Spark of Joy

Like everybody else in the nation, I'm infatuated with Marie Kondo and her unique and inspirational view on tidiness by giving up what's unnecessary and focusing on your inner spark of joy when it comes to material possessions. We've been using the Marie Kondo technique in our house and I must say that after we got over the appalling amount of stuff that we had, it's been great. I'm a disciple. I've watched her show and I'm really intrigued not just by what she does but also by the philosophy that underpins it.


There are two elements of what she does that I think make it extremely compelling. The first is this concept of “spark of joy.” For those who aren't familiar, her basic philosophy is to save things that give you a spark of joy, a daily or momentary feeling of pleasure that's associated with handling something or experiencing something or anything in that vein. So when you're looking at an article of clothing, does it bring you joy? “Is it necessary? Does it bring you joy?” Those are the questions that you're going to be asking all the time.

One of the things that Marie talks about on the show is that the ability to feel your spark of joy is actually like a muscle. It's something that you can train and develop and then you can become more familiar with over time. At first, it might be difficult to determine if you're feeling a spark of joy or not, but over time you can actually develop the skills that are going to help you ascertain if this is happening more readily. In a few of the episodes, some of the people actually commented that they were getting better and better at detecting a spark of joy and I think that that's a real thing.

The second thing that I thought is really interesting is to how it's a team affair in all of these different types of situations. That’s not to say that your wife gets to choose if you throw away that t-shirt you love -- she doesn’t -- but it is a team effort in which each person has responsibility for their own part of the whole. People are working together to create an environment of tidiness. A lot of the episodes are about respecting each individual's ability to make choices and control the look and feel of their own space while at the same time pulling their weight for the collective team.

And she really is focused on this idea the everybody has to invest themselves in the process for it to be successful. These two themes, I think, have a lot of relevance for business, and as we enter the 2019 year, I think that it makes a ton of sense for us to think about how we can apply this philosophy to what we're doing at work. When it comes to working, we all have to eat some shit sometimes, so it’s not always as simple as figuring out if something brings us joy. We're being paid to do things. However, the philosophy stands, and I think is worth trying to apply. I’ve found five areas that I believe merit a bit of the KonMari method as this year gets into full swing.


Email is a huge one. We send too much email even now. Frequently we're copying too many people. We're sending emails that are totally unnecessary that take up people's time. We're sending poorly thought out emails that don't get the desired result that they need and we're just doing email as a proxy for doing work. All of that stuff is stuff that can be let go and collectively focusing as a team on creating an environment with less email and less reliance on email and less equivocation of email being work will be beneficial.

A few different ways of doing this. One is to use technology, things like Slack can dramatically reduce email or other technologies like Boomerang can have a tremendous effect in terms of reducing the amount of traffic. Just like your sock drawer, if your email inbox is neatly organized and with about ½ as much stuff in it, you’ll feel better instantly.


Too many meetings! Do you know anyone who says, “I wish I had to go to more meetings?” The fact is, not only are there too many meetings, but also: too many people are invited to them, they start late, they run really late, they don’t accomplish much, and they necessitate other meetings. If there is one area that an entire team can work together to really clean up, it’s meetings, and this is very necessary.


The new year is a great time to look around at your team, your partners, and think about who isn’t bringing you any joy. This may be the right time to do something about it. Someone who is not delivering, not bringing the right attitude, not producing -- the deleterious impact of this is tremendous. Almost immeasurable in its destructiveness, when you think about the corrosion that one bad apple can cause. It should be a privilege to work where you work and every single person who is lucky enough to be there should recognize that and demonstrate that on the daily.


Howard Tullman wrote a piece once called Fence It and Forget It, which is one of the most powerful pieces I’ve read. It’s basically about putting the past behind you. Nothing you can do about it now, and getting rid of that baggage is essential. Same deal here. The new year is a time for us to all look around and realize that collectively we can bury the things that aren’t making our business successful and move forward. This is free. This can be done today. By everyone. This is attitudinal and imminently impactful.


Finally, we are all saddled by biases, preconceived notions, blind spots and more. These do NOT spark joy! These are almost always tied with disagreements, concern, worry, inaction and more. Out they go! Now is the time for us to be letting go of these things, so we can use the space we do have to be thoughtful, honest, present partners.

So, those are a few different areas where you can explore the concept of a spark of joy when it comes to the workplace and where you can work together with your team to get rid of unnecessary baggage and streamline your operation for the new year. This is doable, immediately and for free, and it can change the future of your company -- and the lives of all your employees -- immediately and forever.

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