Clean desk, happy life

Chris Esh


The key to creativity and bold thinking is a focused, uncluttered mind. And the key to an uncluttered mind is an uncluttered workspace, in both your physical and digital spaces.

Sure we’ve all known successful people that are complete slobs with workspaces with every square inch piled with documents and other crap, but they are successful in spite of their messiness, not because of it.

I’m not naturally an organized person, but little by little I’m teaching myself to become one because of the tangible benefits in terms of productivity, creativity, and wellbeing.

Your mammal brain is highly attuned to scanning your visual field for new input. The more sensory input and distractions you leave in front of you, the more brain resources you use watching for threats and opportunities. Let your mammal brain rest and devote your mental resources to the important task you want to focus on.

Clean your desk

First, when you arrive at your desk in the morning, take a few moments to tidy up your space. Put stuff away you don’t need and aim to keep as little in front of you as possible.

Close inactive applications and tabs

Only keep tabs and applications open for the current task at hand! This is the biggest game-changer I’ve found. I often leave windows open of things I need to get to soon, but every time I see it, it sucks a bit of energy and fills me with dread. Seeing all these other waiting tasks often leads me to switch from one to the next, a huge waste of energy.

Every time you switch tasks, close down all your windows and open the ones you need.

Use an external monitor

Use a large monitor, ideally two, so you can organize all of the applications you need for any given task on a single 2D plane. Staking windows on top of each other wastes time every time you need to go digging.

Use a to-do list

Have a reliable to-do list where you put items that need to be tended to, rather than leaving windows open or having dozens of unread emails.

I like Todoist, but there are plenty of other great to-do list apps out there. Or you can just use a document or physical notebook and pen!

Feel less insane!

Cutting out the mindless task switching greatly improves productivity, but more importantly, it makes you feel far more sane and in control of your life. If you don’t practice good desktop hygiene you’re probably used to feeling mentally fried at the end of the day. Try this stuff for a week let me know how much less insane you feel.


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