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Divide and Conquer:

Just 29 minutes to a clear desk

Handle that messy desk once and for all.

Feel a sense of completion from the very beginning.

“I can’t see the top of my desk.”


Papers are lying around waiting to be filed. You can’t find the number on a slip of paper for the client you need to call today. And so on and so on. The backlog is overwhelming and depressing. Every day the clutter on your desk saps your energy and focus. Any intention to turn things around seems doomed to failure in advance.

Here’s the simple solution: Divide and Conquer.


Using one or more large cardboard boxes, move all backlog items off your desk, off the floor, and from any other areas where you have stored backlog items, placing all these items into the cardboard box or boxes.


As you’re moving items into the boxes and you notice something that needs to be handled soon, throw it into a special box labeled “handle first.”

Out of your field of vision

After your desk is cleared, move or stack the boxes so that they are not in your field of vision as you’re doing your everyday work at your desk. This whole process of clearing your desk should take less than 29 minutes. Don’t stop to handle any of the items in the process of filling the boxes.

A simple daily covenant

Now put in place an agreement/promise (perhaps with an accountability partner) to handle all new items before you complete each day. This would mean a clean desk at the end of the day, including any filing that needs to be done. Never again will you allow backlog to accumulate from one day to the next.


The bottom line is simple: you must not create any new backlog. You must not incur any more time-debt against your future.

Two agreements make it work forever

Now make another agreement/promise to spend a minimum number of minutes (maybe just 5-15 minutes each day) to work on the backlog items that you have put into those boxes, addressing the “handle first” box first.

Almost instant gratification

Once you put this plan into place, you will feel a sense of freedom, power, and completion. Even though it will be a while before all the backlog is addressed, you know that, simply by following this very doable plan (with just two simple promises to follow each day), you will handle all backlog and keep yourself current from this point on.

You can see clearly now...

Ask yourself now, “If I implemented Divide and Conquer immediately, and kept it in place, what difference would that make in my life?” In a week? In a month? In a year? In a lifetime?

Use this approach for other physical areas of your life

PS. This same method can be used to address almost any messy and unorganized area, giving you a sense of power, freedom, and excitement from the beginning.


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