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Are all professors’ desks cluttered?

I’m a big fan of productivity tips and blogs, particularly those focused on academic/scholarly life. Although I have read dozens of blog posts by fellow professors, I don’t think I’ve ever read anything related to whether their desks are cluttered or not. For many people, their mental image of a professor is almost always someone whose desk is filled with papers, journal articles, and books. Having cluttered desk almost would appear to be synonymous with being an academic.

Home office at my Mom's

I’ll be the first to admit that whenever I am in “under pressure” writing mode, my desk is almost always cluttered. I spread journal articles, books, book chapters, research notes all over my desk, anywhere I am (be it my campus office, my home office or my parents’ home office). That said, periodically (at least once a month), I clear out my desk, both on the CIDE Region Centro campus (pictured below) and my home office.

Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega's office at CIDE Region Centro

The jury is still out on whether a messy/cluttered desk is conducive or not to solid scholarly research. Some folks argue that a cluttered desk is bad for your productivity, whereas recent studies argue that messy/disorganized environments are conducive to creativity.

home office desk RPV

In my case the cluttered desk never works. I am organized and methodical about my research to a fault. I schedule my life to the 30 minute slot. I follow procedures and rules (I am, after all, a neoinstitutionalist theorist!). To me, cluttered desks are non-conducive to undertaking solid research. But then again, I am just an N=1 case. I am sure some of my fellow scholars, PhD students and professor colleagues can work in messier environments. I just can’t.

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One Response

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  1. Annemarie says

    I like to start with a clean desk, but as I work it devolves into chaos. Then, if I’m busy, I leave the mess and move into another work space.

    This way of working is not conducive to good housekeeping.

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