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Beyond personal preference, is there any credence to the idea that, for example: in a cubicle with a fabric wall behind the monitor - if that wall is covered in paraphernalia (be it photos, post it notes, cheatsheets, whatever), does that distract or otherwise encumber the worker?

Personally I find that it makes me exhausted if there isn't some clean space. But I'm wondering if there's been any evidence found to support that.

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Good link. I think the key is defining 'messy' - since I can easily have a very neatly typed and perfectly aligned set of data pages hanging behind my monitor. Technically cluttered, but not messy. I'm wondering if the inability of the eye to relax upon on empty/clear space is at issue. –  hudsonsedge Jun 29 '11 at 22:57
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I'm going to address the general concept of stuff around desks, even though your question seems to be narrowly asking about stuff on the wall. If that matters, then it would matter if the wall was painted white or if it had a busy wallpaper pattern. That sounds preposterous magical-thinking-like to think that wall coverings have much impact on anything.

As for stuff on the desk, this is personality dependent. Everyone is different about how much clutter they are comfortable with. Personally, I don't notice clutter on the desk. I clean up the desk when I can't find something. For me, organizing and choosing a nice place for everything on the desk is premature optimization.

On the otherhand, if the clutter on the desk causes psychic distress, then I guess you don't have much choice to do something about it. Cat vomit on the desk would cause me psychic distress until I cleaned it up.

On the otherhand, putting 30 minutes into tidying up a desk everyday would be a time drain with no return on investment. At a half hour a day, hypothetical desk cleaning would take 130 hours a year and there is no way that being able to find a lost time 10 minutes faster would offset that 130 hours for me.

On yet the other hand, at a dentists office, needing to find a patients records among the 1000s of records is going to happen ever few minutes, so spending 30 minutes a day to tidy up may actually pay back more than 130 hours of saved time looking for stray patient records.

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I suspect it matters what is on the wall. There's a big difference between photos/quotes that are always there that become part of the scenery and post its with things to do. For the former, I think it is personal preference for what you like staring at. When the post its have tasks on them or change frequently, they become something that requires thought. And thought can be distracting.

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It's pretty basic: anything on the wall behind your desk is going to lessen the contrast between your work and the environment; therefore it's going to decrease your focus on work and lower your productivity as well.

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I think yes. Generally because in your mind there are thoughts about "How great it would be when I remove this clutter away".

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