How To Apply The KonMari Method To Your Work

It’s easy to fall into the trap of looking at our work as just a collection of projects and clients, or “things that we do on a daily.” However, if we can take a step back for a moment and start to think of it more like its own unique system, it becomes clear that we can apply some of the same wellness practices from our personal lives to our work.

This holistic approach can help us cultivate new ways of connecting with our work and ultimately move us towards a more balanced work/life and it all starts with a really good edit.

What is the KonMari Method?

For the uninitiated, the KonMari or “Kondo Method” as it is sometimes referred to, is a system of decluttering and organizing created by Japanese Organization Queen, Marie Kondo. Released to the world in 2011, and then to the U.S. three years later, Marie Kondo developed a new way of approaching organization based on a simple concept: only keep that which sparks joy.

When most of us approach organization, we tend to go area by area, which Marie Kondo believes is what keeps us in a perpetually organizing loop, as we never see exactly how much stuff we actually have. Instead, her method consists of dividing possessions into categories—clothing, books, papers, and miscellaneous—and approaching each category as a whole, in one go.

The dividing of items into categories (and then sub-categories, which we will get to in a moment) is important since each individual item needs to be handled and carefully considered before deciding whether to keep or discard.

The only question that needs to be asked, when you pick up your 18th black sweater or that book that has been “next on your reading list” for three years is, “does this bring me joy?” If the answer is yes, it is carefully organized to be easily accessible, but if it is a no, the item is discarded.

Does the KonMari Method Work?

While there have been a few naysayers, after all the idea of distilling a lifetime’s worth of possessions into “does it bring me joy?” may be a bit oversimplified for some. Plus, there is the step where you thank discarded items for their service before sending them onto their own “journey”—that’s tough for a lot of people to get behind.

But Marie Kondo’s track record speaks for itself. There is a three-month waiting list for her services and to date, she has never had a repeat customer.

So, when Marie Kondo organizes your home, it stays that way.

After the initial hump of “is this maybe too simple” is over, it’s easy to see how this method can not only be enormously effective when dealing with organizing our stuff, but how the same philosophy can have an impact on our lives over all.

Basically, the KonMari method is based on intrinsic value, not over-arching conventions. The idea is, if we can stop looking at what we think we should have and instead look at each item and consider whether or not it’s actually contributing to our lives, it’s incredibly therapeutic.

Before you know it, you finish an edit on your kitchen junk drawer and instead of carefully considering your spatula’s innate ability to bring you closer to a level of spiritual fulfillment, you may just find yourself thinking, “what about that toxic friend? Or that new diet I’m on? Or My job?? Do any of these things actually bring me joy or are they just habit?”

There is a reason Marie Kondo’s first book is entitled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Her philosophy transcends sifting through the clutter that always seems to creep cross our desks and bookshelves and open our eyes to other areas of our lives that may need a bit of “tidying.”

How Can The KonMari Method be applied to Work?

It may be a simple idea to consider a material object’s place in your life, but what about a concept like work? How do we go about editing something intangible, that we can’t simply hold for a moment or two and feel whether or not it brings us joy?

Just as the original KonMari method divides objects into specific categories, we can do the same with our work. When approaching a home edit, these categories are clearly defined and easily applied. When approaching our work, the same simplification needs to occur.

We are going to approach our work “Kondo-ing” from the three fundamental parts of work: People, Processes, and Products. From there, we will identify our relevant sub-categories for each and determine a way to assign value to the components within. The main difference between applying this method to our homes and applying it to our work comes with an added method of measurement. In addition to asking ourselves “does this spark joy?”, we are also going to ask, “is this aligned with my vision”.

The main difference between applying this method to our homes and applying it to our work comes with an added method of measurement. In addition to asking ourselves “does this spark joy?” we are also going to ask, “is this aligned with my vision?”

Defining your vision and goals

Reorganizing your work differs slightly from tidying up your home and/or personal life. While there are many similarities between the two, a job has the added layer of attaining a definitive goal, more so than most people would consider their life to.

Usually, that goal has some sort of financial implication or larger community impact. Either direction that you choose to go is fine, but it is important (for lots of reasons beyond just this exercise!) to have a very clear vision of your work before you attempt to reorganize it.

In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo instructs her clients (and readers) to spend some time visualizing their ideal living space. From the colors to the objects and their placement, we are meant to create a detailed picture of where exactly we would like to live. Keeping that image in mind, we then set upon the task of achieving it.

The same thought process can be applied to our work. Instead of imagining the perfect bedroom to relax in, set aside some time to envision your work at your ideal end result. What does the space look like? What sort of team is in place? What is your role in the organization? How does it function on a day-to-day? How does it measure success?

Sometimes having a very clear mental image of where we would ideally be can help us form a path to getting there, by guiding our decision and actions in a way that is aligned with our desired end result.

Applying the KonMari method to Work People

Throughout our work life, we encounter many people. Employers, mentors, coworkers, clients, service providers, and finally, peers. Each one has their role to play in our on-going success, but it can be easy to set those relationships up in the beginning, and then set them aside as our career progresses.

