The Japanese life organiser is out with a new book called Joy at Work. Obviously, she has some advice for you on how to work from home
As we enter yet another week of lockdown, the excitement of working from home has probably worn out. The dining table or the office desk that’s served as your workspace is probably cluttered by now. You’ve stopped putting away your laptop back in its place at the end of the day because you know you’ll have to take it out again just a few hours later. The wires are all over the place, the headphones are dangling from somewhere, there are snack packets in your drawer that’ve spilled and your coffee mug hasn’t been washed for the last two days. We get it. The honeymoon period of WFH is over. Which is also, possibly, a good time to seek wisdom from the legend that is Marie Kondo.
The organising consultant who burst on the global scene following the release of her Netflix show last year, is out with her new book, Joy at Work, in which she helps you apply her Konmari approach to your workspace. But as we begin a new era of work-from-home, does her philosophy apply to this in-between space of not workplace-but-also-not-home too? Turns out it does.
In a recent blog, Kondo starts by spelling out the obvious – the need to create an environment that helps you focus, maintaining a division between your work and home life etc – but also stresses on how clutter tends to overwhelm one’s brain, compromises one’s abilities to take initiative and, ultimately, results in lower productivity.
Kondo says that when you create an uncluttered and a calm environment while working from home, you will enhance both your productivity as well as joy. To create such an environment, she suggests that you start by identifying all the items that you require to get your work done and designate a spot for them. “If you don’t have an office, a box or portable carrier will do,” she writes, “(Then) move all unrelated items off of your workspace and add one thing that sparks joy when you look at it.” On Marie Kondo’s desk you are likely to find a crystal or a small vase of fresh flowers.
Several of us don’t have the luxury of designating a separate room as an office space and so we end up sitting by the dinner table or some common area like the sofa. Kondo has a suggestion on how to use such a space too. “If you work in a multi-use space, be sure to stow your work essentials out of sight at the end of the day so they don’t distract during dinner or downtime,” she says.
The physical space aside, Kondo also stresses on taking a moment to centre oneself before one begins the work day. “I strike a tuning fork at the start of each workday. I also diffuse a stimulating essential oil to signal to my body that I’m switching gears,” she says adding that the ritual needn’t be anything elaborate. “In fact, the simpler (it is) the better so you’ll be more likely to do it every day.”
Kondo also says that you need to find a way to mark the end of your workday. It could mean turning off the notifications on your phone or playing music. Basically, ‘whatever (it is that) will let you move into the next part of your day with ease.’ It is here that Marie Kondo also points out something we’ve probably known unconsciously: “On average, we spend less than half of our workday on our main job responsibilities – the rest of the time is taken up by interruptions, non-essential and administrative tasks, emails and meetings,” she says, “Resist the “urgency” trap! Recognise the difference between urgent and important tasks and make sure the urgent to-dos aren’t draining all your time and energy.”
She also recommends that another way to use your hours at work effectively is by scheduling downtime in the course of the day. “Block out windows on your calendar each week to turn off notifications, take a walk or simply let your mind wander. Your creativity will be replenished and your brain will be sharper,” she promises.
Finally, she addresses the issue of isolation, pointing out that it can be hard on one’s spirit. Therefore, Kondo recommends that you take some time in the course of your workday to reach out to your colleagues, just to chat and catch up with them on non-work-related issues as you would if you were working in the office. “Connection with your cohort is vital to staying energized and engaged – and moving in the same direction,” she says adding, “Make an effort to hear and see the other person.”