Thanks to organization expert Marie Kondo and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, the word "declutter" has made its way into over 4 million homes worldwide. Since its publication, people seeking household Zen have applied the principles Kondo espouses in her internationally-acclaimed manifesto on tidy living.
The foundation of Kondo's approach, trademarked as the KonMari Method, is comprised of three parts: First, discard the belongings that no longer serve you. Then, designate a place for everything. Finally, limit incoming belongings to those that spark joy.
Personal development and time management experts preach a similar concept: First, discard the tasks that no longer serve you. Then, designate times to fulfill your remaining obligations. Finally, limit incoming commitments to those that spark joy.
If your to-do list feels overwhelming, try channeling Marie Kondo to relieve yourself of unnecessary tasks.
In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Kondo asks her readers to hold each item in hand and ask, "Does it spark joy?" If it does, keep the item; if it does not, discard it.
We can apply the same question to determine if a task remains on our to-do lists. For each task or commitment on your to-do list, ask yourself, "Does this spark joy?" If it does, keep it. If not, discard it. Continue to ask this question for every task on your list.
Tasks that must be discarded can be done in one of two ways: They may be deleted, or they may be delegated.
Tasks that may be deleted are ones that do not need to happen or do not have a purpose. They may be things that you do out of habit or perceived obligation, such as scrolling through Facebook during breakfast or a 6 a.m. spin class that you hate.
Tasks that may be delegated are ones that still need to happen but don't necessarily need to be completed by you. These items may be assigned to a family member, coworker, or employee, such as making dinner, scheduling a meeting, or housekeeping tasks.
For those things that do not spark joy and cannot be discarded, the key is to transform these mundane tasks into something in which you can delight. For example, if you hate your daily commute, you can express gratitude for the job that helps you and your family survive or use the time to listen to an audio book.
To avoid scheduling conflicts, each remaining task needs a place on your calendar. For each commitment, add a corresponding time block to your schedule. For those tasks that are short, quick, not easily scheduled, or particularly stubborn, Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, recommends scheduling a "power hour," a 60-minute block of time dedicated to completing these items.
If you have two commitments occurring at the same time and there is not a practical reason why you would choose between the two tasks, ask yourself which commitment sparks more joy. Keep the one that invigorates you more and discard or reschedule the other one.
As you become attuned to your own energy levels and scheduling needs, you will discover how many commitments you can personally handle on a daily basis. Until then, a good rule of thumb is to commit to no more than three tasks per day.
The final step in applying the KonMari Method to your calendar is to limit incoming commitments to those that spark joy. These are the tasks that replenish your energy as opposed to sapping it.
The misconception here is that your to-do list will be filled with massage appointments and dinner reservations. While you may have more time for self-care and dining out, what tends to happen is that you tackle tasks with more gusto and focus, and the quality of your work increases.
Psychologist Gay Hendricks discusses this concept in The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level. When we operate in what he calls the Zone of Genius, our work ceases to feel like work and we experience a sense of purposeful joy.
By applying the KonMari Method to our to-do lists, we rid ourselves of unnecessary obligations that clutter our calendars and expend our energy. All that remains are commitments that invigorate us -- no matter how busy we are.
Lynn Daue is an achievement strategist, author, and hula dancer. Through her books, workshops, and programs, she helps women clear the mental clutter, reclaim their lives, and make their dreams come true. Learn more at lynndaue.com.