Why Change Now? A Rebuttal to Michael Hyatt’s post “Clear your Desk Clear you Mind!

Okay, you can relax. Michael Hyatt and I are friends and business partners, but we are as different as night and day. Mike has a Mind and I don’t. Mike is the most efficient working machine I have ever seen whereas I sputter along belching smoke and eventually “get er done.” What is realistic for Michael Hyatt is often idealistic for me.

So when I read Mike’s post (I call him Mike) on creating a clean workspace, I had to respond on behalf of those of us who have work-spaces like mine.

Be sure to read to the end to find out the answer to Why Change Now? I know you will find this helpful. I hope you find it fun.

In his post Mike says,” There is something about having a clean work area that makes us more productive and frees our mind to concentrate on the task at hand.”

Michael, I have a clean work area! Its located underneath a very messy work area. If my desk is spotless…. I’m not working. I admit that sometimes I enjoy quietly sitting in my office looking at a clean desk. But in order to keep it clean, I have to use the dining room table as a work space. You should see my dining room.

Mike quoted Pausch. “Clutter is death, it leads to thrashing,”

Then I am a thrashing dead man!

Michael cited Toyota’s 5S method of organization.

“A great organizational tool was created by Toyota…. It’s called the 5S system. The term 5S originated from the five Japanese words used to describe the model:

1. The first term, Seiri, means “sort.” The first step in 5S’ing your office space is to go through each and every item in your office and decide if you really need it.

I always feel like I will need everything at some point in the future. The perfect way to find out what I will desperately need…… is to throw it away. I will need it the very next day.

Michael says “Sorting is about touching each and every item and making the hard choices.”

Mike! There are no hard choices here! The rule is if you touch it you have to read it, begin to work on it or simply examine it for a long time. We cluttered people work with diligence until we accidentally touch something, then the process repeats itself. Clearing my workspace is really more like shuffling a deck of cards. Pick a file any file.

2. The second term, Seiton, roughly translates to “Set in Order.” During your Sort you eliminated everything that you did not need. Yeah right! During your effort to Set things in Order you will determine where everything you are keeping goes. Your desktop and the tops of filing cabinets are not storage areas.

Yes they are!! Every empty space is a filing space. Nature abhors a vacuum. If empty space is not a filing cabinet what is it for? And Mike you forgot the space on the floor next to my desk and the empty chair in the corner. And what about the window sill and the space above the books in my book shelf?

Mike says, “On your desk itself a phone, computer monitor, and keyboard are probably necessary.”

What about the pizza box from last week, the hot cup of coffee that has cooled to a delicious frappuccino and the Tim Tebow bobble head. Mike, how can you be so thorough and still forget these necessities?

3. The next word in the 5S system, Seiso, means to “Shine.” This is the time to clean your office from top to bottom. Every object in your work space gets a thorough cleaning. Clean everything from the outsides of filing cabinets to the insides of your desk drawers. The phone and keyboard can be cleaned using forced air if necessary.

Forced air??? I need a “hazmat” team.

Mike continues. “Don’t allow anything in your office that isn’t completely functional.” Hey! That rules out my body!!! Am I to be banned from my own office? Will I never be allowed to visit your office?

4. Seiketsu means Standardize. It’s the fourth step in the 5S process and its about designing how everything in your office flows. Once you’ve established the optimum layout of your new lean, clean, and organized workspace, now take time to address how you will deal with the work that comes your way.

Helloooo! I’ve got yer flow! Find and empty space, stack stuff in a pile as it arrives and work from the top down……….. Unless you accidentally touch something.

5 Shitsuke or Sustain. The last step in the 5S process is represented by the Japanese word Shitsuke, or “Sustain.” Sustain is about committing to being aware of what is going on in your work area and about being willing to take action to insure that your work area remains your own design.

Mike, that is exactly my point! I have my own design. My system is called Y2K and also uses Japanese words.

1. Taigun means “Horde” Horde everything, you never know when you will need it.
2. Pairu means “Pile” Pile is like file except its spelled with a “P” To Pile IS to file!
3. Hakkō sa seru means “Ferment “ or “Mōrudo” which means “Mold.” Don’t attempt to clean it, or move it. You will lose something. Let it sit.
4. Sukyattā is Japanese for Scatter. Ancient American comedian say, “Many small piles better than one big one.” It is cheaper to organize piles than buy a cabinet.
5. Finally, Henkō ni teikō suru means “Resist Change.” I’ve have done it this way for years!

Why change now?


1. My system doesn’t work well!
2. Michael’s post is revolutionizing my productivity!
3. It will do the same for you.

Read Michael Hyatt’s entire post here.

Friends , don’t give up trying to create an efficient clean work space. As Mike says this is not a “learn by thinking about it” type of endeavor. It is a “learn by doing it endeavor.” Let me know how it works for you and………………. Opps! Got to go! the hazmat team is here again.

I value your comments. Am I am the only one who has a hard time keeping a clean efficient work space? Please tell me I am not alone.


  1. good post friend.It’s Thursday and it is the one day of the week that I clean everything off my desk. I am sure I will find something that I shouldn’t and don’t need to touch again.

