Recently, Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo has been making waves around the country due to her new Netflix series, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” as well as her numerous books after the show granted her mainstream exposure.
Her simple approach of tidying up a room has caused plenty of sensation, including some mild controversy, that has Americans reevaluating their obsession with storage and clutter, and how to rid themselves from the unnecessary things in their life.
The United States also has a culture that values busyness and cramming tasks everywhere in their to-do list, even if people don’t have the time or motivation to complete them. The question for you then becomes: Can the KonMari Method apply to cluttered schedules as much as it does to messy, stuffy rooms?
The KonMari Method
Before applying the KonMari Method to your schedule, you should learn about the main steps that it involves.
- Commit yourself to tidying up.
- Imagine your ideal life.
- Finish letting go first.
- Tidy by category, not by location.
- Follow the right order.
- Ask yourself if it sparks joy.
Now, these steps aren’t going to apply to your situation exactly. Kondo’s method primarily targets messy or cluttered rooms, and how the owner can clean it up. Your to-do list will take a similar, but somewhat different approach.
Determine Your Overall Vision
As you begin the process, you will need some focus and a driving achievement that you’ll want to complete. Make sure to keep this vision as broad as you can. This can range from a long-term goal like arranging some free time over the weekend, to a life-changing process like moving, trying to get a new job, or an important personal project. This goal must have a large impact on your life so you can prioritize accomplishing it.
Whatever that goal is, write it down somewhere in your planner. Once you have decided on your vision, write down all the tasks you believe you must do to achieve it, as well as any tasks that are currently in your mind. Right now, don’t worry about organizing or deleting them. That part of the process will come next.
Keep the Tasks That Serve Your Vision
Once you have written down your overall vision, as well as all the tasks that are related or even vaguely related to it, it’s time to start taking out everything that doesn’t serve or help toward your overall goal.
- Take inventory. Place all the tasks you must accomplish for your goal, as well as tasks in your overall life, in a single list. You don’t have to worry about organizing them at this point. You must get rid of all the clutter in your to-do list before you get to that step.
- Picture your goal and your life. Imagine the goal you want to reach, and more importantly, how it plays a role in your life. This will help you think about whether that goal is beneficial toward your overall life, as well as what specific tasks are part of it. This will make it easier to decide what tasks to let go.
- Throw away the clutter. Now that you have a more focused mindset and a greater handle on organization, it’s time to do the hard part. Go through each task and ask yourself if it “sparks joy.” Specifically, question if this task will play any kind of role in your long-term goal, if it brings joy or meaning to your life. If it doesn’t, get rid of it. Keep anything that is useful to your goal or life. Even it isn’t something that sparks joy, like doing taxes or throwing away the trash, it will benefit your overall life, so keep it.
- Let go of the clutter. Even after you delete or trash those objectives from your list, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically let it go. Take a moment to reflect on what you lost. Some of these are likely small-time tasks you didn’t need to have. Some are probably activities you hated and are glad to see go. But there are also long-term projects you wanted to accomplish in the future. These unfinished tasks serve to help you reflect on who you were when you first made them, and how you’ve changed, since you no longer need them.
Organize Your Tasks
By this point, you have everything necessary to complete your long-term goal or your life vision. However, the job is far from over. Now, you’ll need to organize all your tasks and make sure that they both serve that overall goal and that you can complete them in an efficient manner.
- Organize by improving tomorrow. Most people organize their tasks by accomplishing everything that’s urgent first, before taking on less important tasks. However, there are some different philosophies that take a different approach. According to consultant Rory Vaden, you should prioritize your time on tasks that, when done, will free up your time for tomorrow. This “tomorrow” can mean more important jobs, or it just means freeing up some extra time.
- Automate tasks. Are there certain functions you need to make that you can automate? Let the computer do the work and handle simple jobs you shouldn’t need much time on, from ordering and receiving mail items via auto-ship to paying your credit card bills automatically.
- Delegate tasks. As you go through your list, see if there’s anything you can assign others to do. Do you take your children to school? Start having them ride the bus. Get too much email in your inbox? Delegate it to your assistant. Do you cook? Order delivery from time to time.
- Defer tasks. Now that you’re down to your most important tasks, see if there is anything urgent that you need to complete as soon as possible. If you see anything that is important, but doesn’t warrant your urgency, then set it off aside for a later time. You can organize these tasks by how necessary it is to complete them.
As you organize these tasks and activities, use an organizational method that works best for you. Use a planner or special software program to have everything listed and scheduled. Arrange the order of your tasks through numbers, letters, or even colors. Use whatever tool you need to make these tasks look like goals you’ll want to accomplish, instead of a list of chores.
Complete Your Vision
If you based your organization around a specific, long-term goal, then accomplishing this goal is now easier than ever. You can now clear one important life project from your life, with more likely to follow. Repeat this method for any long-term goals or visions you want to accomplish. Even if you don’t have a specific task at this time, get in the habit of organizing your to-do list to rid yourself of unnecessary attachments and free your time.
Work in Progress
Even though you have finished this KonMari-inspired organization plan, it is not something you can just declare finished and move on with your life. You will need to keep working at it to stay organized and live a more fulfilling life. By continuing to tidy up your to-do list, you will keep your bad habits away and prioritize the tasks that will improve your existence.