Just as huge numbers are getting into the rhythm of working from home, a new book makes a timely appearance on how to get our professional lives organised, writes
HANDS up: Who feels joy at work? A difficult thing to get our heads around when all we want is to complete a day’s work and crisis-manage moody, uncooperative technology which hasn’t made an easy transition from office to spare bedroom.
But when a digital copy of Japanese tidying guru Marie Kondo’s new book Joy at Work (Macmillan) landed in my inbox last week it seemed like a natural progression in the order of things to tackle my desk having just finished a general spring clean of the house.
Now I have to say I have been guilty of vacillating between scepticism and evangelism when it comes to Ms Kondo’s KonMari method of decluttering, especially the eyebrow-raising approach of picking up a household item or garment and asking if it sparks joy in me. The answer determines whether it is kept or slung.
Unexpectedly, however, I developed a temporary fixation last year with her Netflix reality show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo when treated to the surprising sight of her as a gentle, calm guru of orderliness in her twinset and pearls sorting out heaps of rubbish in the homes of hoarders and disorganised of California. It was enough to spark joy in me and motivation to tackle a wardrobe with more joyless garments in it than I could have thought possible.
Now, with three books under her neat and tidy belt, and millions sold worldwide, she’s teamed up with organisational psychologist Scott Sonenshein, author of Stretch, Unlock the power of Less — and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined (Harper Collins), to write Joy at Work.
Preparing myself for a desk-tidying session and at the same time wondering how such a topic could fill an entire book, I was already asking everything from my glass paperweight to my vintage phone if it sparked joy, until she posed a few questions early in the book about our overall attitude to our working life.
“Is this all life’s about?” she ponders. “Are you just checking things off a to-do list? Isn’t there some way to restore order to my job, my career, my life?”
Tidying up is the inevitable starting point. “If you’re unhappy in your job, tidy up your workspace,” she says. To which Sonenshein adds, “It doesn’t matter if you’re a farmer or a restaurant reviewer.”
Of course, not everything at work can be evaluated on the basis of whether it sparks joy, Kondo continues: “There are company rules to follow, superiors who make decisions that impact our work, and co-workers with whom we collaborate.”
But it’s the tidying up of desk space which gets the ball rolling, and in turn is intended to create headspace to consider these types of questions: “What’s on your career bucket list? What quality makes a great boss? Can you visualise the type of meetings you want to have?” they ask.
There’s also a recommendation that you might like to include chocolate which would indeed make many meetings more palatable.
They even offer direction on getting your email inbox to zero, although for some that will seem like a climb up Kilimanjaro when you’d rather sit on the sofa finishing off what’s left of the Easter eggs.
But just in case you get a spurt of enthusiasm for a digital tidy up, Kondo says: “Create a folder on your desktop and call it Spark Joy.
“Only put your items that spark joy into it. Create another folder and call it Important Documents and transfer what you need to keep into this. Stop keeping komono (miscellaneous items). If you haven’t opened a document in three years and the title doesn’t spark joy, let it go.”
Bear in mind, though, that like her approach to tackling the home, tackling the desktop as well as the actual desk has to start with getting rid of stuff before you begin organising what you’re left with.
Admittedly, not everyone is a fan of this sort of extreme tidying, even those who have embraced spring cleaning this month to mitigate boredom and keep their face out of the fridge.
But if you can muster enthusiasm, Joy at Work is an obvious next step after house tidying, especially for committed Kondo fans, but perhaps also those who are considering the sort of working lifestyle they want when the crisis passes.