Declutter Your Business for a Work Life that Sparks Joy
Ever since Marie Kondo’s popular new Netflix Series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, dropped last month, you might be wishing you could tidy up your social feeds—just how many before-and-after pictures of your friends’ hall closets and junk drawers can you really endure? But as it turns out, there’s a lot to be learned from Marie and her viral KonMari tidying system.
Why? Although one’s work life is just as susceptible to clutter as one’s personal life, we tend to put more focus on tidying up at home. We also have different standards for the objects in the office; they’re not really expected to “spark joy,” as Marie insists our life accessories must. But that doesn’t mean we should tolerate mess—literal or metaphorical—at the office. Here’s how to translate Marie Kondo’s ideas to a professional setting, for more joy from 9–5.
Declutter Your Physical Workspace
Regardless of what you believe to be your own personal tolerance for clutter, there’s now scientific proof that mess causes stress—it can encroach upon your workspace and cause time-sucking distractions throughout the day. And clutter can be contagious; if you keep a sloppy office, you’re sending the signal that your employees can, too.
As a succession planning speaker, I always recommend that my clients make a thorough physical clean-out as part of the transition process. It’s astounding how quickly objects can become obsolete, failing to “spark joy” even in the most basic operational ways—yet how weirdly reluctant we are to part with them! One of my business turnaround speaker clients recently admitted that he was afraid to get rid of his old-school Rolodex, despite having digitized all his contacts years ago. Sorry, friends; the ol’ Rolo has GOT to go.
Start by making a list of everything you use regularly over a two-week period. After 14 days, you’ll know everything that’s essential to your day. Nearly everything else can be donated or recycled! NOTE: There may be the odd tech item (cables, chargers, travel cases etc.) that you use less frequently; these can be tucked away out of sight.
Declutter Your Digital Workspace
Warning: you will not want to do this. But trust me when I say this: the one hour you spend tidying up your digital work-space will likely be the best investment of your time you’ll make all week. Here’s a quick checklist to guide you quickly through the process:
Unsubscribe from unwanted digital newsletters and ALL retail emails.
Tidy up your email. Group by sender and archive or delete anything nonessential.
Declutter your desktop. All files should be in a folder; no more than 10 folders.
Uninstall any software you don’t use, and disable non-essential startup programs.
Upgrade your computer’s operating system and applications to the latest version.
So that’s your desktop sorted. Now, what about your phone? If you keep a separate personal or family computer at home (which I highly recommend), and your business doesn’t require you to maintain a visible social presence during work hours, then it’s time to cut the cord: delete ALL social media from your phone. And while you’re in there, spend a few minutes organizing your home screen and cleaning up your apps’ background functions. Turn off all nonessential notifications—then tidy up your cookies and browser history to boost speed.
Declutter Your Processes + Practices
As a succession planning speaker, I am privy to quite a bit of operational stagnation; companies that have been “doing it that way for years,” whilst assuming “it” must be working. Well, you need not wait for a major leadership upheaval to KonMari your business processes and practices. Even if you’re not completely exploding your company’s org chart, the start of the year is a great time to take stock—and tune up.
Because internal business operations are so individual across various verticals, this will be a unique journey for each one of you. For manufacturing companies, it might mean taking a hard look at your supply chain; for sales-based organizations, it might mean a new bonus structure. For everyone, though: this might be a good time to make sure your employee roster aligns with company culture and business needs.
Or tidying up might be as simple as revisiting the division of duties between you and your assistant. For example, few years ago, I adopted a new method of dealing with mail (both digital and physical) that has worked wonders for my stress levels. In order to avoid handling the same communiqué more than once, I either (a) deal with it immediately; (b) hand it off to my assistant; (c) mark it as “unread” and set a reminder to deal with it by a certain date; or (d) delete it immediately. This system is an excellent way to start small.
Declutter Your Mental Work-space
In my travels on the succession planning speaker circuit, I meet a lot of people who are in the midst of significant professional—and often emotional—turmoil. It’s easy to see that regardless of how clean their physical work-spaces might be, their mental “desktops” could definitely use a good tidying up.
For some of these people, a simple reminder about maintaining a healthy work-life balance is enough. Personally, I can’t state strongly enough the importance of having a daily mindfulness practice; for me, just 10 minutes every morning of quiet contemplation or moving meditation such as yoga sets the tone for a calm, focused and productive day.
This practice also prioritizes self-care, which serves as a constant reminder that none of the work-related clutter I encounter in the next 12 hours—whether it’s mental, operational, digital or physical—is more important than my personal happiness.