How do you react to stressful times? Some people drink, others yell at their kids, and some just shut down. I clean.
One day last week the work stress just kept coming. Situation after situation began to pile up at my doorstep with no easy answers. An HR situation pops up. A boss is giving direction. Customers are complaining. Expectations are rising at work and there is little training or support available for my staff. Fixes are possible, but will be difficult to build and harder to support in the longer term.
I’m sitting in my office, listening to the desk phone ring while I talk with a customer on my cell phone. I’m not exactly loving my life at this minute, and then it hits me: my office looks like crap. There are piles of paper that need to be filed, folders of projects that are stacked on the desk corner, and three or four more piles of documents that should have been reviewed and filed months ago according to someone else, except that nothing ever came up that required me to know one jot of info from those papers. I’m getting angrier at the inability to solve any of my problems by the minute, and swipe at a pile of papers to get it out of my way…and it landed in the trash can next to my desk. Suddenly it hits me: I don’t need most of the junk lying around in my office.
The pile of “important documents” is discarded first. Hey, if I haven’t needed them in four months I probably won’t need them ever, and if I do I will I get them from someplace else. Next, the stuff on the credenza across the room. I discover after I moved the piles there an outline in dust left behind where they sat. Next comes the credenza behind me with several months worth of filing to do and folders of old projects that need to be put away, so I file and put away for the next 20 minutes. Now back to my desk. I begin sorting and organizing, but mostly just trash-canning (if there is such a word) until my desk is almost empty.
Next comes the computer. When I started my job swap almost three years (sounds permanent to me, yes?) I didn’t ask for a new desk or furniture; it was just a temporary assignment, right? My keyboard had been “installed” on top of my desk, which was about six inches too high to be remotely comfortable. I’m sick of that, too, so I shut down the PC, unplugged everything, and moved the computer off to the floor below the desk so it can’t be seen anymore. The dual monitor setup is also moved off to the side to the credenza (I have a lot of those, it seems) that has a keyboard pullout drawer underneath. Finally, a comfortable keyboard arrangement! I move the phone over, too, so it’s on the left and reachable, then break out the cleaning supplies to get rid of all the left-behind dust bunnies and the dust outlines left from all the stacks I’ve moved. Finally I finish by reinstalling the dual monitors and reconnecting everything under my desk, and now if someone sits across from me I don’t have to peek at them over the top of a computer.
Once all of this was finished I stopped for a moment to look at what I did. My trashcan is overflowing, but my desk is spotless (or at least not bad looking for a thirty-year old piece of junk). Much open space if available now on the desk and the credenzas. I put away the last of the CD’s that turned up unexpectedly (thought I lost that Dave Matthews Band!), rearranged the family pics on the credenza behind me, and then took a deep breath. I may not be able to straighten out my life, or my work, or my coworkers, but at least my desk looks better.
Rule #27 of 29 Ways to Stay Creative is “Clean your workspace”. It’s also a good way to feel like you accomplished something. It may not be world peace or a cure for cancer, but at least it’s a clean, neat place to work. Some days that is all you get.