National Clean-Off-Your-Desk Day was observed this past January. And with cause: the average desk worker has 36 hours' worth of work on his or her desk and wastes three hours a week just searching for things, says Daniel Stamp, founder of Priority Management Systems, a Bellevue, Wash., training service specializing in executive productivity.

"You can tell you've got a problem desk," he notes, "when coworkers put objects on your seat because they know that's the only place you'll notice them." Moreover, that mess may not be your problem alone. It's likely that some of the buried items are holding up associates who can't get on with their jobs until you get on with yours. The key is not to leave until you've cleaned your desk off. Whether you're conscious of it or not, "it's a stress-provoking symbol of failure to scan your desk at the end of every day and see it as cluttered as when you came in."

Other tips from Stamp:

Remember that nothing on a messy desktop is sacred -- except photos to remind you that you have another life. So remove everything. "There's great initial satisfaction," notes Stamp, "in just putting it all on the floor."

Create three general categories -- mail and correspondence, work in progress, and reading -- in a hanging-file system close to your desk. If it takes more than a second to get to the files, you won't use them.

Designate a file for to-do material, and write down -- in one calendar -- the day you'll do it. "People who use multiple calendars miss several appointments at once," Stamp warns.

Priority Management offers free sample copies of its management-productivity magazine, Choices. Call 800-221-9031.

-- Robert A. Mamis

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