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On January 11, Don't Just Clean Off Your Desk; Cognitively Re-Engineer Your Work Space.

HOLLAND, Mich., Dec. 31 /PRNewswire/ -- Time is money; don't waste it looking for papers, files and phone messages on a messy desk. So preach the advocates of National Clean Off Your Desk Day (officially the second Monday of January). But office furniture giant Haworth, Inc., cautions that one person's messy desk is another person's collection of cognitive artifacts.

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"A clean desk isn't always the sign of a productive employee," says Dr. Jay Brand, organizational behavior specialist and cognitive engineer for Haworth. "In fact, a clean desk can hinder worker efficiency." That's because traces of a person's thoughts are consciously and unconsciously off-loaded into their surroundings -- then called cognitive artifacts -- in essence making the work space an extension of their mind.

Brand equates the stripping away of cognitive artifacts -- promoted by clean-desk policies -- as "environmental lobotomies."

"With each cleaning of the desk at day's end, people lose the cognitive artifacts and embedded cues that a more steady environment provides. Workers in such environments can sometimes feel like they spend more time getting organized each day than working on actual projects," explains Brand.

The key to successful organization is individualism, determining how you remember your tasks and projects, and then cognitively re-engineering your work space so that these items are placed where you can quickly retrieve them, says Brand.

He's quick to add that there isn't one organizational strategy that works for everyone, because everyone's mind is different. To be most productive your desk should be an "extension of your mind," which may look messy to others, but represents order to you. "The relevance and functionality of any given space rests with its occupants," counsels Brand.

Dr. Brand offers the following organizing tips to workers:

1. Try using multiple surfaces to layer information. Piled-up

information often loses meaning over time and is even forgotten.

Organizing papers and projects in a vertical display or wrapping them

around you can boost your memory and prompt a first-things-first

approach to work. The Mind Ware(TM) memory and marker shelves from

Haworth are designed especially for people who organize their work

this way and want increased efficiency.

2. Determine your strike zone and place your most important papers and

projects in the area that will give you the most effective visual cues

and reminders. For most people, the strike zone is typically between

their shoulders and hips.

3. Change the spatial order of your cognitive artifacts as your

priorities change. Post-it(TM) notes, pictures, magazine articles,

lists and charts lose their meaning and become virtually invisible if

left alone. To refresh their significance, move them around in

relation to their impact on your project list that particular day or


4. Chunk your stuff by project or topic in the same type or color of

storage media to aid your associative memory. By using a handy tote

like the Crossings(R) Tub from Haworth, you can easily carry complete

projects to meetings or client presentations.

5. Don't be a pack rat! Generally speaking, 80 percent of the stuff

people file away and 60 percent of what they keep on their desks is

never looked at again. Keeping only important documents will help you

avoid information overload.

Finally, remember that your desk should be an organizational tool, not a dumping ground. So on January 11, don't just clean off your desk; cognitively re-engineer your work space into an extension of your mind.

Haworth, Inc., is a world-leading designer and manufacturer of office furniture and seating, with 1997 sales of $1.51 billion. Based in Holland, Michigan, the international company employs 10,000 members and has over 60 showrooms worldwide. For more information on Haworth, call 800-344-2600, or
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Publication:PR Newswire
Geographic Code:1U3MI
Date:Dec 31, 1998
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