The importance of a clear workspace

A clear desk makes you more productiveIs your genealogy work surface clear? If not, do you have to clear if off before you start researching? I think a messy desk can make it hard to do your best work.

I’m a big believer in clearing off my (physical) desk top every night. That way I can hit the ground running in the morning. I do my genealogy work at same desk where I blog and run my organizing business. If I didn’t keep a clear desktop, I think I’d find next to impossible to even contemplate doing genealogy work.

This point was brought home emphatically this morning. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but as of last night I had not finished my family’s taxes. I started them a month or two ago, but when it became apparent that I was going to have to pay additional taxes, I kept procrastinating on finishing them. I thought I’d finished them Sunday night and was just planning to print out the return and write checks yesterday (April 14). But when I went through the Review process on Turbo Tax, errors came up that had me pulling out my hair. After a few hours of trying to deal with it through online resources and a call to a tax-lawyer friend, I decided to throw in the towel and file for an extension. About then, my husband let me know that dinner was ready, so I just left my desk to go eat. And I didn’t come back that night.

So this morning, I was greeted by a messy desk top. And I had to fill out the forms to file for extensions for federal, state and local taxes and figure out how much to pay with each extension request. I also had figure out what to pay in estimated taxes. And I had to write the checks. This kind of thing stresses me out under the best of circumstances. But with my messy desk (pictured above), I could feel my blood pressure rising.

I have to leave to see a client in 90 minutes, but I’m happy to say that despite the messy desk, I got the tax forms filled out and checks written. (I’ll come back to my Turbo Tax problems in a couple of days and hope to get my return filed soon.) I also wrote my monthly newsletter and two blog posts this morning. But I could have done all that with less stress if I hadn’t been surrounded by paper. And I felt so busy I didn’t take the time to clear it.

If your workspace is typically cluttered, I encourage you to take a little time to clean it off and then establish a habit of clearing it nightly. It’s one of three habits that really help keep me at the top of my game. It might help you get more genealogy research done!




  1. Thank you for the motivation to clean up my desk this morning.

  2. I, too, try to clean the surface of my desktop at the end of every day. It does something to my mindset when I see that clean surface. It seems to de-clutter my mind as well as my physical space.

  3. Thank you for this post! I am looking at my dining room table covered with stacks of all my different families. I know what I will be doing this weekend! I have been making a brave attempt at going digital, and that’s so hard! I would love to hear what you might have to say about that!


    • Good luck with your dining room table this weekend! If you have neat files or binders instead of stacks, your workspace will be more appealing. If you haven’t read it already, you might check out my post called “How accessible are your genealogy materials?”.

      As far as going digital, I hear you! Personally, I’ve found that by taking it gradually–that is, saving (rather than printing) everything from this point forward and slowly working through my backlog, it hasn’t been painful. And I love the accessibility of having everything available digitally. All that said, I don’t have a lot of records I have to scan; I got most of them online. If you have specific questions, let me know!

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