Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life: A Non-Fiction Review

Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life by Marie Kondo and Scott SonensheinHow many times have you left a meeting that could have been an email? How many handouts and papers accumulate on your desk over the course of a week? How often have you been taken away from work you want to do to focus on tedious but seemingly endless tasks at work?

If you’re like most people (particularly those who work in offices or computer-heavy jobs), the answer is probably a lot.

What if there was a better way? In Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life (2020) organization expert Marie Kondo works with organizational psychologist Scott Sonenshein to translate Kondo’s by now ubiquitous KonMari method to office and work life.

Find it on Bookshop.

If you are familiar with the KonMari method from Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (or her show on Netflix), a lot of the ideas here will be familiar or even common sense. What different and makes this book so valuable is the specificity used to apply this advice to a work setting ranging from office work, digital life, to interpersonal relations.

Co-author Sonenshein, an organization psychologist who researches how to make work and careers more rewarding, brings in scientific data to support findings and helps shift focus from the home to the office.

Chapters and sub-headings help break down all the information provided starting with Why Tidy? and what to do If You Keep Falling Back to Clutter.

From their the chapters have granular focus to tidy: Your Workspace, Digital Work, Time,  Decisions, Your Network, Meetings, and Teams. The book ends with ways to Share the Magic of Tidying and Spark Even More Joy at Work.

It’s important to note that every idea here won’t be applicable to every work scenario–partly because of the focus on office work and partly because not every employee will be in a position to say “I don’t want to go to this meeting.” That said, as with the KonMari method in general, readers are able to take as much or as little as they choose to apply to their work life. The tips here are invaluable when working in a shared office space but, for me, have been equally helpful in the past few months as I work from home.

In general the crux of the book is the focus on quality over quantity and to seek meaningful work and connections rather than saying yes to everything and every one. Joy at Work also centers the idea of work as accumulated experience (even if it isn’t “fun” work or work that feels like a learning experience) and also on choice as you ask yourself to choose what you want to keep to build your ideal workspace and, eventually, your ideal work situation.

You might be asking yourself how Joy at Work is any different from Kondo’s first book (or Sonenshein’s first book for that matter). The key thing here is the way Joy at Work drills down on both digital tidying and also interpersonal relations. Intuitively it makes sense and is a next step from the original KonMari method but it’s nice having it spelled out here.

I finished this book feeling inspired and energized to get back to what I love about my job. It also helped me visualize what I needed to make my work from home space make sense during quarantine. Changing up work habits and tidying work things hasn’t been easy, especially while working remotely, but the progress I made largely came from internalizing the advice given in Joy at Work.

Social Media Wellness: A Non-Fiction Review and My Own Social Media Overhaul

Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World (2017) by Ana Homayoun is part textbook and part workbook offering background on the ways social media usage has changed and grown in recent years along with strategies for tweens and teens to manage their social media time along with all of their other school and extracurricular responsibilities.

Although this book (Homayoun’s third on teens and organization) is targeted at parents/educators it also offers useful information and strategies for teens to implement on their own. As a librarian and social media user myself I learned a lot both for working with kids and teens and for my own practices.

The first three chapters of the book introduce social media as an ever-changing phenomenon and some of the bigger players in social media sites for young people. Homayoun also looks at how social media use affects teens and tweens and offers some compelling statistics and facts on how social media is changing sleep patterns, empathy, and other habits for frequent users. Homayoun also offers a quick rundown of how the instant gratification and constant usage of social media can feed into teen development and promote negative traits and offer a warped sense of what is and is not acceptable.

The second half of the book offers organization strategies and successful anecdotes framed within Homayoun’s three-pronged strategy of socialization, self-regulation, and  safety designed to help tweens and teens not just use social media and devices less but also to use both more efficiently.

My main takeaway from this book is that choices matter and when it comes to digital use there is always a choice. It’s also important to remember that friends are not the same as followers/likes even if you might have some great friends that you only know digitally.

In my own life I was inspired after reading Social Media Wellness to take a hard look at what was and wasn’t working for me. I deleted accounts I no longer use, I left sites that brought me no joy (Pinterest), and I made sure I knew all of my accounts and their related information (and if any needed to be made more secure). I also took time to think about privacy settings and what I want to be available to my friends/followers (I will not be keeping an archive of my instagram stories for instance).

Something else that really clicked with me was the idea that social media encourages an “always on” mentality and what that means for anyone using them. It’s exhausting! After reading about this repeatedly in Homayoun’s book and realizing how much I was plugged in I decided it was time to remove my work email/messaging from my phone. I don’t have a job with urgent deadlines and I don’t have to take work home. There’s no reason for me to be plugged in all the time and replying all the time when it will keep until business hours. While I still start my personal and work days checking sites and emails, I try to avoid ending the day in that way and instead try to unplug and either watch TV with my mom or just read before bed instead.

Homayoun also suggests readers try the Pomodoro Technique for monotasking (because multi-tasking never works, especially when it includes checking texts or likes) which has been incredibly helpful for parceling out my own day-to-day tasks and using apps like Moment to monitor phone usage (I tried this right when my compute died which totally skewed the data and I need to try it again now) and also Forest to encourage less phone use. (I’ve also been using Forest as my timer for the Pomodoro modules.)

What I really like about Social Media Wellness is that it offers factual information to back up claims along with a variety of strategies which allow readers to take what works for them and leave the rest. A lot of this is common sense–especially for readers who are already “plugged in” when it comes to social media and digital devices–but the calm and measured approach makes even the simplest changes feel empowering and proves that even small changes can make a huge difference. A must-read in this increasingly digital age.