by Liz daRosa @lizdaRosa
Is your career cluttered? (Are you nodding?) We intuitively know when some aspect of our life space has too much…so much it is overflowing, taking residence on the floor instead of a drawer, on our face instead of erased…you get it.
How can we overcome our clutter problem? Marie Kondo is an expert on ‘tidying’ homes; our careers aren’t much different they just don’t (thankfully) manifest as dirty clothes on the bathroom floor. Kondo’s purging techniques are an extension of feng shui but focused on a concept of “Spark Joy” – if something gives you instant joy when you touch it then keep it, otherwise throw it out. (Did you cringe? I did!) Obviously we can’t quit our jobs when we have an argument or a bad day but we can take steps to focus on practices/processes at work that sparkjoy to remove the clutter in our jobs and work lives.
First, you need to identify the clutter in your work life to determine where things already #sparkjoy or need to be immediately de-cluttered.
Potential Cluttered ‘Spaces’
- Physical: Your Appearance; Your Workspace
- Mental: Your Attitude; Your Behavior
- Human Interactions: Your Boss & Colleagues; Your Team; Your Customers/Clients; Your Vendors
Second, let’s figure out how to resolve our clutter tendencies and make an immediate positive impact in our work lives.
Ways to De-Clutter ‘Spaces’
Physical – Who knows the co-worker who walks in the building overloaded with multiple bags. One is a briefcase/backpack to carry a laptop, one holds lunch and another may be a workout bag. Lugging in these items to work day after day can’t spark joy. I was one of these individuals. I carried a tote, a lunch bag and when I was nursing, a huge bag with my breast pump, empty bottles, ice packs, you get the idea – it was a lot! At night my shoulder would be sore and I wondered why. No doubt there were items that were necessary (i.e. the pump) but I didn’t need a tote for my other ‘stuff.’ The tote was unnecessary. When I stopped and looked at all the stuff I brought to work I realized there were several zipper compartments in the bag I carried the pump. Also, I had a small refrigerator in my office so I decided to bring in lunch for the week on Monday so I didn’t need to carry a lunch bag on a daily basis. Three bags whittled down to one and which resulted in a much relieved shoulder!
If you are upset with your job or anticipate a career transition I’ve seen once cluttered desktop, overflowing drawers and surrounding area become barren. Perhaps it’s our fear of being terminated or just an emotional cleansing or daydreaming of moving on but we do take steps to clean up our stuff. Take an inventory of what’s on your desk – is it necessary to function in your role? Get rid of the candy dish (extra calories don’t spark joy, I don’t care who you are!). Take the 50 picture frames of your nieces & nephews & college roommate home – have one frame that has multiple pictures and pick the best ones (spark joy remember!). Remove the extraneous material from any bulletin board, what do you NEED? Purge any leftover physical mail – act on it or throw it out. Obviously, at work unless you work for yourself, you don’t have the authority to throw out everything – I get that but put items that you haven’t used in the past 3 months in a box, talk with your supervisor about the best way to handle those files/documents. Undoubtedly there is a process for archiving documents and information – figure that out & do it!
Do you keep every email? Unless your organization has a policy that you can’t delete emails (check!) why are you? Be bold, handle the issue and move on. There’s no reason the average person should have over 15 emails in their in-box. Conversely, don’t have 50 file folders in your email either. Keep what you NEED – purge the rest. Many organizations have servers that back-up emails and hard drives at least once daily – check the policy at your office and when in doubt ask your supervisor for guidance on how to handle the electronic work documents/email so you are in compliance but still #sparkjoy when you open your email or sit down to work on a project on your computer. If you dread opening your email because it has hundreds of emails you’ve avoided handling or have handled but have them in a sort of email purgatory sitting there handle it – take action or delete and move on!
Mental – I’m not a trained therapist but I like ‘playing one’! Your attitude and resulting behavior is the result of a lifetime of baggage. You may have an oversized duffle bag, a cute carry-on tote or a steel-sided bag but we all carry baggage even if it’s stylish, some of us just hide it better! Sit and think about the last time you threw a tantrum – I’m an expert on tantrums, I have a 3 ½ year old at home so I see it every day. Odds are you have thrown a tantrum (Been angry? Gotten upset?) I know I have – what’s important is that we know our triggers and work to redirect ourselves and behave better by removing the clutter from our mind space. I’m not saying push things down or ignore things you need to deal with – on the contrary – handle what you need to, fix the issue or admit you can’t fix the issue and move on! Your behavior will improve and people around you will take notice. It will improve the quality of your (work) life, outlook and how you feel about your job!
Human Interactions – You may think that removing clutter in your mental space is the hardest part; however it’s the human interactions that pose the biggest clutter threat. You can control how you dress, what you carry, what’s in your workspace and how you act/behave but throw other people into the equation and that can create tornado conditions straight out of Wizard of Oz. Let’s be honest, people are flawed, they carry baggage, they haven’t read Marie Kondo so they don’t understand how their job and life can and should #sparkjoy so they haven’t removed the clutter. SO you need to lead the pack – take time to remove the clutter from your human interactions at work and simplify how you work with everyone you come in contact with. Simplify doesn’t mean don’t do your job or do ‘less’ but rather only do what does #sparkjoy. Smile and say good morning, good afternoon and have a great evening. Be genuine but if you are having a bad day, ‘fake it til you make it’ and do it any way, it will help improve your mental attitude by connecting with others. Don’t go to lunch with colleagues who have a negative attitude – surround yourself with joy. Obviously, if you have to go to a lunch meeting with a colleague or client or vendor for a work purpose GO but embrace the lack of clutter and focus on what does #sparkjoy and that should emanate through you and guide your human interactions.
Finally, I’m not saying this process will be easy; in fact it will be downright uncomfortable. We are a consumer culture and many of us are a stack of magazines away from qualifying to be on the show Hoarders. BUT, removing the physical and mental clutter will free us to be more productive and successful and show more of our talents – who doesn’t want that? I’m tackling my workspace today – who’s with me?
Your Career Coach, Liz
About the Author: Liz daRosa coaches highly motivated people to #NextLevel success. She helps people like YOU navigate career transition challenges to be more productive & leverage their natural talents. Liz blogs at lizbeardmoredarosa.com and tweets @lizdaRosa. She can help you embrace & multiply your moments that #sparkjoy.