Best of Both Worlds podcast: Joy at Work

Long-time listeners of the Best of Both Worlds podcast know that Sarah and I have different attitudes toward tidiness. Occasionally I get around to cleaning my desk. Sarah does too, but let’s just say that her “before” tends to look like my “after.” We’ve covered de-cluttering and Marie Kondo’s books in past episodes, and since Kondo and Prof. Scott Sonenshein recently released a new book called Joy at Work, we thought we should revisit the discussion.

Kondo’s chapters cover desk tidying, which isn’t generally my favorite topic, but I did enjoy Sonenshein’s chapters on schedule and organizational tidying. Wouldn’t it be nice to have nothing in your work schedule that didn’t “spark joy”? On a practical level it’s impossible, just as we all need paper towels and plungers and such things in our lives, but it’s an interesting ideal to shoot for. One practical way to avoid adding schedule clutter: When someone asks you to do something, and you find it hard to say no, try “let me think about it and get back to you.” Then you can rationally look at what is on your plate.

Please give the episode a listen, and let us know what you think!

8 thoughts on “Best of Both Worlds podcast: Joy at Work

  1. My copy of “Joy at Work” is arriving in the mail today so I listened the podcast with interest being a big fan of both Marie Kondo and you Laura. I wanted to comment on the discussion how some people can be very productive despite having messy desks and overflowing inboxes. I’m one of the clean desk and everything organized people, but having worked with a lot of messy people over the years I think that the successful ones rely heavily on the organized people around them to retrieve items and information and stay on top of things. They often don’t acknowledge or even realize how much the others help them.
    I know that being the “helpful organized person” held me back in the past as I put in my time to help others get ahead. It’s no longer holding me back but it’s still an annoyance. For example today I scheduled an hour to follow up with people who are supposed to do something for me but never stay on top of things. They all think this is perfectly fine but it’s wasting my time and mental load while making theirs lighter. Another example is the simpler filing system I’m implementing at work. The management didn’t think they had a problem until I pointed out that none of them retrieve information themselves but delegate it to others and thus don’t realize how much time we waste looking for things.
    I’m sure that there are some messy people who can stay productive on their own, but I think that majority need to acknowledge all the organized people who support them.

    1. This is such an excellent point that I hadn’t thought about in this way – thank you for bringing it up. My boss is a highly productive person whose desk I typically can’t see…and for whom I often am the ‘helpful organized person’ that you describe. He’ll even say this outright – “I’m sorry to be putting this on you, but I know you’ll find the file more quickly than I will…” – so I think he does recognize/appreciate. I’m not sure there’s much to be done about it, persay (at least in my specific situation), but it’s nice to have someone articulate that this structure is at least part of what allows him to have high productivity. In my case, I don’t think (?) it holds me back (yet?) because he does frequently give credit where credit is due – so when he delegates some of this stuff to me, my name gets attached to it and that goes on to higher-ups who wouldn’t otherwise know who I am or what I do. Perhaps in this way it’s mutually beneficial…but a nice reminder to be aware that too much of being the ‘helpful organized person’ may get in the way of my own productivity.

    2. @Morana – I can see how this might be an issue. In my case, there is no extra helpful-organized-person around to deal with any fallout. I’d also stress that I am quite organized, I’m just not neat. There is a difference. I know where stuff is, or I might put anything “active” in a pile on my desk, all stacked up, but it’s definitely there. I generally don’t spend large quantities of time hunting for stuff

  2. Haven’t had a chance to listen yet, but planning to! “Clean my office” has been on my to-do list for like 2 weeks now. It’s strange, though….I generally do NOT like too much clutter around me at all, but oddly, in my office I don’t even really see it. Does that make sense?? It’s almost like it doesn’t exist. Except when I REALLY step back and look at it, I see there are indeed piles of stuff and clutter everywhere!!! Not sure why it bothers me some places but not here!

  3. Listened to the podcast tonight; enjoyed it as always!

    The scheduling element of this book sounded like it’s basically Greg McKeown’s “Essentialism.” In essence: if it’s not a “hell, yeah!” then it’s a “no.” My husband and I have each been building our schedules this way for close to a decade and love it. Obviously your locus of control is larger outside the workplace than within it, but it’s valuable to keep this mantra in mind in both spheres.

    1. This is a tough concept for me. Sometimes things that don’t feel like a “hell yes!” end up being good after I have done them. For example, this morning I was planning to go swim laps with my son. I didn’t really “feel” like it at all though when the time came. Felt kinda tired and just not in the mood. But I went anyway since we had already reserved a lane yesterday and I ended up feeling really great once I was in the pool. I had fun with my son, got in a good workout and afterwards I was really glad that I went. I have noticed this on other occasions, too. Sometimes things that seem like too much work/ too hard/ whatever in advance end up being very fulfilling and worthwhile, later. So while I like this idea in theory, I’m never sure how to implement it without accidentally limiting myself either!

      1. Totally understood that taken to the extreme, or interpreted without nuance, this could lead to laziness and hedonism. Definitely don’t want to go down that route! So, the way I think of it is “what do I know I’ll be glad to have done, even if in the moment I might not want to do it?” Exercise and a lot of kid-related stuff falls into this category. It’s the kind of stuff I want to have done (or it’s the kind of person I want to be), even if it’s not always fun.

        On the other hand: there are plenty of activities that we could be guilted into but know that (1) we don’t want to do it, and (2) we won’t regret not having done it. Example: women’s group activities at my church. Love the church, love my friends from the church, but do not love rushing out of work early to spend two hours listening to people talk about stuff I’m not interested in. Could easily feel like I “should” do it for a variety of reasons, but I know myself and do not want to spend time on this. So it’s a “no.” This seems like a no-brained, right? I’d think so, but at the same time, I know tons of people who end up spending their time sub-optimally because they default to yes, or feel guilted into adding low-value items to their calendars.

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