Stuff on Surfaces

On my Twitter feed two weeks ago I spied an amusing observation I believe came from user Anna M @helgagrace:

“In my experience, adulthood is mostly piling stuff up on surfaces and then eventually having to clean off those surfaces.”

messy-deskWhile this observation is also applicable to our childhood and teenage years, most of us have a tenancy to pile belongings throughout our living and work spaces.  This is because we have not taken the short time required to consider the value of that item, if we want to keep it, and the proper place it should reside.  For home and office, the contexts are different.  At work, the two GTD questions at the top of the workflow diagram, “What is it?” and “Is it actionable?”, can clear backlog.  At home, Konmari’s core question, “Does this spark joy?” can bring the value of personal items into focus.

So with 2019 still fresh and new, why not commit an hour this week to clear off a surface?  You may find that intentionally clearing a space can release fresh energy in your life which can be used to accomplish meaningful goals.  What do you have to lose?  At the very least you will have a clear surface to admire when you are done.

Have fun!



The Konmari of Gifts

mariekondoGift giving is an integral component of the holiday season.  Many of your recently experienced that joy of receiving a beautifully wrapped item.  It was probably followed by a moment of anticipation where you tried to guess the contents.  If fortunate, the gift was truly desired and added to the collection immediately.  However, what should be done with a gift that is undesired and unwanted?

Marie Kondo has simple and elegant advice on the art of gift receiving.  She shared it recently on her blog:

“Try out every gift at least one time – even those that don’t immediately spark joy. The ability to feel what truly excites you is only gained through experience. Be adventurous and welcome things that are different. The more experience you gain, the more you’ll refine and heighten your sensitivity to joy. However, you don’t have to keep using the gift forever. If you try using the item and decide that it still doesn’t suit you, thank it for the joy it brought when you first received it – and bid it farewell.”

Read the full blog entry at the Konmari web site.

As 2018 comes to an end, I wish all of you a very Happy New Year. May this coming year be your best ever!


Advice on Tidying a Workspace

mariekondoDo you inhabit a messy workplace?  While your desk contains clutter of your own making, most offices have communal spaces that can quickly get out of hand.  What is the best approach to keeping these common areas clean?

The Konmari Method, created by Marie Kondo, is mostly devoted to helping people organize their personal home space.  However, in an interview with the web site Quartz Marie Kondo shares insights into keeping office spaces clean.

“My suggestion would be for co-workers to tidy up their workplace together. There are many benefits to organizing your desk space, including increasing your efficiency by spending less time looking for the things that you need, being able to more quickly prioritize your workload, and even feeling better as a result of working in a clean environment.”

Read the other questions and answers for Marie in this short article on Quartz.

Why does Inbox Zero Matter?

inbox-zero“Why should I go to all the trouble to empty my email inbox?”

This is a question that I am sometimes asked during the Efficient Librarian seminars.  On the surface, all this fussing about with the “action” and “waiting for” folders seem like extra work, especially when the inbox is overflowing.  Participants want assurances that working towards Inbox Zero is not a futile endeavor.

I believe that the labor needed to reach Inbox Zero, as popularized by Merlin Mann, is exceeded by the rewards.  Off the top of my head, here are three reasons to live at Inbox Zero:

  1. An empty inbox clears the mind from reprocessing older messages to determine their value every time the inbox is viewed. The functional folders like “action” provide clarity and ease to workflow.
  2. Achieving Inbox Zero means that you are caught up on new input. This signals to the mind that it can move from processing to acting without worry that something important was missed.
  3. Emptying the inbox is a well-earned and clearly defined win. In the game of knowledge work we need to craft all the wins we can find.  Inbox Zero is a win that renews constantly!

If you have never seen your email inbox at zero, I challenge you to dig down and empty it out.  I expect it will be a victory you will savoir.  If you don’t believe me, listen to librarian Patrick Hoecherl of the Salt Lake City Library.  Upon reaching Inbox Zero last week he wrote to report that, “It feels even better than I thought it would!”  So go ahead, take the Inbox Zero challenge!

Cleaning vs Tidying

cleandeskFor most people cleaning and tidying mean the same thing.  Both are about bringing order to a space.  However, there is a subtle but important difference between the words that can be transformational.  In fact, it is not possible to clean successfully without tidying first!

Let’s break it down.  Cleaning in one context simply means to remove dirt, dust, and other grime.  The other definition is that cleaning means to put objects back into drawers, closets, or other designated areas when we are done using them.  Unfortunately, if the objects do not have a designated storage space they will be placed in the first available space.  This can create an ongoing underlying tension as the items are never truly cleaned up, only constantly rearranged.

Tidying happens when a space is cleared of clutter and the remaining objects are assigned a designated place.  Once a place is assigned for each item the act of cleaning simply returns them to their proper home.   This understanding is important to the secret of successful implementation of any organization system, whether it be GTD in the office or Konmari at home.  The act of tidying is a conscious and deliberate effort to set up a space and everything in it.  After that is done, all that remains is to maintain it at that standard.

So, remember this simple formula to success in organization: tidy once – clean regularly.

How Disney Trash Cans Relate to Efficiency

disneyLiving in Florida means that I occasionally visit Disney World.  If you have been to a Disney park, there is something that you might not have noticed, mostly because it is not there – TRASH!  Disney parks are kept to a very high cleanliness standard.  Walt Disney himself observed that if trash is left accumulate, it will quickly sour the experience.  He figured out that by keeping garbage cans no more than 30 feet apart, the public would naturally throw out their trash.

So, what does this have to do with efficiency?  David Allen used this fact as a jumping off point for an observation on his blog about how keeping a high standard is actually easier to maintain than it would first seem.

“That’s true around our houses and offices, too. If you’ve already broken the code, and left unclarified, unorganized “stuff” lying around, you’ll easily (let’s say even automatically and unconsciously) leave more of it.

“When my inbox is at zero, it’s so much easier to keep it cleaned up. As soon as it starts to get semi-out-of-control, the chaos seems to speed up exponentially. …

“Keeping things sorted makes it a heck of a lot easier to keep on keeping things sorted.”

Read the rest on the Getting Things Done blog.

The KonMari of Charles Duhigg

mariekondoCharles Duhigg is a best selling author of two great books on productivity and efficiency: The Power of Habit and Smarter, Faster, Better.  Late last year he was interviewed on the KonMari web site, the online home of Marie Kondo, best known for her best seller, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

In the interview, Charles was asked about how physical environments help shape our habits.  His response was enlightening:

charlesduhigg“Physical organization has a huge impact on how we work. For example, I have a habit of taking the pile of paper on my desk and cleaning it out before I work. When my physical surrounding is organized, I feel like my thinking is organized as well. Some people say they find that when they are doing creative work, some clutter on the desk can make them feel more productive. There is no one set way to be productive at work – the physical space primarily works as a cue to a habit, like getting to work in a productive mindset.”

Read the rest of the interview at on the KonMari web site.