Marie Kondo’s “Joy at Work”: Key Takeaways and Tips

If you recognize the name Marie Kondo, it’s likely from her Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Over the years, she has received one question constantly: how can we “spark joy” (her signature phrase) at work? The book Joy at Work (co-authored by the author of Stretch, Scott Sonenshein) is the result of that question.

messy desk

1. When organizing and decluttering, do not focus on what you’re “discarding”— focus on what you are keeping.

Some people love cleaning up and others do not. For either side, it can be easy to view the task of cleaning as simply getting rid of things. While “discarding” and “deciding what to keep” seem like two sides of the same coin, Sonenshein impresses on her audience to change their perspective on this and instead choose to focus on the positive aspects of the things that we own. This is known as “sparking joy.” Sonenshein pulls data showing that negative emotions have a more powerful impact on our thoughts than positive emotions. Think of examples in your own life. Is homework a task or an opportunity for learning? Is cooking a chore or a fun activity? In this way, [male] describes the psychology of tidying up. 

2. Clutter affects our health and productivity.

When it came to clutter, Kondo laid down the facts. According to a study by UCLA scientists, the stress hormone (cortisol) increases. Other studies of psychology have proven that when our brains are busy registering the mess around us, we can’t focus on work or communicating with others. 90 percent of working American adults feel that clutter has a negative impact on their lives, which causes reduced motivation and impairs their decision-making ability. Clutter causes us to lose things, creating unnecessary waste. In fact, the loss of productivity when converted to cash is estimated to equal $89 billion annually— a staggering sum of money. To Kondo, the choice is easy. Tidy up or suffer the consequences. 

3. The trick to being motivated is imagining what everything will look like once you’re done.

Do this, Kondo says, in “vivid, motion-picture detail.” There are three steps to this process. (I’ll play along, using my school desk as an example.) The first is the physical environment. What will the desk look like once you are done? I imagine my desk free of any dust. My books would be stacked by height, and all my crafts and writing utensils would finally be separated. The second is your behavior when your desk is clean. What will you be doing? I imagine drinking coffee while grabbing highlighters for my book in the other. The final element is how you will feel once you are done cleaning. Excited? Fulfilled? Refreshed? (I imagine feeling refreshed.) As Kondo explains, when we imagine each detail - each physical response and each emotion - the ideal workspace becomes more tangible. It can even become like a type of game.

Kondo and Sonenshein don’t mean for Joy at Work to be a one-step package in achieving all your organizational goals and needs. What they do hope for is to get us thinking about our own personal mindsets and how it is possible to have joy in our daily work, careers and all other aspects of our life.

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