The Red Herring ...and how to get it off your desk for good

You keep your desk pretty orderly most of the time... That is, you know where to find what you need when you need it - even if you have to dig a little.

And if you spend some time straightening up, you can whittle down what's on your desk to just about nothing.

But it always seems like there are a few random things things just stick around.

You don't have time for them right now. So they stay put and spoil the success of cleaning your desk.


Remember that Sesame Street tune "one of these kids is not like the others?" The red herring masquerades as a piece of manageable clutter, but it's different from the rest.

Take Sam, who had a membership magazine on his office desk to remind himself to write a letter. But it wasn't any ordinary letter.

He was angry about the organization's policies and intended to give them a piece of his mind by explaining the ethical grounds upon which he was cancelling his subscription.

But he just hadn't gotten around to it yet.

The task was emotionally charged but not that pressing - or even relevant to his work.

The most common feature of a red herring is that there's no logical place to put it or file it. So the magazine just sits on Sam's desk... getting him steamed every time he looks at it.

Okay. So, you're getting the point here. Besides the fact that red herrings are distracting and messing up your desk, they also tend to accumulate.
"I'll get to this later." (plop on desk)
"Oh! I need to remind myself to do this!" (plop on desk)
"Well, I'll just put this little pile on top of this little pile..." (PLOP on desk)
And before you know it, you've got a fine kettle of fish (a.k.a. an unmanageable mess).

What's a busy business-owner to do?

Get a net

If you're hauling in all these fish, you might as well get something in which you can capture them so they don't flop all over and make a mess of your workspace.

Things to Try

Take it easy on yourself:

If you're like a lot of people, you look at your accumulated incomplete tasks and say something disparaging about yourself.

Stop right there. Take a deep breath and remember that you're busy. You have a lot going on. And you choose get to the urgent stuff first. That's just how it is.

You are totally and completely normal. In fact, you're also ambitious, creative, and optimistic thinking you can get all this extra stuff done.

Personally, I think you're pretty cool. And so should you. So make peace with the "undone stuff" and use your energy for something more enjoyable.

Then, once you've made some peace with yourself...

Break it down:

Pick up one of those red herrings and figure out what you want to do with it...

What steps do you need to take to complete it?

Write it down:

It doesn't have to be fancy. Just scribbling in a spiral notebook with a running to-do list is a great place to start. Or maybe you're addicted to stickies.

You could write these tasks on your current calendar (if it's big enough). Or you can use a program on your computer that catalogues all of your tasks and projects.

Whatever works for you!

The trick is to write your self a note to do the task, and then put the related materials (like Sam's magazine or June's postcard) somewhere other than the surface of your workspace.

Always include the place that you've stored the related material in your note. And nothing gets lost - except some clutter from your desk.

Now, doesn't that sound nice?

Author's Bio: 

If your business is growing, but you can't seem to get your office under control, help is here.

At Inspired Home Office, home-based entrepreneurs create a work environment that supports them both logically and aesthetically. Your office can work for you - not the other way around.

Jennifer Hofmann brings years of experience in making collosal organizing and decorating mistakes (and subsequent learning) to benefit her clients - all presented with a healthy dose of humility and humor.

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