Last year, I read Marie Kondo’s “The life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organization” and just read her book, Spark Joy, both of which, of course, share techniques and the psychology of de-cluttering your closet and home, but the principles work for your professional life – clearing your calendar, to do list, and especially your online social network connections. And at a higher level, letting go of projects or delegating tasks so you can create more space in your professional work for growth, revitalization, and innovation.
Kondo asks us to think about what happens to your closet if you don’t give away clothing. It does not stay neat and tidy with just a few items of clothing that you like to wear. When you make no conscious effort to keep it organized, the closet becomes a cluttered mess. Every so often, it might get so out of control that you try to purge your closet. But you need a disciplined system beyond asking “Will I ever wear this someday in the future? That question may make it hard to let go. Kondo suggests asking a question like, “Does this item of clothing give me joy or energy?” If not, recycle it.
Kondo talks about how the most difficult items to tidy are memorabilia. In a conversation with colleagues who are keynote speakers, I shared that I have saved all my speaker badges over the last ten years. The badges are like little trophies in a collection that has taken over several drawers in my desk. Why not let them go? Kondo suggests that when you delve into the reasons why we hold onto things is it because we are attached to the past or afraid of the future. I suggested to Jeremiah Owyang that I needed to Kondo those badges and he tweeted a good idea for a start up!
Startup Idea: Collect all the plastic conference badge holders –sort, clean, and sell back for re-use. cc @bethkanter
— Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) January 6, 2016
An easier place to start to “Kondo” your professional life is your online professional network. I want to start a new habit of being better organized on LinkedIn this year, but perhaps what I need to do first is “Kondo” my LinkedIn network.
I’m an advocate of “Smarter Professional Online Networking” which includes building a strong core for your professional network. It is your inner circle, a smaller but diverse group of people who give you energy and to use Kondo’s phrase, “spark joy.” But your inner circle is not your entire professional network. Your network includes weak ties, people you may not know well but can help you with your goals and open you to new ideas. The key is having some essential goals.
In age of connectivity, is all about relationships and online social networks like LinkedIn can speed professional relationships — that is the more you are present with your authentic brand, the more you can connect with the right people aligned with your goals. But don’t confuse social media connections with actual intimacy. Social Media allows us to have broader relationships, but human relationships have not changed. We, as humans, have not evolved our capacity to have close relationships with many more people beyond the magic Dunbar number.
We need to set limits or have a connection policy (and disconnection policy). For example, my colleague, Alexandra Samuel, suggests using the “favor rule.” Would you ask or do a favor for this connection? But that doesn’t mean we should only focus on small core or inner circle in our professional network. LinkedIn and other platforms can help us maintain weak ties people that can provide value.
To get started, here’s what you need to think about:
- Review your LinkedIn connections and ask: Do I know this person? How well? Where did I meet them? Can they help me reach my professional goals? Do they provide value? Many of us may have started off on LinkedIn accepting connections of people that we don’t know and cluttered up our online professional networks. It is easy to remove a connection from your LinkedIn network, but yet some have a concern about letting go – that somehow it is rude or the other person might get offended. When you remove a connection from LinkedIn (“unfriend”), the other person will not receive a beeping notification that screams that you’ve disconnected them from your professional online network on LinkedIn and most likely they won’t notice.
You might a have a large network – I do. So, I’m doing this in small daily chunks, making it a daily habit.
- Use LinkedIn’s Relationship Tab: As your professional network grows, you may not remember how you met someone or the last time you connected or if you are searching through your network for a specific, unique identifier (someone you met at an event), the LinkedIn Relationship Tab can help. If you want to use LinkedIn as a Rolodex on steroids, you have to keep it tidy. Do that by aggressively using the relationship tab. Here you can use tags and notes to help trigger your memory or find the right people faster when searching. This infographic offers some great tips on effectively using the relationship tab.
You can combine these two steps to “Kondo” your LinkedIn Connections.
How do you de-clutter your professional online network? Do you have an intentional connection or disconnection policy?