Clean desk, clean mind

In anticipation of our baby arriving in four weeks, I moved from what was formerly my office and now baby room to Julia’s office. It happened quickly one morning to accommodate some carpentry work being done in my office, so Julia didn’t have time to vacate before I moved in. It was an amusing office change because Julia’s desk was a total shit show. It was covered in papers, sticky notes, half-burnt candles, and random unused electronics. Not a great environment to begin the working day.

To rewind a few years, Onex underwent a major office renovation while I was working there. About two years in, the renovation was completed, and I moved into a gorgeous new private office at the top of Brookfield Place overlooking Toronto Island and the CN tower. It was a fantastic perk of working there. When we moved into the new offices, we were informed that Gerry (the founder) had one hard rule he expected everyone in a private office to follow: nothing was to be left out or be visible on the desks when you went home at night. This was met with eye rolling and frustration from most employees, myself included. A lot of my day was spent reading research, presentations, and taking written notes. I generally worked with a lot of hard copy paper and prior to moving into the new office most of my desktop real estate was occupied by stacks of it. If the expectation is I’m working into all hours of the evening then why should the senior team care how much stuff is on my desk?

Despite my grumbling, I complied with the request to clear my desk each night. At first, I did the bare minimum: I would re-locate stacks of paper into a filing cabinet at night and pull them all out again and spread them across my desk every morning. This became tedious. So over time, I started to sort, dispose, and recycle contents more frequently so the volume of ‘stuff’ on my desk was more manageable.

And then over the course of a few months, I began to really appreciate coming in and starting my day with a clean desk every morning. It turned into a habit I’ve maintained since. Having a clean and organized desk helps the mind feel clean and organized. At least it does for me. I’m grateful for being forced into the habit. If your desk looks like Julia’s, give it a try for a week and see how you feel.