National Clean Off Your Desk Day – A Different Perspective
For as long as I can remember, people have promised themselves, their business associates, their personal family members and others to improve their performance and results each year with a series of resolutions. These promises to "do better" are hardly new, as online research[i] shows:
- Ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.
- The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, namesake for January
- Knights in the Medieval era took an annual "peacock vow" at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry
- Christians prepare for the year ahead by praying and making these resolutions at late night Christmas services
- Judaism's New Year, Rosh Hashanah and culminating in Yom Kippur reflects upon one's wrongdoing over the year, seeking and offering forgiveness.
The practice of New Year's resolutions, regardless of creed, usually reflects on self-improvement annually. Some of us resolve to provide more service to those less fortunate or to volunteer more financially or in time to charities. Others focus on self improvement with weight management, exercise, diet, or eliminating unhealthy habits like smoking or watching too much mindless television.
We know of our own personal success rates in relation to our own resolutions. There are countless studies that usually show that too many people tend to give up sometime in the first 30 to 60 days, yet we also personally know of at least some instances when success was achieved and positive changes did become permanent. I will share in another column later this month a roadmap of success that has been proven to work repeatedly for thousands of people around the world, but today I want to share a slightly different perspective on something an overwhelming number of us deal with.
Our office…our desk…our work space.
We all have our own ways of organizing ourselves, with the intent of making ourselves more efficient and able to handle our tasks. We organize our work space to use the blend of technology and paper and hope to make our lives more streamlined.
There are designated "days" on many calendars for unusual "holidays". One that caught my attention is the National Clean Off Your Desk Day marked on some calendars for the second Monday in January.
For anyone who has ever worked with me, this topic should bring an immediate smile. You see, I am one of those people who always seems to be working on at least six different projects at a time, which means that by the end of the week my desk, office and workspace face the possibility of having five days of six projects all within reach and in a bit of a cluttered mess.
My business and life partner, Kathleen Hogan, is the exact opposite. She has a place for everything, keeps files and forms on an issue together and she does this electronically as well as with old school paper systems. While I may want to and should emulate her approaches, I often find myself slipping back to habits of piling, making lists and then spending time looking for what I need.
With those contrasts in mind, I am giving serious thought to new approaches, including:
- Handle things once and do something with it. Read it, make notes and then file it somewhere orderly. Do not keep moving it around the desk
- Address the clutter – NOW. Trash the old magazines, the post-its you do not need any longer, the pens that do not write, the I don't know what this is for, etc.
- Plan supplies. Are the blank note pads on your desk, or 20 feet away? Are there boxes of post it notes, replacement stapler or paperclips stacked on your desk? What do you use to write? (yes even computer addicts need to write sometimes) Is your pen and pencil supply in right combination and handy? The workspace also includes your briefcase – stock appropriately.
- Confront the paperwork - Daily. This has often been my biggest issue when organizing my work desks over the years, as other people dump more paper and TO DOs on it and those papers pile up quickly. We need to divide paperwork into manageable piles, so they can be dealt with now or filed to their proper location.
- Remember that desk drawers are there for a reason. They should not be places to dump what we do not want to deal with, but places to keep those items needed on a daily basis accessible without cluttering the top of our desk.
A clean and neat desk has immediate advantages, such as helping us to focus our efforts, expand our thinking, increase our productivity and ability to perhaps earn more. The mess and the clutter are a distraction to our creativity and disrupts any freshness of mind space.
I am not making an actual resolution, but I do intend to follow more of what we viewed a few months ago at a company that seems to be one of the world's best at managing space. While your office may or may not look like Ikea[ii] mock-ups, they do lend a sense of calm and purpose.
I use this example about managing space, because I feel that has become a trend of growing importance in hospitality design, management and the delivery of guest service. If we spend too much of our time in our office space being overwhelmed by routine repetition, sometimes meaningless reports and questionable processes, we are not out there sharing our hospitality as we need to be in the next decade.
John Dr. John Hogan CHA CMHS CHE CHO
KEYS TO SUCCESS™ is the umbrella title for our programs, hospitality services and columns. This year's writings focus on a variety of topics for hotel owners, managers and professionals including both my "HOW TO" articles, HOSPITALITY CONVERSATIONS™, Lessons from the Field™, Hotel Common Sense™, THE P-A-R PRINCIPLE™ and Principles for Success.
All rights reserved by John Hogan and this column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management. This article may not be reproduced without the expressed permission of the author. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication.