Here’s the second part of Does your desk glorify God?

A Blueprint for Administration
Whenever a piece of paper lands on your desk, try Bill Lawrence’s TRASH method (Effective Pastoring, 131). This also works for the computer, which should be viewed as a cluttered and overstuffed filing cabinet with a mailbox (see this post on Nesters, Desktoppers, and Searchers for the main approaches to Computer filing systems).

Throw it away: the first question we should ask is “Can I throw it away? (If so, do I need to shred it?)

Re-route it: does this piece of paper belong on my desk (or in my computer)? Should someone else have it?

Act on it: options for action include:

  • Do it (answer email, make phone call, order the book)
  • Put on to-do list (do today, do this week, do eventually)
  • Enter in diary  (check your diary every day and sync with wife and family)
  • Enter in accounts (
  • Correspondence tray
  • Nearby filing cabinet
  • Reading pile
  • Evernote for documents and scanned images
  • Diigo for websites
  • Dropbox for backup

Save it: file it in a place you can retrieve it from

Halt it: stop the sender sending it to you

Some of that is applicable to email, but let me add a few extra suggestions I’ve picked up along the way for efficient emailing (see Julie Morgenstern’s Never Check Email in the Morning).

  • Do not keep your email turned on
  • Process every 2-3 hours (Matt Perman argues that the less you check, the less you’ll get!)
    • Do: If you can answer in under 2 mins, do it
    • Delegate: offload as much as possible
    • Delay: If you can’t “do” or “delegate,” get it out of your Inbox and into your “Answer later” file. I have two of these: the first is for “Answer later today” and the second is for emails that require 30 mins plus of work. I usually try to answer 3-4 of these a week.
    • Delete: Don’t keep things just for the sake of it
  • Set yourself time targets when dealing with email. If you tell yourself, “I’m going to answer email for 30 mins max” it’s amazing how many you can get through.
  • Learn how to type fast and keep answers to minimum (short one sentence replies if possible – people don’t expect letter-writing pleasantries)
  • Number your points to improve chances of direct answers
  • Spell-check

The Balance of Organization
My father used to say to me, “Show me a clean desk and I’ll show you someone who is getting nothing done.” There is such a thing as “clean desk syndrome” where the aim becomes a clean desk, but little ever gets done on it! A degree of mess is required for any productivity (Prov. 14:4). I like to think of three stages of organization:

  • Day to day (50% tidy): I aim to have my study at 50% tidy at the end of each working day
  • Week to week (90% tidy): Once a week I want to tidy up most of what has been left over from the week’s tasks.
  • Monthly purge (100% tidy): Once a month I like to return my office to its pristine condition.

And just in case you think I’ve got a bad case of OCD, here’s a Daily Stat email on Messy Desks from the Harvard Business Review:

A recent study interviewed HR managers at a number of different companies, asking them how neatness of an employee’s desk affects their perception of that person’s professionalism. 65% said it “somewhat affects it”, while 18% said it “greatly affects it”, with only 17% saying it has no effect. It isn’t exactly fair, but it’s something to think about when you’re staring at your tornado of an office: you might want to tidy it up, if only to improve your reputation with your superiors.

Thus begins a new ministry, “Desk Evangelism.”