Career Advice

Do You Have Too Much Junk In Your Career Trunk?

According to, the definition of feng shui follows:

“the Chinese art or practice of creating harmonious surroundings that enhance the balance of yin and yang, as in arranging furniture or determining the sitting of a house.”

During a recent Barnes & Noble expedition, my husband purchased “The Declutter Workbook: 101 Feng Shui Steps to Transform Your Life,” by Mary Lambert.  This investment, I believe, aimed more at adjusting my lifestyle habits than his; my inclination is to spread papers, collect stacks of what-not and claim a need to retain “this and that.”

Even in my mid-life, I realize it is not too late—in fact it is more imperative than ever—to change these habits! In the throes of our own career and life transition, we are assimilating our writing work and sailing passion by relocating to a new geography where we’ll be situated within walking distance from our sailboat at a 90,000-acre lake in Texas.

This process includes trimming costs, scaling down our residence and alleviating our lifestyle luggage that virtually holds us captive to having to manage “things” versus living more freely with arms outstretched and minds open to new ideas and expansion.

Similarly, if you are a careerist, you may find that though your career is well underway and seemingly sailing along, you may be feeling a weight wrought by disorganization, clutter and the junk in your career trunk that has accumulated over years of career and relationship building. These distractions disrupt and slow down your work and career flow … and ultimately, your future goals.

In “The Declutter Workbook,” Lambert discusses “Creating a Shift,” and one of the ways to do this includes timed, half-hour and hour-long tasks to “make an inroad into that clutter mountain even when your downtime is limited.”

As a careerist, you may often find agendas filled from daylight to sundown with obligatory corporate tasks, family time, a few friendship collaborations and several-hours’ rest only to turn around and start on the treadmill again. It’s difficult to consider shifting paths when the speeding vehicle in which one is moving seems not to have brakes.

The answer, I believe is a gradual shift; as such, the timed approach to integrating new habits and decluttering your career space. For example:

Trim Back Toxic Relationships: Start with a 30- to 60-minute assessment this week, a proactive initiative to whittle away at the time you spend responding to drama-focused relationships. Enabling others to interject themselves into your already busy day with their drama is a self-imposed emotional weight that simply can be lifted by not being available for every email or phone call interjection.

Be less available. Unless you are married to that other person, I daresay, you are not obliged to be at their emotional beck and call. Retrain others that you are not the sink in which they can squeeze their emotional sponge. Over time, they will reroute or resolve their feelings.

Maintain a SINGLE To-Do List. Even if you use sticky notes, project management programs (such as Google Calendar, BaseCamp or MS Project), or other organizational tools, you still should have ONE master to-do list that combines every little item that you know you want to get accomplished at some point today, next week, next quarter … or even next year.

For me, this list is a simple MS Word document labeled To-Do List; I usually rename it from time to time to include the date; e.g., To-Do List, 11.30.10 to ensure I know it’s current. Atop the list are my top priorities, and they are ever changing. On a good night, as I wrap up my work-day, I create a “hit-list” for tomorrow’s priorities – usually no more than 3-5 items of “must-do” deadlines.

Creating this “master list” is a simple task any careerist can begin with a few keystrokes or even a plain pen and tablet.

Take a Hard Look at Memberships and Volunteer Roles: Assess and eliminate non-return-on-investment volunteer commitments. Are you a member, volunteer or board member of a professional or civic organization that has become a drain on your time or energy (or both)?

Stop and assess its value to you, your career and/or personal life. If it’s not providing value to you, then resign or reconfigure your role. Spend 30 minutes this week reviewing your volunteer functions; then, begin acting on your findings.

These three tips are just an initial launch-pad for career clutter clearing. Junk in your career trunk constantly accumulates and must be reevaluated regularly to ensure a clutter-resistant career lifestyle. Get started on feng shui-ing your career space today!