Have you heard the saying less is more? Of course you have!
I find myself saying “less is more” often. I’m a big fan of decluttering my home and personal space for a more organized aesthetic. I’m perfectly comfortable throwing things away or donating them, just ask my husband! He will tell you I am too comfortable getting rid of things!
I’ve found that less usually is more in my life. I just love a decluttered and organized space! I adore Marie Kondo’s book, The life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and there’s a reason why millions of other people love it too.
But what about our careers?
What would it look like if we decluttered our careers? Would we feel that same lightness, clarity and joy that we feel when we have a clean, organized, and decluttered home? The answer is YES!
I’ve tested this myself and I can assure you that decluttering your career will open new doors, bring a greater sense of clarity and focus to your work, and ultimately help you realize and achieve what it is you really want.
Start with your workspace.
I don’t care what kind of work you do, if you have an office, a cubicle, a desk, if you work out of your car, or at a shared space, no matter what your workspace is like, take the time to clean it up!
A study by Harvard University showed that when two sets of students were placed in different workspaces, one cluttered and one without clutter, the students in the workspace that was free from excess clutter were able to work 7.5 minutes longer and produce more accurate results than their counterparts who worked on the same project, but in the cluttered enviornment.
Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that cluttered work spaces stifle creativity. Think about “white space” as an invitation for your mind to fill in the blanks and think more clearly. People are reported to feel more creative in a space that offers less distraction.
There are dozens of reasons why a decluttered and tidy space make sense. People get less sick, as a result missing less work, people are more likely to collaborate in an open space free of physical blocks (clutter), people report feeling more calm when there are less physical objects surrounding them.
All this to say, start with your workspace. No one wants to see a thousand outdated pictures of your kids anyway! Be selective in what you allow to take up your space, because it makes a difference in how you work.
Declutter your time.
With our modern day technology it’s easy to find yourself working around the clock. Whether that’s checking email, answering calls, looking at schedules, or connecting with coworkers on social media.
Declutter your career, by decluttering your time. In short, set boundaries.
There are a number of ways to do this, but the bottom line is that you need your personal time and allowing work conversations, emails, or relationships to bleed into your time off will clutter up your career.
Figure out when and where you’ll engage in work or with colleagues and stick to your plan. For me, I try to only check work email once in the mornings on Saturday or Sunday and I let the phone serve as communication should there be an emergency. This allows me to stay focused on my family on the weekends, but also to know that if I’m needed for something really important I can always receive a call.
Find a way to manage your time that keeps your personal space sacred. Leave free time to think about things other than your work and just imagine all the ideas that may come to you! I can tell you that my recent experience away on a silent retreat proved to me that quiet time can really clear your head and you don’t need an entire week of it, even a few hours, or a couple solid days off will greatly support your creative thinking.
Say no to some of it.
What’s the worst that will happen? Sometimes saying no to your boss or colleagues is a great act of kindness to yourself.
I know we all want to succeed in our careers, our livelihood depends on it for goodness sake! Being a go-getter, willing to take on any challenge certainly will win you brownie points at work, but taking on more, doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a promotion to the corner office. Sometimes it’s ok to say no.
Say yes to projects or extra workload that interests you, that will teach you things you didn’t know or expose you to people you can learn from. Say yes when it feels aligned to your ultimate career goals or when it’s morally the right thing to do.
Say no when it’s someone else’s job, when you can delegate the work to someone more equipped to do it, when you feel you’re being taken advantage of, or when you think it’s a bad move for your career or your company.
I understand we can’t always say, thanks but no thanks, when asked to take on a project at work, but be careful not to become a “yes man” or a doormat for others to take advantage of. Being tied down with useless tasks or endless work is just clutter in your career. Clutter that will distract you from more meaningful work or opportunities that really excite or benefit you.
Stop feeling guilty.
There used to be people in my company who viewed working from home as some kind of terrible act of delinquency. I mean, surely if you were working from home, you were slacking and not doing a good job, right? Wrong.
I discovered that there were times I needed to be in the office, but also that there were times I could be significantly more productive if I worked from home. I learned that I was getting more done when I worked from home, and I felt like a better mom and wife, because I got to see my family more throughout the day and I was right there at home at the end of my workday, rather than sitting in hours of traffic, hoping to see my kids for just a few minutes before they fell asleep.
So I worked from home more often, but I was riddled with guilt. I would avoid telling people at all costs that I was at home. I didn’t want to lie, but I would hope no one would call or ask, because I knew that if I had to tell them I was working from home, I would feel that familiar wave of hot guilt come over me, like I was doing something wrong. How ridiculous!
There are many reasons why we feel guilty at work and I’m here to tell you that all that guilt is excess clutter in your career. Seriously. All the time you spend feeling like you did something wrong, like you did too much, or not enough, all the guilt distracts you from doing your job.
Be shameless in your work and see how much better you feel. Own up to the days you are working from home, the days you need to leave early to see your kids soccer game, the days you need a mental health moment and decide to take that extended lunch hour. Stop feeling guilty for managing your career and life all at once. It’s not easy, and feeling guilty about it won’t make it any easier!
And now, I’d love to hear from you! Are there other things that you do to declutter your work? Have you found clarity in making work more simple? Leave a comment below and share your ideas with the rest of us.
Thanks for reading!