Career Uncluttered Help

President,  Berman Larson Kane
President, Berman Larson Kane

Tips for ‘Decluttering’ Your Career

Just as it can be helpful to clear out your closets at home during spring, it can also be a good idea to use the season as an opportunity to declutter your career. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, by removing the stuff that gets in the way, you can free up time, brain power and energy, enabling you to enjoy work more and improve performance.

Here are four common types of career clutter and suggestions for removing them:

  1. Identify tasks that you can cast off. Decluttering has everything to do with ensuring that the actions you do on a daily basis are going to help your No. 1 priority, said John McKee, founder and president of, a career-advisory firm in Castle Rock, Colo.

Start by defining your goals and projecting where you want to be in five years, such as in a higher-paying position or at a new company, McKee told the newspaper. Make sure to factor in your personal aspirations as well, he said. Next, set annual objectives for getting there and outline steps you need to take throughout the year, he added.

If tasks you are responsible for don’t support your personal objectives, talk with your manager about ways to delegate them or transition out of that role, the article pointed out. Tasks that don’t support your objectives should be delegated or assigned a lower priority.

  1. Avoiding a difficult project or colleague can detract from your at-work effectiveness, said Daniel Markovitz, a corporate-efficiency consultant in Corte Madera, Calif. “It’s not going away, and it looks worse and worse,” he said.

Markovitz suggested putting an unpleasant task at the top of your “to do” list and chopping it into smaller pieces. “Imagine I gave you a 25-foot salami and said, ‘Bon appetit!’ Then what if I broke it up into little bite-size pieces?” he said. “Suddenly it seems totally manageable.” If you are avoiding a sticky situation with a difficult colleague, take immediate steps to face the issue head on. Consider the relief you will feel when the issue is resolved, he added.

Email overload. A cluttered inbox can give the impression that you have more to do than you actually do, said Debby Stone, president of InterVision Group LLC, a career-coaching and leadership-consulting firm in Alpharetta, Ga.

E-mails that don’t require an immediate reply can pile up as you respond to more-urgent messages. To get them out of the way, send a quick reply to each with a canned message such as: “Thanks for writing. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible,” said Ana Weber, a controller at Binder Metal Products Inc., a Gardena, Calif., manufacturer, who is a part-time career and time-management coach. Then, she said, store them in a folder labeled “unread” as a reminder to attend to them later.

“One way to reduce the influx of e-mails is to cancel newsletters and other electronic mailings that aren’t a strong match for your career,” Stone told the newspaper. “Most people get on them because something caught their eye or someone recommended it to them,” she said. “In a lot of cases, they find that what they get is not as interesting or relevant as they anticipated.”

  1. Chitchat has its place at work, but excessive socializing can be a drain when you are trying to get things done, according to the article. To politely escape from a colleague who tends to blab, say you have a deadline to meet and offer to get together at another time, such as during your lunch break, said Ariane Benefit, founder of Neat Living, a coaching and consulting company in Bloomfield, N.J.

Also be sure to steer clear of colleagues who engage in repetitive griping sessions that can dampen spirits and hinder productivity, said Benefit, who noted that she knew several at past employers. “Sometime you have to literally avoid going past their cubicle,” she added.