Does your job spark joy? Is your office decluttered and organized? Those are some of the questions we asked ourselves this week when we applied the Marie Kondo method of tidying up — the “KonMari” method — to our careers. Kondo, a professional organizer, who sprang onto the scene in 2014 with her No. 1 New York Times bestseller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” has since become a lifestyle phenomenon with her Netflix series.
Her philosophy is simple: Don’t get overwhelmed by excess; discard the things that don’t make you happy; find a place for everything and simplify whenever possible. Here are six ways to use her proven method to amp up your career.
Kondo says: Your possessions should not have power over you.
Apply it to: Prioritizing off-time, for you and your gadgets.
When you wake up, resist the urge to reach for your phone—emails shouldn’t be checked for the first hour of your day, says personal and executive coach Keren Eldad.
“If you jump on email first thing in the morning, you are answering others’ needs before your own, before the bathroom and brushing your teeth, and how is that gonna set up your day? Not well,” she says. Instead, eat something healthy, have coffee or play uplifting music. “It’s your day,” she says. “The most important thing you can do is align and start it off happy.”
A digital detox (even brief) can lead to “instant frustration reduction,” says Dorothy Spira, Evernote’s productivity expert. Even something as simple as reducing notifications can be a great way to declutter your digital life, she says.
Kondo says: We need homes—and mental states—free from nonessentials.
Apply it to: Learning the power of the word “no.”
We must learn to say no and mean no, says Kylie Carlson, Founder of The Academy of Wedding & Event Planners. “We all want to be able to do everything, but that simply isn’t possible. I know instinctively when things aren’t right for me or if I won’t have time to do something, so I no longer ignore that voice that’s screaming ‘no!’ inside my head. I politely decline the things that I know are going to add to my stress levels or not be right for my brand.”
Women are often taught to be “nice and say yes to things even when we know the request is going to be a hardship,” explains Sharon Rowe, founder and CEO of Eco-Bags Products and author of “The Magic of Tiny Business: You Don’t Have to Go Big to Make a Great Living.”
“Think of how many times you’ve regretted agreeing to do something, felt guilty and then gobbled up precious time to get it done. Don’t be nice, be honest about your capacity and time,” she says. Practice framing your responses to people in ways that reclaim your power, such as, “I have one minute for you and then I have a meeting,” or “You have a great idea, but I don’t have the time to work with you on this,” or, very simply, “No.”
Kondo says: Visualize the clutter-free, streamlined life you wish to have.
Apply it to: Making a to-do list a part of your daily routine.
When you make a to-do list, you can plot your day out in time chunks, which is a great way to ensure you’re meeting goals, Eldad explains. “Everyday, I write a to-do list based on a method. The first chunk of the day goes to the biggest task, the one that I cringe at the thought of. This is because I have finite energy, and it’s gotta get off the plate first.”
Making a to-do list can also help you create a hard start and stop to each day. “We all need downtime. If you let work bleed into all aspects of your life, it can exhaust you. When you set hard start and end times every day, it actually builds efficiency. You’re forced to prioritize and focus and get what’s important done first,” Rowe says.
Kondo says: Let go of some things to have room for what makes you happy.
Apply it to: Finding a way to do more of what brings you joy.
It’s vital that you make sure you’re using your talents and abilities every day, says Heather Monahan, author of Confidence Creator. Ask yourself: Am I really doing what my passions are steering me to do? Yes, there will always be un-fun parts about your job — there’s no way around it. But you can always seek to do more of the work that challenges you and that you enjoy.
Don’t wait until your annual review with your boss to tell them how you’re feeling: Whenever you have five minutes alone with them, take the opportunity to say, “I have been finding myself really enjoying this type of work immensely. Would there be any way for me to reallocate some of these other things that I don’t enjoy, and put more of my focus on the things that are making me happy?”
“No one wants to have an employee unhappy, and many times people just aren’t communicating that they don’t like parts of their work,” Monahan says. “Speak up. When your supervisor is aware, there may be something they can do.”
Kondo says: Only keep things in your life that spark joy.
Apply it to: Eliminating negative and toxic people from your circle at work, even if it’s tough.
The KonMari philosophy encourages people to surround themselves with things that bring them joy— Monahan encourages the same, but for people: Only spend time with people who elevate you.
“In work, you have to be around people who you might not necessarily love, and that’s OK,” she says. “But what you shouldn’t be doing is going to lunch or coffee every day with people who are always complaining, always frustrated and never bringing any solutions to the table for how to improve things. These are people who want to be negative and bring others down.”
If you’re in a situation where a negative colleague wants to hang out, it’s OK to decline the invitation. Just say, “You know what, I can’t make it. Thanks so much for understanding.” Thanking them in advance usually helps to shut down any possibility of them trying to change your mind.
Kondo says: A clutter-free life is a streamlined life.
Apply it to: Decluttering your workspace.
Getting organized doesn’t mean your desk has to be bare and boring, says Jamie Fertsch, co-founder and director of Xdesk, makers of the Evodesk XE standing desk converter. “Invest in fun items like printed pencil holders and drawer dividers in your favorite color.”
Although personal items such as picture frames and vacation souvenirs are nice to look at throughout the day, they often take up a lot of space and can sometimes be distracting. Limit yourself to one personal item on your desk to create more space.
A physically clean office space ensures that you are free of visual distractions—not to mention, it makes things way easier to find, Spira says. “Once you have a tranquil desk or office, it’s much easier to stay on task and focused throughout the day.”