A new movement has swept the planet, thanks to a petite Japanese organisational extraordinaire known as Marie Kondo. Her unorthodox decluttering methods first surfaced when she published her first book (English translated) in 2014, but it wasn’t until earlier this year when her Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, catapulted her to international, Internet fame.
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Take a look around you – your bedroom, your office, your desk. How many things do you have and how are they organised? Some of us colour coordinate our belongings, some of us group objects by use, some of us keep our surfaces spotless but hide the mess haphazardly in drawers, and some of us simply allow things to stack on top of each other. The truth is, most of us don’t follow a system because it’s not exactly at the top of our priority list. Who has time to tidy up when we’ve got deadlines to meet and mouths to feed?
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But we forget that the little things do matter. Physical clutter can lead to psychological clutter, or more specifically, anxiety, stress and even depression – says studies published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. On top of that, clutter reduces your ability to focus, and thus leads to more high-magnitude judgment errors. In a work environment, this can be gravely detrimental.
While the KonMari method would work wonders for the physical environment of your office, it can also be applied to the way you run your business for a complete, end-to-end overhaul. Here’s how.
The Value of Decluttering
Decluttering is not simply about throwing away everything you have. It requires a process of careful evaluation. In a company, this practice relates to a multiplicity of areas. For instance, think about the goals you have for your business. How many are there and how complex is each one? It might do you good to simplify these goals and break them down into more actionable weekly, monthly and yearly targets. Furthermore, having a single focus allows you to achieve so much more (and at a higher quality), rather than splitting your attention and energy and dipping your fingers into too many pies.
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Then, there’s your products and services. Let’s say you’re launching a new mobile app. To maximise coverage on this product, you won’t want to distract your consumers with five other new releases. As for the product itself, it pays to have a singular USP. Don’t try to do too many things at once, especially in the beginning. Grab’s platform may feature an endless slew of services (GrabHitch, GrabPet, JustGrab, GrabFood) presently, but when it was just a newcomer, it had fewer functions. The danger in trying to accomplish too much is the damage you might do to the quality of each item. The wiser option is to zero in on one thing, so you’re able to polish and perfect it as best you can.
The process of decluttering also includes going through everything you have, and deciding whether to keep or toss them. This means regularly evaluating your enterprise, a ritual that will keep your company relevant and continually improving. Is there anything about your office culture that needs to go? How about your management style? Is it time to replace paper with an app, billboard posters with social media ads? Much like what industry disruptors have been doing, you should be considering if there are processes that can be made more efficient by cutting out the middleman. It could be as simple as allowing direct communication between upper management and the office intern, instead of sticking to the high school method of passing a note around in class.
The Importance of Gratitude and Respect
Another habit Kondo practices is thanking an object for its service, before gently and lovingly placing it in the “ditch” pile. It may seem odd to speak to an inanimate object, but it only goes to show how we’ve taken gratitude for granted. You don’t necessarily have to whisper a word of appreciation every time you kill a project. What’s more important is reflecting on the positives, the lessons you’ve learnt, the benefits you’ve enjoyed, especially if it seems like a train wreck from the outside.
For example, in firing the worst employee in your company, instead of stirring drama, you can be grateful for the opportunity to learn how to avoid making bad hires in the future. You may even thank a nasty customer for increasing your emotional control and thickening your skin. In any case, gratitude only makes you better, more likeable, effective and humble as a business leader.
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Respect also goes hand-in-hand with gratitude. Kondo doesn’t just utter the words, “thank you”, and slam dunk discarded items into the bin, which would’ve been a conflicting display of resentment. Everyone and everything in your company deserves to be treated well and with respect, even when they don’t accord you the same. I’m sure if a magazine gave Kondo a papercut, she’s not going to stomp on it out of indignation.
Stop Hiding Things Out of View
Have you ever needed a double A battery and went out to buy some, just because you forgot where you stored them at home? One of our biggest and most common follies is keeping things where we can’t see them. Or perhaps, we’ve grown to ignore what’s right in front of us. In the professional context, it might look like letting hidden assets go to waste, the most valuable of which are your employees. If you can’t see their value, you can’t utilise it.
As the head honcho, therefore, it’s your job to spend time getting to know each individual in your firm. Have a light-hearted chat over lunch, and pick their brains on the pros and cons of the business. It makes a world of difference for your staff to know their opinions are cherished, and that they have a real opportunity to create change in whatever position they occupy within the company. You might stumble upon a few undiscovered gems with the potential to lead the firm to higher ground.
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Finally, the most salient, human piece of advice: happiness makes the world go round. If something sparks joy in you, you would want to dedicate 110% of yourself to it. It’s where you’ll also find purpose and passion. Whether in life or in business, what’s the point of doing anything if you’re not going to be happy? Work on things you feel strongly for and delegate the rest to your subordinates. At the same time, don’t forget to ensure those projects and assignments spark joy in your employees as well. By now, you should know that workplace happiness equates to higher productivity, which in turn raises your bottom line.
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Of course, you need to be realistic and acknowledge that, as much as you love your job, there will inevitably be difficult days. Does this mean you should abandon ship? Absolutely not. A project that resonates in your heart also requires perseverance to weather the peaks and valleys. The same can be said for external parties – investors, customers, etc. – who may not appreciate your work at first. With time, however, the embers of joy may start to glow.
From identifying hidden assets to removing excesses, the key to the KonMari method is consistency. It’s easy for a household to return to its messy habits after the Japanese Mary Poppins leaves. To maintain your business, you need to consider before each decision if it truly sparks joy. Respect and gratitude should be daily practices, while the metaphorical spring cleaning an annual affair. Keep these things up, and your business will spark growth too at lightning speed.