    1. Michael, touch it! Read it! Look at it! Enjoy it! Then put it in another pile.

  2. Oh my goodness – I read this and I can’t stop laughing, my husband and I share the work space for his contracting business and let me tell you……he is a total “pile guy” and I am a total “toss it girl”!! I have come up with the perfect way to clean the office – everything goes into a “mystery bag”, at which time said bag is placed in closet, basement or attic…….my thought on this is if it is important enough it will re-appear – as a second notice, a suspended driver’s license, a nasty phone call or a police officer at the door….. you get the picture – nothing is so important that it can’t be re-produced – the exception being my passport or birth certificate (even those can be replaced but, not worth the headache!)!! Looking forward to seeing you in Lima NY on the 21st. – my tickets are printed and on my desk in said office, if they end up in the mystery bag I will re-print them from my email!! Cheers!

  3. This is so funny and so true. I’ve always liked that phrase… “It make look unorganized, but it’s absolutely organized in a very unorganized manner. Every pile has it’s own purpose!
    I will have to test out your friend’s tips because I also agree it is never too late to learn, if we’re willing to ask God to help us do it. God loves you, Ken!

    1. Gail,Unorganized in an organized manner describes me to a T. Thank you for your comment!

  4. I’m still at “why change?” I think you are a very smart man…”did you finish the post?” you say… 🙂

    1. Commenting on my own comment because I just had to say…after posting that, I wanted to see if the chaos was as orderly as I assumed…it is…I have my “teaching tennis to kids” pile, my “worship leader pile(s),” my “Thin Within coach” pile, my “online bible study leader” pile my “quiet time” pile and my “DEAL WITH THIS NOW” pile…all on the couch, big chair, and kitchen counter. Organization at its finest!

  5. Hi Ken! I’m still trying to live “Fully Alive” but stumbling. Mostly just in the health and weight loss area…feeling like a beached whale but just can’t stay away from junk food and eat veggies instead. Praying for God’s strength. Anywho…I don’t consider myself a perfectionist but I do like to do my best. I like things clean and especially organized. Trying to teach it to my kids! I have a few thoughts. Some simple things I focus on when trying to keep up on things; if its dirty clean it, if its a mess organize it, if its trash throw it away, if you don’t need it give it away, if you may need it some day put it in a box label it and store it neatly. My thing is to always be organizing and then you never have a big mess to clean up. Also I like the saying “If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, how will you have time to do it again later?” Its easier to keep up on things than to have an overwhelming mess to deal with later! So many places in God’s word he tells us to do our best for him.

  6. This is classic Ken Davis and I love it! Although I’m going to have to be careful where I read your posts – I was disruptive to the rest of the office with my guffawing, snorting and rolling around on the floor holding my sides. 😉 Great post!

    1. Thanks Joel! I’ll get you fired yet! Wait! I think you are your own boss!

  7. If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind….what then is an empty desk a sign of….
    Albert Einstien

  8. Ken, In you blog about keeping a clean desk, I had to do a lot of soul searching as to why the piles. As a recovering perfectionist, I came the the conclusion that I put my time where my priorities are. Papers and filing seem to come in a screeching last. I can usually go anywhere in my house and put my hand on any given object with my eyes closed – unless it’s paper.

    I also discovered I could still manage paper items until the birth of my 3rd child. Suddenly, paper seemed to crop up everywhere. Now that there are only 2 left at home, it seems I have managed to pick up 9 horses, 2 dogs, and 2 cats. Soon we will be adding 8 chickens, not counting the wild bird feeder outside to maintain. Who has time for filing!!!

    I also agree that any time I have ever gotten rid of something, I end up needing that item that “has not been needed for at least 6 months” immediately following its removal.

    The way I look at it is: My cupboard are organized, my closets, drawers, and DVDs are organized. Best of all my horse tack is organized. I can give myself a little leeway. Plus, I know there are more of us out there, so we aren’t along. Stack happy):

    1. Lisa, Ya gotta choose your battles, right. I say that if your horse tack is organized thats all you need.

  9. You’re not alone Ken. I struggle fiercely with keeping a clutter free desk. Even once it is cleared, clutter finds its way back. One strange thing I’ve found about a clean desk, while I like it at times, it also makes me anxious. Have you found this to be true with you as well?

    1. Joe, Actually a messy desk makes me anxious. I am afraid I am missing something important. I am very organized on the computer, but if it is paper it finds a pile.

  10. My very creative and artist Aunt had a sign in her studio…this mess is a place.
    I have two very creative sisters who live by this sign…and when their neat nick sister comes along, they just let me clean because they know it will not last for long. Such is life in my world. I do have me messy areas, closets, drawers and cupboards are great places for hiding…

  11. My system is even simpler. I call it: 3S..or S cubed.
    Stack Stuff Someplace.

  12. Thanks for this post. I laughed as I recognized myself in all your statements. I am a serial piler, but I use the Pile Cabinet by Blair Hornbuckle to keep track of the stuff I KNOW I will need the minute I trash it!.

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