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Reflections from Our Bookshelf: Messy

Reflections from Our Bookshelf: Musings on how we view reading a bit differently



Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives
By: Tim Harford
Reflection By: Gordon Gulledge


Why I read it? This book came to me as a recommendation from several colleagues. Through their reading of Messy, they gained a better understanding of the relationship that exists between order and disorder, and how embracing a degree of both can have a positive influence in our lives.


What is it all about? Harford uses a collection of stories and studies to thoughtfully present the advantages of being messy and fighting the urge for tidiness and order. Prior to reading this book, I assumed that each individual fit into one of two categories; messy or tidy. However, Harford is effective in arguing the interrelationship and commonalities between the two.


What caused me to pause?

The principles discussed in Messy can be applied to individuals, teams, or businesses – any environment that promotes improvement, advancement or progression towards a specific goal. Below are a couple of my favorite takeaways:

  1. 13 Virtues – Ben Franklin identified 13 virtues he believed made a better all-around person. After identifying these 13 qualities, Franklin would dedicate an entire week to improving every aspect of that specific virtue, focusing on one at a time. The objective was to make the improvement of each virtue a habit, before moving to the next. Striving to improve, Ben Franklin would document his daily successes and failures. The goal was for the sum of these improvements to ultimately result in Franklin becoming a more productive individual.
  2. Am I Messy or Tidy? – The purpose of this book is not to identify yourself as being messy or tidy. It is to outline the relationship between being ordered and disordered, planned and spontaneous, messy and tidy, and how possessing characteristics of both can often result in a more meaningful life. Individuals crave control over the environments that they live and work in. When we are forced to be messy or tidy according to someone else’s standards, both engagement and productivity suffer.


How this book will change my habits? Reading this book motivated me to embrace the idea of spontaneity. A newly established goal of mine is to have at least one experience each day that is outside of my comfort zone. I’ve always been an analytical person, and that can sometimes cripple my ability to be both creative and efficient.


Add this to your reading list if… you have ever wondered why some individuals are wired to be tidy and organized, while others have the ability to be extremely productive while in a messy environment. As an inherently creative person, I enjoyed reading about how incorporating a certain level of disorder or spontaneity can lead to positive results.  Harford argues that the most creative and successful people are often those who are not afraid to be untidy, but only to a certain degree. The key lies in finding the correct balance that works for you!


Pickle Rating 4.5/5    

Shannon Dermody

Shannon DermodyTEST

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