behind the TV.

    Her Oh, I might have put it in one of the boxes in the shed.

    Me [angry] So now I've got to put my shoes on and go out into the cold to look through all the boxes in the shed!

    Her Don't blame me! You're the untidy one that is always loosing things...
  • It may look like a bunch of piles of paper, but it's actually a distributed, chronologically ordered, stack-based filing system. Statistically, the most recently viewed/changed file will need to be accessed the most frequently in the short term, so those files are kept near the top of the file stack for quicker access.

    Files further down on the stack are, of course, compressed.
    =Smidge=
  • There are two kinds of "Messy": those who know where everything is, and those who don't.

    For some people, the "mess" is actually a highly efficient personal organizing system. These people have huge stacks of papers in seemingly random locations, but they know exactly where a particular document is within those stacks and piles. If someone were to go in and "organize" their office, they would be completely lost and their productivity would suffer (as described in the article).

    Then there are other people (lik
  • I have a feeling that this is going to find itself posted in a whole lot of offices and cubicles......
  • i am not a neat-freak, a cluttered desk with papers & CDroms does not bother me = i don't nitpick the appearance of my desk, on the other hand i am not a slob, i don't leave pizza crust & half eaten donuts laying around to attract bugs, somewhere in between those two extremes is my happy medium...
  • I'm easily the messiest person in my office, and as others have elaborated, I know generally where everything I need is located. There seem to be two aspects to clutter or messes: the items themselves, and the physical location of the items. Without any items, there is no mess, and therein lies my key to being messy, yet productive... I throw away absolutely everything that isn't important or replaceable. This still leaves some items strewn across my desk, but not a ton of stuff, so it doesn't look like I'm
  • I always show up at pro-environment protests with a big sign that reads "POLLUTION CREATES JOBS"
  • Different people require different levels of organization to be productive. Unless a person spends a lot of time searching for misplaced documents, forcing them to be organized isn't going to make them more productive. Likewise, if a person needs to maintain strict order to be able to find things, then they aren't going to become more productive by being disorganized.

    I have a really good memory. I rarely take notes and I seldom need to reference old documents as I am able to pull information out of my h

  • One mans' trash can, is another mans' organizer ?
  • The Wife (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blazer1024 ( 72405 ) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @12:52PM (#18430577)
    My wife is a neatnik. She always likes things in order.

    However, she is the most productive worker in her department... as long as her desk stays organized.

    If things get slightly out of order, it takes her several hours to get things back the way she wants it, and occasionally she feels that her design isn't 100% efficient, so she'll reorganize. Once she's satisfied, she switches into high speed and rarely makes mistakes.

    At home, her desk is a mess. Go figure :)

We can found no scientific discipline, nor a healthy profession on the technical mistakes of the Department of Defense and IBM. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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