How to Be More Productive According to the Japanese Guru, Marie Kondo

With the launch of the 2019 Netflix special, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo”, Marie has quickly become a household name with her method of helping people declutter their lives to better focus their energies.

Can work “spark joy” aka Marie Kondo style? It’s fair to hope as much since you spend so much of your time doing it! The mantra and way of life for Japanese tidying guru, Marie Kondo, can be applied to the workplace so that you too can experience joy with what you do and how you do it.

1. Streamline Your Focus

Employees, executives, and entrepreneurs often experience the following scenario. You had a clear vision of what your contribution would be when you joined the company or started a company. But over time, like those clothes with tags you purchased for a vacation once got buried so deeply in the back of your closet that you forgot they even exist, your focus evolved.

Call it shiny object syndrome or change management, but do you still know what your purpose is? Do you even know which part of what you do at work is most valuable to the company? Has the company grown fat that it’s no longer as efficient and streamlined as it once was when it was just the founder and a few employees?

It may be time to take a clear look at your best contributions, your vision, and your purpose so that you can strip away the nonessential. No, that doesn’t mean going around wielding a hatchet and firing entire departments or dropping what you’re currently working on. Instead, take a careful look to ensure you are still delivering on your vision and spending 80% of your energy on the top 20% of profit centers.

“When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or fear for the future.” – Marie Kondo

No doubt it is challenging to drop entire segments of the company’s production, but what if that’s what the market and your customers want? It’s much like when Ford announced that it would be dropping all but 2 cars from its North American dealerships to exclusively focus on trucks and SUVs.

Earlier this year, James Farley, the company’s president of global markets, said Ford is “shifting from cars to utilities,” which have been a bigger profit driver. Ford learned what their customers love and shed the rest. Marie Kondo would approve.

Perform the necessary evaluation to determine what stays and what goes. Bring in neutral parties to weigh in on these potentially tough decisions.

2. Are your employees, colleagues, and subordinates best suited in their positions?

These days, studies show people work harder for praises than raises. Companies are finding that strictly financial perks are not enough to satisfy their employees. When is the last time you made an assessment of your own contributions (or others you are responsible for) to find out if you are best suited for the position and tasks you’ve been given? The same goes for your subordinates, employees, and teams.

This process seems daunting but doesn’t have to be. Meeting with each employee (or your boss) to review job descriptions and work assignments kills two birds with one stone. On the one hand, you’re following Kondo’s sage advice of “dramatic reorganization.” You’re also flexing your workplace communication muscles- a soft skill that you can’t afford not to use.

Listening to each person and empathizing and validating any complaints is not opening up Pandora’s Box. Tackling a challenge head on may seem frightening at first but is key to preventing greater problems down the line.

“A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. It is life transforming.” – Marie Kondo

3. Graceful Gratitude

Expressing gratitude and showering praise comes easier to some than others. Call it personality style or call it extroverted, it pays to be appreciative. The simply selfish reason to express more gratitude is that people do more of what you want when they feel appreciated.

This is the simplest way to get someone to change. Change will happen organically when more appreciation is shared. An employee who feels appreciated by their superior, will rise to the occasion and do more of that behavior. A boss that feels appreciated for all of his/her efforts will stretch to give more.

Get comfortable with expressing gratitude at work. Not only will you see more of what you want to see, you actually become a more positive person – beginning to view people in a more positive light, rather than always looking for negatives.

If expressing appreciation seems difficult, follow the 5:1 ratio. For every one negative observation that you need to share, be it negative feedback or constructive criticism, be sure to share at least 5 positive observations.

Like anything worth doing in life, half the battle is starting. Tidying up is going to be one of those tasks. While making changes to your focus, contribution, and communication with others can “stir up dust” that may have lain dormant for a while, the end results are well worth the exercise.

Which one of the above tips from Marie Kondo resonated most with you and why? Let us know your thoughts below!


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