There are few things that make me more nervous than a computer desktop full to bursting with icons.
Chaos at its finest.
The funny thing is when someone downloads a new file from the Internet and leaves it on the desktop.
And then they hide the browser to see the desktop, and it takes them five minutes to find the file they just downloaded.
Sometimes even the best solution is to download it again.
Before doing so, we try to take a mental snapshot of the desktop to try to detect what has changed after the second download.
It is the modern equivalent of having a desk full of towers of papers of all kinds.
Some of them have probably been there for years.
But don’t even think of removing a piece of paper from there. That paper acts as a reminder of a task that has not been completed.
If you take it off the table, it would be like forgetting that task forever.
It is the principle “Out of sight, out of mind”.
As if keeping it there would serve as a reminder.
Because the reality is that keeping a document on the desk for months, whether physical or virtual, has a blinding effect.
Our mind ignores it.
As with newspaper advertisements, whether physical or virtual.
You can turn that page every day and be unable to tell that you have seen them.
Your eyes see them. Your mind ignores them.
The worst thing is that those files are often already totally irrelevant.
They are from completed tasks that we forget to archive.
Or from tasks that no longer make sense.
At the time, when you put them there, they did. But time has passed and they no longer serve any purpose.
Still, even if at some point our mind would pay attention to them, we would have a hard time making a decision about them.
It feels bad to give up that idea that we once had, that we were sure could change our life or our business, but we never really did anything about it.
To erase it is to give up what it could have meant.
And that always hurts.
So, even though we see it, we keep leaving it there.
And in the meantime, we live with that huge amount of files to process.
Of reminders of decisions deferred.
So those files are not just a nuisance when it comes to tracking things down.
They are a source of continuous frustration.
A few months ago, I was judging a young boys’ public speaking league.
One of the girls in the league made a speech about how bad the world is.
And she was listing all these problems that we hear about every day.
The wars. Viruses. Global warming. Social inequalities. Extremism. And so many others.
And for a couple of minutes she painted a bleak picture.
The point is that at a certain point the girl got stuck and started to cry.
What do you say to a girl who has completely blocked in the middle of a speech in front of a lot of people?
Well, I told her how I felt. That in her speech she had been piling stone after stone after stone on all of us.
And that by piling up so much stone, what has to happen happens.
That the tower sinks you.
You need to give yourself a break.
You don’t have to be blind to the problems. But you also need to look for possible solutions.
And for both the speaker and the audience, it is important to open a door to hope.
Activism. Progress. Medicine. Alternative energies.
When you combine the two, people can breathe.
In the same way, we need to make room to breathe at our desk.
And, sometimes, to be drastic, putting aside those things that were once motivating ideas. But that, after a time when we have not been able to do anything about them, now only bring frustration.
It’s not just a productivity issue.
It is a matter of clarity of ideas.
Clearing the desk is about creating space to do new things in the future.