How could chaos benefit life

Desk chaos: what does that say about you?

Brief look at the writing desk: There is clearly arranged order - or the pure chaos? Everywhere mountains of files, loose leaves and in the coffee cups, living organisms with more creatures than in North Rhine-Westphalia ... Mistakes! Most bosses like them messy desks not at all. The desk tells them - according to Paul Watzlawick's motto you can not communicate - something about the employee. And this is: Anyone who is so sloppy works and thinks that way too ... At least that's how four out of five managers think. But is that also true? Or is that just a baseless cliché? scientist wanted to know more about that now ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Order is half of life. And the other half?

Chaos is not a state but an organism. He lives - and multiplies.

If you don't believe that, you just have to watch your surroundings: In the evening you throw your worn socks into the corner somewhere, the next morning they have turned into a veritable mountain of laundry. It’s the same in the office: it’s enough somewhere a few loose sheets of paper on the desk - already there are files, coffee cups, magazine tears and heaven knows what else.

But behind this is less of an undiagnosed one Messie Syndrome, but often the so-called Broken Windows Effect. Roughly explained, he says: If there is a small amount of rubbish lying around somewhere, it doesn't take long for the entire area to fall into chaos.

But does that mean that a messy desk also says something about the way you work?

Far too often we denigrate the servants of the mess as Slobs. In fact, many of them are hugely creative. There is an interaction between the environment and the mind: Admittedly, too much chaos can allow conclusions to be drawn about the colleague, but conversely it also influences the way they work - and not only negatively.

Office chaos costs a third of the working time

According to a study by the Stuttgart Fraunhofer Institute for Production Engineering and Automation, around ten percent of working time is wasted by unnecessary or missing work materials and by constantly searching for the right document in chaotic file directories.

Such chaotic offices and desks keep every employee looking for, tidying up and organizing a good 70 working days a year. Another result: a hundred times more bacteria populate the average desk than a toilet seat. Brrr.

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Desk chaos makes you creative

The psychologist Kathleen Vohs from the University of Minnesota, for example, set out some time ago to investigate whether and how a sparkling clean work area and productivity respectively creativity correspond with each other and whether the guy with the clean desk is really the better employee.

In one of the experiments, 48 ​​test subjects were asked to think about how table tennis balls could be used - other than for sports. Half of the participants included decent office, meanwhile, the others had to sit down at a neglected desk.

The result spoke for itself:

  • What the Amount of ideas both groups developed roughly the same number of ideas.
  • In the Originality of ideas But the test subjects from the Messy office were clearly superior: Their solutions were more imaginative, more unusual, more willing to experiment.

In short: the chaos on the desk had stimulated their minds and made them more creative.

Chaos makes you open to new things

After further attempts, Kathleen Vohs is now convinced that a cluttered environment is more likely to be unconventional solutions suggests as clinically structured offices in which one could also practice open heart surgery if necessary.

The result also coincides with studies by Jia Liu and Debra Trampe from the University of Groningen. Chaos on the desk, she found, helps people think more simply and spurs them on to find simpler solutions. It provide distractions to the brain and thus at the same time numerous impulses and points of contact to develop new ideas from them. It actually encourages people Trying new things.

Behind this is a simple one Psychoeffect: First of all, we all strive for order. Wherever their subjects were confronted with chaos, they tried to sort and organize it.

Was that Extent of the mess but so big that it was impossible to clean up quickly, the brain switched to: Find the easiest solution.

The scientists themselves admit that Chaos in the office does not necessarily make you more productive, but it helps to simplify tasks and to focus on the essentials when solving them.

Desks of famous people

The jobs of numerous celebrities, including creatives, musicians, film producers and politicians can be found on this insightful Tumblr blog. It is very easy to see here how little tidy some prominent creative desks actually are.

A better person thanks to order

The above-mentioned Kathleen Vohs is the subject of order respectively Chaos on the desk but also followed up differently. This time she didn't compare personality types and their desk state. Rather, in the first experiment, she had her 34 test subjects at desks - sometimes properly, sometimes not - fill out questionnaires for ten minutes.

The trick was: the questionnaire was just a distraction. Rather casually, the researchers told the participants that the university donate collect for needy children and whether the test subjects would be willing to donate money for it as well. In the end, the participants - by chance - went to two Snack baskets past: one filled with chocolate bars, the other filled with apples.

What do you think happened?

