Psychology professor Steve Whittaker discusses “pilers and filers” in the Financial Times article, There’s magic in mess: why you should embrace a disorderly desk.
The piece references Whittaker’s 2001 research with AT&T labs and also his new book about messiness and productivity. Filers, workers who use a formal organization structure for their papers tend to cope less well than pilers, workers who let papers build up on their desk.
Tim Hartford writes, "Whittaker points out that the filers struggled because the categories they created turned out not to work well as times changed. This suggests that tidiness can work, but only when documents or emails arrive with an obvious structure. My own desk is messy but my financial records are neat — not because they’re more important but because the record-keeping required for accountancy is predictable."