How to Use a Wastebasket in your Business

BY Tami Brehse In Profitability On Sep 29, 2016 With 0 Comments

As author and organizing consultant Marie Kondo puts it, “keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.”

Kondo is considered a visionary in using organization to define and declutter your life. We can easily take her knowledge as it pertains to our personal space and extend it to our business space, too.

Here’s the same quote, modified just slightly:

“Keep only those things that add value to your business. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.”

Pretty profound, huh? All you have to do is figure out what’s not adding value, then get rid of it. We call it using a wastebasket, and it goes well beyond the literal trash can sitting under your desk.

Eliminating waste not only helps control costs and drive revenue higher, it also helps your employees stay focused and avoid burnout. Today, we’re taking a deep dive into how to use a wastebasket in your business.

Physical Waste


The easiest source of waste to identify and eliminate in your business is physical waste. This can take any number of forms depending on what exactly you do, but here are a few of the most common:

  • Overproduction of inventory
  • Incorrect orders
  • Excess packaging
  • Junk mail
  • Unnecessary office procedures (printing emails, mailing physical invoices)
  • Unused furniture/office clutter

To identify waste in your physical inventory stream, take a survey of your monthly production and fulfillment numbers. How many production errors do you have in a typical month? How many orders are incorrectly fulfilled? How many products are broken or damaged?

Then, set goals to lower these numbers month by month.

You can also eliminate physical workplace waste in the form of supplies, equipment and furniture. Encourage employees to use digital note-taking programs like Evernote rather than physical notepads. Keep equipment functioning properly by conducting routine maintenance and getting rid of anything that’s damaged beyond repair.

Resource Waste


Resource waste isn’t as easy to identify as physical waste, but it costs you just as much money—if not more!

Resource waste includes:

  • Idle time when employees have no pressing tasks
  • Bottlenecks when employees are waiting for approval to proceed with a task
  • Time spent re-doing work that’s incorrect
  • Time spent on tasks that don’t actually add value to your customers
  • Perfectionism

Resource waste is most often the fault of management, who is either too busy or too incompetent to manage their team effectively.

You can toss resource waste into your proverbial wastebasket by setting clear, time sensitive expectations for your teams (more on this here) and holding performance reviews on a regular, ongoing basis.

You might have been surprised by the last bullet on the list above—perfectionism. Believe it or not, it’s a plague that will ruin your chances of running a lean, systematic operation.

Most tasks in your business don’t really require 100% effort. There are occasions when the time spent getting from, say, 80% perfect to 100% perfect makes no difference in the quality or quantity of service provided to the customer. It makes no impact on your value, and therefore is a wasted resource.

You can eliminate this waste by killing perfectionism in your business.

Psychological Waste

The last category of waste is psychological waste. It’s the least obvious form of waste, but the one that takes the biggest toll on your employees. Without happy employees, your business suffers in the form of lost productivity, lost revenue and decreased loyalty. It’s a vicious cycle.

Psychological waste comes in two primary forms:

  • Employees who are not being used to their full potential
  • Employees who are sucking energy from the rest of the team

The former category can be dealt with fairly easily by keeping an open line of communication with your team members. Regularly check in with employees to find out how they’re doing, if they’re feeling challenged, if there are any new areas of the company they’d like to explore.

You can also implement a professional development program for employees wishing to advance their skills, either internally or by outsourcing. Not all employees crave development, and that’s okay; providing options for those that do will be a benefit to both you and them. Forbes has a great guide for helping develop engaged employees here.

The latter category of psychological waste isn’t so easy to deal with. It’s that employee who constantly wears a scowl when they walk in the door. Who always has a reason for why things won’t work. Who drags morale down by constantly complaining. You know the one.

These employees are a psychological drag on your team and, if not dealt with appropriately, can poison other employees to the point of quitting.

It’s up to you to nip the problem in the bud, either through HR, one-on-one meetings or, if all else fails, letting them go. It’s never easy to fire someone, but letting a bad apple stick around for too long can cause far more harm to the rest of your team.

Do you have a wastebasket system for your business? Share it with us by leaving a comment below!

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Additional Reading

Where not to waste cash when starting a business

How to avoid decision fatigue

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