  • Of the subjects who filled out the questionnaire at a neat desk, donated 82 percent money. From the Choas group, on the other hand, only 47 percent - and barely half as much money as the others.
  • In addition, more than two-thirds of the ordinary people voted for the healthy snack, but only a fifth of the messy ones.

For the researchers, the result is clear:

Order apparently promotes positive qualities such as generosity and a healthy lifestyle, but also a more conservative attitude.

Business card desk

Filthy coffee cups, meter-high mountains of paper and confidential documents lying around openly - this is a horror for the majority of managers. They prefer employees with tidy desks, according to a survey by British psychologist Cary Cooper. Reason: The writing surface is always also a projection surface. A cluttered desk represents a desolate personality. Such a person, according to the stereotype, is neither structured nor goal-oriented, has neither ambition nor leadership qualities. Most of it is nonsense, there are clichés about it. Just like the quirk of being persistent and influencing your career.

Despite all the advantages of a chaotic office: After completing a project, you should perhaps tidy your desk again and - at least temporarily - keep things tidy. The Act of cleaning up not only signals physically that something has been completed and that space is now being created for something new. It also cleans up your thoughts and clears your head for fresh impulses.

8 tips to clean up

Those who tend towards Messi will not be able to control the chaos on their desk for long with spontaneous excavations and a quick cleaning action. Because of that, because of that, and because of that: clean out your office regularly. Here are eight tips on how to keep your office tidy over the long term:

  1. Return.

    If you want to permanently defeat chaos, you should get into the habit of assigning your work utensils to fixed places. All pens in one pen holder; Tackers, hole punches, scotch tape, paper clips & Co. in a certain drawer, letters and notes in special trays and so on. Also good: to sort the tools into so-called themed islands - i.e. pens, erasers and sharpeners together or letter openers, staplers and hole punches. It is important to note that after you have used the devices, you should always go back to their place. Don't just let it lie! That saves search time.

  2. Hierarchize.

    Organize your utensils according to use: some things you need more often than others. They belong close to your seat, preferably within easy reach. Others can be placed in the vicinity. This will also make you faster. Many people make the mistake of decorating their desk with pretty but useless things. Better to heed the designer motto: form follows function.

  3. Throw it away.

    Let's be honest: How many pens are in your drawer? How many more on the table? And how many of them do you use regularly? Just. Pens that no longer write belong in the trash can. Otherwise, a pencil, a pen, a fineliner and maybe a few highlighters are usually sufficient. You can bring the rest back to the office or depot - or throw it away. The best order is of no use if you don't regularly dispose of unnecessary items.

  4. Caching.

    Over the course of a day, you may find yourself jotting down a few phone numbers, email addresses, or to-do items. Scribbling what's on post is still better than grabbing the nearest piece of paper and writing it on a corner. Danger of slapping! However, a kind of tear-off desk pad is ideal. You can find such notes there immediately, and what is done is crossed out. In the evening you simply tear off the top sheet, transfer unfinished business and throw away the paper clipboard. And you can always transfer very important things to a moleskin.

  5. Bundle up.

    Tangled cables - hardly anything causes more chaos on the desk and preserves the mess than the numerous cables for PC, keyboard, mouse, printer, telephone, etc. Wherever you can, switch to Bluetooth or another wireless technology. Otherwise: Sort the cables, bundle them into larger strands and fix the whole thing with some adhesive tape (or a special cable hose - it's very cheap at Ikea.). Professionals even use Velcro for this, so cables can be easily replaced afterwards. The only important thing is: do not pack the bundle too tightly, otherwise the devices can hardly be moved afterwards - for example for dusting.

  6. Lay down.

    Think of a sensible filing system for paper mail as well as for e-mails or files on the desktop. For example, decide what is really important and urgent and what still has time or can be delegated. The Eisenhower method is particularly suitable for this. You can also use the same principle to create appropriate folders - or develop your own system.

  7. Unify.

    Try to design your folder or filing systems as similarly as possible: In other words, always the same type and form of lettering on folders, if possible also from the same manufacturer and everything in a consistent color system. The magazine files not only look more harmonious on the shelf, you also keep track of the hodgepodge

  8. To clean up.

    That only sounds tautological. What is meant is: Make a habit of leaving your office carefully every evening. In your own interest: Should someone else use the workplace, they cannot tell horror stories about living coffee grounds. But you too start the day much more relaxed and organized the next morning.

Please click to enlarge the infographic.

[Photo Credit: InesBazdar by]