Can you "KonMari' your career?

You'd have to be sleeping under a rock right now to escape the wave of decluttering that is infiltrating the UK and the US (and beyond). Instagram and Facebook feeds, following the launch of 'Tidying up with Marie Kondo' on Netflix, are full of pictures of giant piles of clothes on beds, immaculate closets and scores of garage bags heading off to donation centers.

The compelling tv series is a follow up to Marie Kondo's best selling book, 'the life-changing magic of tidying up. If you haven't read the book or seen the show, the premise is that we are surrounded by too much clutter in our lives and it is detrimental to our ability to evoke a calm mindset. Her straightforward method involves examining each possession that we have and changing the way we evaluate them. Instead of justifying possessions by criteria like sentimentality, monetary value and practicality, she has us ask one a simple question: 'does it spark joy?'. If the answer is yes, the item should stay and remain a prized possession. If the answer is no, then it should be donated or discarded.

Is it possible to apply the same simple methodology to our work space as well as our home space?

In a coaching session with a client this week we were dealing with a pattern of acute overwork and the related stress that comes with that. This person had been working 16 hour days for months. feeling that they weren't able to focus on the things that they really cared about and even worse, was nearing exhaustion. For some people it can be hard sometimes to say no to meetings or requests when they can all seem important and relevant. Talking in the hypothetical about the concept of prioritizing and saying no wasn't really helping, particularly when the client was feeling so overwhelmed.

I happened to mention earlier in the session that I had been watching Marie Kondo's show and had a bit of a random idea to see if we could apply it in the moment. I had her open up her work calendar and we started with looking at a typical day from her current week. Without telling me anything about what the meeting was about, I had her read each one aloud and tell me if it had 'sparked' joy. The initial responses were fairly typical like 'well, not really BUT it was important because....' and 'this type of meeting is not supposed to spark joy!!'. However, we pushed forward to see if we could do it by simply answering 'yes' or 'no'. We then repeated this for every day in her past week; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. The whole exercise took less that 10 minutes.

Where she had said 'yes' to a meeting, I asked her what she had been doing in that meeting. What became rapidly apparent was that there were 2 clear types of leadership activity that she genuinely loved doing and where she had been most productive AND had driven the most impact and action.

We had a moment of just sitting looking at each other and saying 'huh, well that is interesting'.

Now, in no way am I suggesting that it is entirely possible to ditch all the stuff in your work day that doesn't bring you joy. It would be awesome but not entirely realistic. However, it would appear that an exercise like this can be extremely useful in identifying where your energy should be best placed.

The areas where you had a super clear 'Yes' are the areas of your day and your role which should remain as your prized possessions and where it would be worth over indexing in terms of energy.

The areas where the answer was a resounding 'No', how about asking yourself 'Is this something that could be delegated or given to someone in the team who genuinely loves this type of activity?' This correlates with the idea of donating in Marie Kondo's method. Just because you don't love something doesn't mean that is not valuable, it may just mean that it should be someone else's to love.

I also have a feeling that there might be some people who would do this exercise and realize that nothing in their work week had sparked any joy! There's an excellent moment to ask yourself if you are in the right role or the right company or the right career.

Would love to know what you think about trying out this idea and how it worked for you if you did.

Anna Sulzmann