It’s sometimes a struggle to refrain from audibly gasping when, either in person or via a screenshare, I get a look at the desktop of someone’s screen and see it crowded by a mix of folders and individual files. I don’t understand how that isn’t impossibly distracting and frustrating for someone, having all those files just sitting there.
So this piece about how “desktop zero” is apparently the latest aspirational workplace goal was both alien and relatable to me. The author has some good thinking about how to manage what winds up on your desktop and not let it get overwhelming, but that assumes you’ve let it get to the verge of being just that in the first place.
There’s a long-lived philosophy that equates cluttered physical spaces with cluttered mental spaces and clean, organized physical spaces with clean, organized mental spaces. In my experience, that’s sometimes true and sometimes not. There are people I’ve known who never miss a beat whose workspaces make me want to cry and those with physical spaces a Spartan would envy who can’t concentrate on a thought for more than two minutes.
Basically, everyone has their own productivity best practices. There are endless lists online on how to do more in less time, stay on task when confronted with differing and shifting priorities and so on. But it comes down to doing what works for you and making it a consistent routine you follow.
If adding files to your desktop is done intentionally and with a plan for review and removal, that’s great. That’s part of the “desktop zero” philosophy, it seems. That’s no different from any other system. I’m using bullet journaling right now, moving away from using my inbox as a To Do list. That was a major improvement in my professional organization and productivity. There are other systems that have been utilized for different things. Some people may prefer to add files they need to review to the folders they actually belong to and use a bullet journal or online productivity tool to create reminders to pull their attention back to them.
Despite my headline, there is certainly an organizational bent to this in addition to a productivity-based perspective. If you know where something is you can find it easier when someone comes asking for it or you need to retrieve it at a later date. Recently I went through a huge batch of files and redid the file folder structure almost from scratch because I realized the system I had in place was dumb. Might have made sense at the time, but it didn’t now.
Don’t get hung up on “desktop zero” or “inbox zero” or any other more or less arbitrary goal or system. Just put a system in place that works for you and results in you getting everything done in the time it’s expected and you’ll be fine. In the meantime, try to ignore the gasps from coworkers who can’t believe you’d ever allow your desktop to become that cluttered.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.