5 career organization lessons from Marie Kondo

The best-selling author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has forged a global brand out of simplicity and organizational discipline. Communicators might want to take notes.

Marie Kondo PR lessons

The beginning of any year is when many set new intentions—often to change old habits.

To capitalize on the annual zeitgeist, Netflix launched a show called “Tidying Up,” based on the KonMari method from best-selling author Marie Kondo. The show follows families as they reassess their possessions and relationships and work to declutter their lives.

It’s therapeutic watching someone ditch 20 years’ worth of stuff—and Kondo’s gentle guidance helps each person do what keeps most people from living a simpler life: Let go.

PR pros could benefit from this worldview.

The PR industry is harassed by deadlines, overworked by new technology and underappreciated by almost everyone. It can be hard to imagine what about your job “sparks joy.”

However, here are ways the KonMari method might energize your life by simplifying your work and focusing your efforts.

1. Get rid of words that don’t spark joy.

Wordsmiths take stock every year to delete words that no longer function as part of the lexicon. For business communicators and PR pros, that means culling words that have become overused and crossed over into the territory of jargon and dreck.

Dan Saltzstein of The New York Times shared words that should go away:

Lifehacker riffed on his offering, listing other terms that Twitter users are ready to drop. They include:

  • “Learnings” (“Lessons” is fine.)
  • “Subsequent” (“After” is sufficient.)
  • “Bespoke” (“Custom” is usually more accurate.)

Give thanks to the words that have done you good service, and let them go. If they aren’t bringing you joy, they definitely aren’t wowing your readers.

2. Say goodbye to tasks that aren’t working.

In the KonMari method, people pile their many items in one place and systematically evaluate them to see if they still have value. A mountain of clothes in the living room inspires many people to donate a large portion of their wardrobe.

For PR pros, it’s time to come to grips with your overflowing list of daily tasks.

How much of your workday is taken up with email? How much is gobbled up by your social media duties? Are you measuring your efforts on the proper schedule?

Effectively managing your time is crucial. Employ scheduling apps and content management software to streamline your efforts. Use industry benchmarks to see what activities are producing results.

Don’t stay busy with work that doesn’t serve you.

3. Organize your tasks by category.

One basic principle of the KonMari system is to separate by category instead of location. In your house, this might mean sifting all your clothes instead of tidying your house one room at a time.

In PR, this might mean dealing with one group of tasks at a time. Consider grouping your routine into buckets, such as social media, media pitching, client communications, measurement and more. Though some tasks might overlap, it helps to see them all clearly—and a little planning can keep you from doubling your workload with repetition.

4. Donate some books.

One controversial part of the KonMari method involves reducing your personal library.  For many book lovers, this can feel like sacrilege—and her target number of 30 books is hardly acceptable for book lovers and communicators.

However, just because a book has value doesn’t mean it has value for you. If you’ve read it and you don’t plan to revisit it, give it a life on a shelf at your local library—even more so if you got a book out of obligation but will never read it.

Spend that mental energy elsewhere, but still keep plenty of books. As a word lover, you’ll have plenty of favorites to fill your bookshelves.

5. Save emotionally charged items for last.

Kondo advises restraint when looking to declutter your life of items with sentimental value. She says that by saving items with sentimental value until the end, you will have had practice doing easier organizing and can later make tougher decisions about what to keep and what to let go.

This is also a good rule for approaching PR tasks that cause you anxiety or stress. Deal with the easier problems before tackling professional challenges that loom large in your psyche.

If your email is a source of daily panic or emotional unease, don’t start there. Tackle your social media first, or organize your measurement efforts. A few small wins under your belt can help bolster you for dealing with big, unpalatable challenges.

How are you trying to simply your life—at work or in the home?

(Image via by RISE)


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