The first step to “Kondo-ing” our work relationships is to consider them each individually. Set aside some time with each person that you consider to have a role in your work life. If possible, this time should be face-to-face.

You can talk about whatever you like—a little business, a little personal, a little miscellaneous coffee talk—the topics aren’t necessarily important as long as you have a clear understanding of what that person’s role is, exactly.

Immediately after this contact takes place, set aside a little time for quiet reflection. How do you feel after talking with this person? Are you anxious at all? Do you feel in anyway unsettled or “drained”? Or do you feel reinvigorated and excited to great the rest of your day?

Your feelings may not be as clear-cut as this, but we are typically left with some sort of positive or negative emotion after interactions with people. Pay attention to those clues, and make a note of them.

Next, create your notes on how you are impacted by this encounter. Write down how this person directly impacts your work. It could be something as simple as “As the HR manager, this person signs my paychecks and makes sure they get transferred into my bank account.”

Lastly, consider your “perfect work vision.” Does this person figure into that vision at all? Is their role instrumental but perhaps the two of you don’t work well together personally? Or vice-versa? You love the person, but don’t necessarily need their job function to achieve your goals? This is an important note to make in your analysis.

Do not forget to include clients in this exercise. It can be tempting to want to keep as many clients as we possibly can to keep income flowing in and boost our bottom line, but sometimes letting go of a client that does not fit in with your vision and value is the best decision for both of you.

With these barometers in mind—how this person interacts with you and how they impact your work—we can start to see who is truly contributing to the overall vision of our work, and who may be holding us back in some way.

Applying the KonMari Method to Work Processes

Whether or not we realize it, we implement a lot of processes during the course of our work, no matter what we do. Everything from research to inspiration, continuing education, organization, budgeting and financials, sales, marketing, and networking, there are about a million different things that go into keeping our work life running smoothly.

Sometimes, however, we may have too many processes or outdated ways of doing things that are no longer working for us. If we continue to implement them, these processes and systems may do more than just waste a little time here and there, they could contribute to frustration, wasted resources and eventually, burn-out. This is where a little KonMari method thinking comes into play.

First, make a list of everything that you do, for work. It can be difficult to think of this in one sitting, so try keeping a journal for a week, and make notes along the way. It doesn’t matter how often you do a particular function if it is considered your responsibility, mark it down. This also includes any programs, softwares or services that you may use to complete these functions.

As you are making your list, pay attention to how each process makes you feel. When you set down to make a marketing calendar, does your stomach ball up and you suddenly remember every single odd and end that you forgot to do and should probably finish before you start in on that calendar?

Sometimes our natural urge to procrastinate is just our brain’s way of saying, “Nope. I hate this. I would rather scrub a toilet with my toothbrush than complete this task.”

Next, take a look at your list of processes and consider how effective they are at helping you maintain your current work and also, achieve your end vision. Is your accounting software absolutely essential to your success? Or would you be better served outsourcing that task to a professional?

Once we understand exactly how imperative a process is to our work, we can start to make those kinds of decisions.

Applying the KonMari Method to Products

What we produce is just as important as how we produce it and who we work with to make it possible. It may seem like common sense to find joy in the end result of your work, but people change as do needs, wants and goals.

Alternatively, sometimes work takes us in strange, seemingly meandering directions. We may have felt like we’ve been working towards the same goal throughout our careers, but somehow wound up doing X instead of Y.

Taking stock every now and again can help us realign our professional directions and get us back on the path towards our ideal work vision.

Make a list of everything that you consider to be a product of your work. This could be something concrete and tangible, or something a bit more abstract. Either way, there should be some sort of end result for you to consider.

Are you proud of that product? Even if you feel that there is room for improvement in what you are producing, it is important to note how you feel about that end result. It may sound a bit cliche, but having an emotional investment in what our work does, can have a lot to do with determining how successful we are at it.

How does this product fit in with your overall work vision? Are you creating budget projections right now, but your perfect work vision was conceptualizing ad campaigns? The two are related, but not entirely the same. Helping to identify those similarities and differences can be the start to a plan on how to bridge the divide and make a well-considered change.

Does the product reflect your values? This may seem a bit nebulous but what we produce takes investment. We put time, energy, and often money into doing our work, and if what we are creating doesn’t reflect our values, then it will not attract the right type of client to our business.

Even if you are not a business owner, worried about attracting customers, your work will be attracting someone. A new boss, perhaps, or a recruiter. Either way, you want to put out the right carrot to attract the right rabbit.

Our lives—both professional and personal—will never be perfectly organized or balanced. It is the nature of an ever-changing environment to need to be constantly re-assessed and addressed. What the KonMari method can do to alleviate that, however, is to give us a clear and simple way to measure our progress.

By setting ourselves up with a clear cut and simplified system of organization and assessment, we are able to ensure that we are moving perpetually forward in pursuit of our ideal vision, not swirling around the drain of wasted effort. By keeping things simple,  you can not only increase your bottom line but find joy along the way.

To learn more about applying the KonMari method to your home, check out this great guide.

Or this one, from goop (with videos!)

To see how one writer applied the method to her dating life, check out this article from xoJane.

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