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Clutter is the enemy of joy. 

First, clutter overwhelms the brain. The more stuff we have around us, the more overloaded our brain becomes. This makes it harder for us to capture and savor those things that are most important to us – things that bring us joy.

Second, when we live in a clutter, we are more likely to lose sense of control and the ability to choose. We forget that work is a means for bringing our aspirations to life, and worse, we lose our love for our job. The result is we put off dealing with our stuff indefinitely, generating a vicious cycle of ever-increasing clutter.

 

Clean in one go.

Anyone who has tidied has experienced ‘rebound’ at least once. Or if you’re more like me, you’ve tidied your desk a dozen times, but before you know it, it’s a mess again. 

To solve this problem, tidy in one go. If you tidy your desk today, drawer tomorrow and email the next day, chances are you’ll never put your space in order. 

 

Start off by blocking your calendar.

Tidying takes time, especially when we do it in one go. But the time you spent on tidying will pay you dividends over your lifetime. Once you’ve set aside time, tidying is as simple as following the three-step below in order.

  1. Gather all items by ‘category’.
  2. Decide which you should keep (ask yourself ‘does this item spark joy?’)
  3. Decide where to store the times you keep.

“When you decide not to keep something, focus on the good it brought you and let it go with gratitude for the connection you had with it. Think of your job positively, with gratitude. Recognize that although it may have been hard, it taught you things that you never knew before. This kind of attitude will lead you to the job that’s just right for the next stage in your life.”

 

Three types of things you should keep.

First are things that spark joy for you personally (for example – items that carry sentimental value, a favorite pen, a photo of your loved ones).

Second are things that are functional for your work (for example – staples, packaging tape, notebook). They don’t spark joy, but they are necessities to do your job well.

Third are things that will lead to future joy. Consider receipts. They don’t spark joy right now but they carry future joy of allowing you to be reimbursed. 

 

Three rules to store papers that never pile up again.

Among all the items you tidy, papers are most likely to have a rebound effect. Here are three rules of paper storage so you’ll never return to paper clutter.

  1. Categorize every paper down to the last sheet.
  2. Store your papers ‘upright’ (optimally store them in hanging files).
  3. Make a pending box (again use an upright folder so you can see how many papers need processing).

 

Three rules to organize a desk that sparks joy.

Here are three basic rules of desk storage.

  1. Designate a place to store each time and store by ‘category’.
  2. Use boxes and store things ‘upright’.
  3. Don’t store anything on top of your desk (get rid of everything on your desk and then choose very thoughtfully any items that you feel will spark joy).

 

Three folders that should be on your desktop.

Everyone has different job requirements but these three basic folders should fit most people requirements. 

  1. Current projects (with a subfolder for each sub-project)
  2. Records (that contain policies and procedures you regularly access)
  3. Saved work (past files that can help you with your future endeavors)
  4. (Optional) Spark joy (any document, picture, video that sparks you joy)

 

Some examples to bring joy to your work area.

  1. Decide a theme color for coordinating items on your desk.
  2. Choose a favorite movie as a theme for decoration.
  3. Inspire ideas online for decoration.
  4. Place a small potted plant on your desk.
  5. Showcase a photo that brings back joyful memories.
  6. Ads something sparkly such as a crystal or glass paperweight.
  7. Keep a small aroma item on your desk.
  8. Choose a favorite coaster for your drink.
  9. Set a desktop wallpaper that sparks you joy.
  10. Place a beautiful candle on your desk.

 

Six rules to bring joy to the meetings

When you’re stepping into a meeting, you’re entering a shared space for collaboration, decision-making and exchanging ideas. Meetings are not a place to come in with a close mind or put down others’ ideas in order to promote your own.

  1. Show up… really show up.
  2. Come prepared.
  3. Put away your devices.
  4. Listen… really listen.
  5. Speak up. 
  6. Respect and support everyone.

 

Replace ‘brainstorming’ with ‘brainwriting’.

Brainwriting can produce the same benefits as brainstorming without the drawbacks of it. Brainwriting is also simple to do. Here’s how:

  1. Set aside time (usually fifteen minutes) for idea generation at the beginning of the meeting. 
  2. Ask team members to silently write their ideas on notepads.
  3. Collect the notepads and group similar ideas together.
  4. Present the ideas anonymously to the team.
  5. Evaluate each and every idea.

 

Don’t worry about what others will think of you.

Many people are often held back by the fear of what others will think about them, although they discovered something they believe will tremendously benefit them. Marie recalls her own story when she consulted Kokoroya (a well-known therapist in Japan).

Marie: “I’d really like to start using social social media to get my message out there… but I can’ bring myself to do it. I’m afraid that people might hate me and start attacking me.”

Kokoroya: “Don’t worry, Marie. Plenty of people hate you already.”

Marie believed he was right. So, she searched for her name online. After her official website and blog, the highest-ranking article was “Why We Hate Marie Kondo.” She was stunned, but thanks to this, Marie’s thinking also changed 180 degrees. The fear of the public opinion had held her back from using social media. But now, she realized that there was no point in caring. Without her even knowing, people were already criticizing her all over the Internet. 

“You get only one chance at life. To live in fear of what others might think? Or to follow your own heart? Which will you choose?”

 

Our work and our lives are the cumulative result of our past choices.

Whatever happens is the result of our own decisions. If something you’re engaged in now doesn’t bring you joy, remember that it’s your past choices that lead you down this path. If you choose to let something go, do it with gratitude. If you choose to let something continue, do it with conviction. Whatever you do, make a decision deliberately and with confidence. Doing so will spark more joy in your life. 

 

What if all your efforts fail to spark joy?

That is when you might need a more substantial change. If your job brings you joy but your company doesn’t, consider a new place to work. If your colleagues bring you joy but your job doesn’t, consider a better-fitting job within the same company. If you believe you’ve tapped your full potential at your current job, consider a new position.

The grass often looks greener on the other side, but realize that you might still have a lot of untapped potential and unrealized joy awaiting to be discovered at where you are right now.

Whether you stay or leave, don’t hold on to the past (this is the way I’ve always worked) or be fearful of the future (if I don’t do this, what will I do?). With much more awareness of your work-life vision and how to achieve it, you’re going to approach your next career choice with the right priorities.

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Kyaw Wai Yan Tun

Hi, I'm Wai Yan. I love designing visuals and writing insightful articles online. I see it as my way of making the world a more beautiful and insightful place.