If you feel less effective than you could be, take the following “Desk Test.”

You may discover that a messy desk might be partially to blame for any reduced productivity when it comes to organizing your work and making telephone calls. Print the test and check off those statements that are true.

  1. ___Most of the paperwork on my desk is stacked horizontally.
  2. ___My in-basket is on my desk.
  3. ___My telephone is on my desk.
  4. ___I spend at least ten minutes each day looking for things.
  5. ___There is a stack of magazines or other reading material on my desk most of the time.
  6. ___Other people are reluctant to leave paperwork on my desk for fear it might get lost.
  7. ___I’m at least one week behind in my filing.
  8. ___It is difficult for other people to find a document on my desk if I’m not there.
  9. ___ At any one time there are at least three unfinished projects lying on my desk.
  10. ___My desk is usually messy when I leave the office.
  11. ___In addition to paperwork, I keep at least five other items on my desk [e.g.: stapler, pencil caddie, paper clip holder, calendar, rubber bands, tape, self-inking stamps, cup, bookends, photographs, books].
  12. ___I have no set times or specific procedure for handling incoming mail.
  13. ___Sometimes I have paper arranged on the floor adjacent to my desk while working.
  14. ___I have more than one “junk drawer” in my desk.
  15. ___A ledge under my desk, a windowsill or the top of a filing cabinet is being used to store paperwork, at least temporarily.
  16. ___I do not use a Personal Organizer, Telephone Log Booklet, Voice Mail Log or any structured system for handling telephone calls.
  17. ___I keep some things on my desk so I won’t forget to work on them.
  18. ___I print at least 50 percent of my e-mail messages.
  19. ___I make notes on scraps of paper, which frequently get lost or misplaced.
  20. ___I have no follow-up file system.

___ Total number of items checked


0 to 4 true: You are above average in your organizing skills, and are probably experiencing a high level of productivity.

5 to 10 true: You will never win a “messiest desk” award, but your personal productivity is likely being hampered.

10 to 15 true: Chances are, you are spending a lot of time searching for things, shuffling paper, and becoming distracted. Your productivity is suffering as a result.

15 to 20 true: Your desk is a conversation piece and is affecting other people’s productivity as well. Take action before it’s declared a disaster area.

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