Poking round my 80/20 charged RSS FeedDemon reader this morning, I read a solution to an attention pickpocket that has been with me so long, I’d stopped realizing I was being robbed each and every day. What’s more, this particular thief has been at it for a decade, stealing a bit of attention here, a little more there, from me and every Microsoft Windows user on the entire planet.
I’m talking about being forced – hell, encouraged – to have a messy, distracting desktop when we all know that a messy physical desk steals attention, diminishes productivity and generally makes it harder to get things done. But, because some nameless UI designer 20 years ago decided it was just fine to have a cluttered desktop we’ve all been stuck with this productivity drag.
I’ve watch people who run Fortune 1000 companies, stern-faced executives who would fire on the spot any employee who worked in a pigpen of a cubicle, hunt and poke through an entire screen of attention-draining clutter every time they wanted to do something – anything – on their pc.
I – like you – accepted this state of affairs as some sort of physical law - that there had to be icons on my pc’s desktop, each a tiny little attention leech, pulling me off purpose every minute of every workday. And I – like you –deleted the crap my laptop’s manufacturer put on the desktop, and dug around to get rid of the Internet Explorer icon. But as much as I wanted a clean desktop to go along with my clean desk, I could never get rid of that damned Recycle Bin, and so it was joined by this current file and that current file until my desktop was buried with icons.
Every so often I – like you – revolt and dump everything off the desktop into a folder. Ah! A breath of fresh air. But then the insidious process would start all over again, lead by that damn Recycle Bin icon. Over and over and over, from one pc to the next.
Thanks to that post at AJ’s blog (Desktop Zen – Reducing Visual Clutter on your Desktop), I was able to completely clear my desktop. No more Microsoft-sponsored attention pickpockets on my desktop, no more attention surcharge on every thing that matters to me, no more kowtowing to some idiot artiste UI designer idea of productivity.
My desktop is as clear as the view from a beautiful tropical isle; my productivity and focus have soared; Lord, I can see again, praise be!
Create two folders in My Documents - __Downloads and __Working and move your files off your desktop and into these folders. The underscores sort these folders to the top and underscore that these folders are working areas not storage. As you work, save to __Working and download to __Downloads and process these files to where they should go by day’s end.
Move application shortcuts off your desktop – they don’t belong there.
Think about that. How many doorknobs do you need to use a door effectively? One. How many shortcuts do you need to access an application? One – if it’s in the right place. You can put shortcuts on three different parts of your start menu, or on the Quick Launch toolbar. See AJ’s post
for details if you need them.
Now the secret sauce:
create a Desktop toolbar. Briefly, right click the taskbar and select Toolbars>>Desktop. Shrink the Desktop toolbar down and click the chevron “>>” to see the Recycle Bin, My Documents, and several other useful system icons. Want more visibility for your Desktop toolbar until you get used to it? Drag it to the top of your desktop.
Right Click your desktop, go to “Arrange Icons By” and de-select “Show Desktop Items”. That’s it: your desktop is clear.
Life is beautiful again.
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