Don't Feel Ashamed: Your Messy Desk Could Boost Creativity

Albert Einstein once said, "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?"

There might be something to this favorite quote of office pack rats, because a recent study found that people with messy desks think more creatively than those with neat desks. According to the Telegraph, Professor Kathleen Vohs and researchers at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis performed an experiment that involved asking participants to come up with new uses for ping pong balls. Some participants were placed in a messy room, while others were placed in a clean room. All participants came up with the same number of ideas, but those in the messy room dreamed up more creative ways to use the ping pong balls. Those of you with messy desks are now probably digging around for that ping pong ball that's buried underneath that mountain of papers strewn beside your keyboard.

Having piles of papers on your desk could also come with another perk. Because of my proud pack rat habit, I always looked swamped at work, which meant that coworkers were less likely to ask for my help. However, sometimes my boss looked less than impressed while he watched me dig out that document he was looking for in a pile on the floor, and I always feared going on vacation: I knew how my desk was chaotically organized, but my coworkers had no clue that some important documents were "filed" on top of my computer tower underneath a zebra beanbag animal. I wasn't required to be all that creative as a legal assistant, so perhaps my messy desk habit played a part in my decision to pursue my dream of writing full-time.

Luckily for you neatniks out there, who aren't messy by nature, the study found that people's behavior can be altered by simply making their environment untidy. This means that all a neat freak has to do is make a mess on their desk to get those creative juices flowing. But if you aren't a professional pack rat, how can you get messy? Here are a few tips:

Pile up the papers

If you don't have enough important documents to scatter all over your desk, print out some interesting articles and strew those about. It will give you something interesting to read whenever you need a break from coming up with all those new awesome ideas that are flowing in.

Go crazy with the sticky notes

You'll be too busy being creative to remember what you need to pick up at the grocery store, so use colorful sticky notes as reminders and decorate your desk with them. To make yourself feel better about the mess, make a few memos reminding you to clean your desk.

Invest in some desk toys

Here's a great idea for anyone who hated being told to put their toys in the toy box as a kid. Bury a few puzzles, wind-up toys, and stress balls on your desk to make your clutter playful. And be sure to keep a ping pong ball hidden somewhere -- you might come up with a fun way to use it.