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Disorderly habits can be a boon to productivity

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Were you planning to read this column right now? Did you budget extra minutes in your schedule for it? Or have you made a spontaneous decision that's now distracting you from more important chores while adding extra stress and disorganization to your life?

In my personal universe, chaos and order wage an ongoing battle that is often fiercely fought among the scribbled notations, newspaper clips, and other snippets of information scattered around my work space. So I can sympathize with Karen Jackson, a Texas schoolteacher who recently nabbed first place in a contest to find America's messiest desk.

The competition was sponsored by Little, Brown and Company as part of their promotion for a new book titled, "A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder – How Crammed Closets, Cluttered Offices, and On-the-Fly Planning Make the World a Better Place," by Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman. The authors claim that neatness has a wide range of negative consequences and can actually make workers less effective.

I'm not proud of the clutter that accumulates next to my pens and pencils. I know it would be more efficient to keep a larger volume of data stored electronically. However, I often get ideas without warning and write them down immediately on the nearest envelope or scrap of junk mail, and I like having physical contact with my notes whenever I get around to sorting through them.


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