May 18th, 2015

Cubicle with Messy Stacks of Documents and ObjectsPraxsys Leadership partner, Cynthia Luna, wrote recently about the importance of one’s environment, both natural and manmade, to effective leadership. In Marie Kondo’s bestselling book, The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up, Kondo echoes the relationship between one’s environment and one’s mental state, writing, “Visible mess helps distract us from the true source of the disorder.” If your desk or office is cluttered and you find yourself often overwhelmed, scattered, or distracted, focusing on your physical work environment may be helpful.

Kondo sets forth a method for decluttering the home which entails picking up each possession and asking oneself if the item sparks joy. This tip can be applied in the office with things like conference swag adorning your bookshelves and the pictures you display. Consider each, one at a time, and ask if it brings you joy. If the answer is no, it is time for it to go. Remember to evaluate virtual “possessions” as well. Explore whether or not your computer background image, your email alert tones, and the music you listen to bring you joy or contribute to stress and distraction. If they fall into the latter category, it is time to replace them.

Much of the clutter in office is paperwork and work supplies, and for these, Kondo provides more concrete advice. She writes, “I recommend you dispose of anything that does not fall into one of three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely.” This means it is important to know how long each type of document must be kept. Once something is past that date, shred and recycle it. Agenda from a meeting two years ago? Toss it. Program from a luncheon? It is taking up valuable physical and mental space.

Kondo notes that many people keep notes from seminars, telling themselves they may go back to them someday, but most often never do. She advises discarding these, and says, “If you regret recycling it, take the same seminar again and this time apply the learning. It’s paradoxical, but I believe that precisely because we hang on to such materials, we fail to put what we learn into practice.” Similarly, people often hold on to notebooks and PowerPoint slide notes, thinking they may go back to see what they learned at a conference or meeting. If notes are necessary for a current project, certainly keep them. If you are holding on to them with the thought that you might browse them and regain the inspiration or knowledge you learned when you first took them, they should go. After all, how often have you actually done that?

There is a temptation, especially with current technology, to simply scan documents and keep them electronically. Many people also keep every email they send and receive. Again, if electronic documents are not currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or needed indefinitely, I advise you to delete them. Virtual clutter can also be overwhelming and distracting.

Modern Minimalistic White and Wooden Brown DeskKondo writes, “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.” Likewise, what you choose to keep in your office is actually a matter of how you want to work.  Visualize your perfect work environment. Envision how it would feel, what it would look like, and how you would feel when you were there. Then create it.

In addition to cleaning out clutter, we can guide you on an individual basis to become a better leader. Learn more about our executive coaching program for details!