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11 Work From Home Productivity Tips From Marie Kondo’s New Book “Joy at Work”

updated May 4, 2020
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Lately, the idea of an office has shifted from a physically shared area to a designated space at home that you virtually share with coworkers. This switch is anything but easy—especially for those who have never worked from home before—and requires some rethinking of what a productive work area should be. 

In April, Marie Kondo published her new book “Joy at Work” that aims to help you declutter and reorganize your workspace, resulting in increased productivity and, yes, joy on the job. While many of its chapters offer examples of people in a physical office, much of its advice can be applied to a remote environment, too.

“Just like in any office space, even when you’re working from home, you want to begin with asking yourself, what kind of workspace do you want?” Marie Kondo told Apartment Therapy. “Visualize your overall goal, imagine how you like to start your day when working from home. I think those questions still apply, even when you’re not in the office.”

Kondo says the first step to creating an ideal work area at home is picking the right place. “When you’re sitting down and look up, you want to make sure the view can give you as much focus as possible,” Kondo said. “I know that it cannot be an ideal situation because we’re all working at home, but try to pick a view or direction of how you sit that gives you the most stillness and focus, as much as that’s realistically possible.” 

Once you’ve picked your designated spot, it’s time to tackle physical and nonphysical organization that will bring you long-lasting productivity and happiness. Here are the biggest tips from “Joy at Work.”

The Physical Workspace

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

1. Keep as little on top of your desk as possible.

“Your desktop is a work surface, not a storage cupboard, so the rule of thumb is to store nothing on it,” Kondo wrote. “Keep this image of a clear desktop in your mind when you start storing. People who do so usually finish with only a laptop and an ornament or potted plant on their desk.”

2. Make sure the objects you do keep are intentional.

While Kondo stresses that less is more when it comes to what’s on your desk surface, that doesn’t mean it has to be completely bare. “If you find it easier to work when you have all your writing tools in a pen stand on your desk rather than lined up in a drawer, then that’s where you should store them,” Kondo wrote.

3. Create storage boxes to keep items in order.

Use small boxes that you already have to store things, whether this is kept on your desk’s surface or inside the drawers. “The box keeps them from disintegrating into an anonymous heap and lets you see at a glance where things are,” Kondo wrote. She suggests recycling business card boxes, or perhaps an old smartphone package that you’ve kept around over the years.

Credit: Shutterstock / Steve Cukrov

4. Memorize where all objects are placed/stored to increase productivity.

Kondo said that one way to avoid clutter relapse is to remember exactly where you place each item. “Once you know where everything in your workspace is stored, you can keep track of your things even when they start to multiply. That’s what makes it possible to keep your space tidy. By learning the proper way to tidy up, anyone can achieve a joyful workspace and never rebound.”

5. Deal with work-related items separate from personal items.

“If you work at home, deal with work-related items separately from personal items,” Kondo said. “For example, if some of your books and documents are work-related while others are not, identify only the work-related items for now and focus on tidying them, leaving personal items for a later date when you are ready to tidy your home.”

The Figurative Workspace 

6. Keep your computer’s desktop in order.

It’s too easy to save or drag something onto your desktop, letting files pile and take over your screen over time. (That’s the last thing you want to see when you first log on for the workday.) Instead, Kondo said to limit your desktop to urgent documents only, which will only be there temporarily. This can include timely presentations and work reports as well as unpaid invoices, among other things.

7. Create a “Sparks Joy” folder for when you need an instant pick-me-up.

Another thing Kondo keeps on her desktop is a “Sparks Joy” folder. “For me, this might include files such as a research publication I’m really proud of, a recent teaching evaluation, or a video clip from a speaking engagement,” Kondo wrote. “I refresh these items as I publish new papers, teach new classes, or take on new speaking clients.” A digital confidence booster, if you will.

8. Organize your email layout thoroughly so you don’t waste time in your inbox.

According to the Creative Leadership Center, 96 percent of employees feel like they’re wasting time with unnecessary emails, while another study Kondo sites suggests that a typical office worker spends about half their day dealing with emails. The way to avoid this? Spend a little extra time building the ideal email organization for you so it’s easy to maintain moving forward.

“After you’ve cleaned your inbox and filed emails away, turn to any existing folders,” Kondo wrote. “Start by identifying folders worth keeping. Discard folders that aren’t needed anymore.”

9. Don’t respond to every single email.

When you respond to an email, it leaves a window open for another incoming response, which you will then feel obligated to respond to—and the cycle keeps going. Only send emails that are necessary to get work done, and use CCing and “Reply All” sparingly. “You’ll also set a good example for others by sending only the emails necessary to get work done. And by sending fewer emails, you’ll likely get fewer responses.”

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

10. Keep your phone out of reach when working.

Having a phone nearby while you’re trying to work can stunt your productivity—probably not shocking, but a reminder nonetheless. If it’s near impossible to keep your phone away during the day, try going through your apps and deleting ones you don’t need.

“The average person uses a smartphone eighty-five times a day, adding up to more than five hours. There’s a reason for that,” Kondo wrote. “Many apps are specifically built to be addictive and can distract us from getting work done.”

11. Make time for daily reflection to strike a work-life balance.

In order to properly manage your time and achieve work-life balance, Kondo said you have to check in with yourself. Kondo’s husband sets aside one hour every two weeks to do an honest self-reflection, during which he asks himself “why he is working, what he hopes to achieve through his work, and what his ideal work life is.” From there, he prioritizes all his current tasks and begins every day by deciding which ones he will tackle.

During this self-reflection process, he also eliminates unnecessary and unproductive tasks, allowing him to put his time and energy toward the right places. “I’m sure he has been able to spark joy at work because he has made it a habit to take time for self-reflection, assess his current situation, and make improvements,” Kondo wrote.

Do you have any favorite work from home tips for productivity and overall happiness? Let us know in the comments below!