How the Kaizen philosophy helps improve your productivity habits

What’s the best way to go about self-improvement? You certainly have to know yourself. Being successful is often about managing your weaknesses; create healthy habits and routine in the process. Self-improvement is easier done than most realize. People tend to overthink the matter or set lofty goals that end up being unrealistic within a given timeframe.

A part of me feels that a purpose of life is to improve oneself continuously over the course of a lifetime – your experience and wisdom will guide you, and you can offer good advice in turn. We set goals for ourselves because goalsetting is a motivating factor that feels good. But then all to easily off-kilter circumstances can strike down our progression.

There is a lot of advice out there about self-improvement, and for certain bookstores are overflowing with titles on the topic, but why not have a look at a simple and proven method that’s called, Kaizen. It might sound like a mystical hocus-pocus thing, but it’s got a history and proven track record in efficacy.

The Japanese term kaizen means “good change” is a productivity philosophy (actually American in origin). The idea is to get 1% better each day; slow changes in a casual progression will lead to major transformation over time. Think of it like a fad or crash diet – the kind you want to avoid – since you’re more likely to stick with change over the long run when it is implemented gently. Some of you might prefer fast and hardcore adjustments, so if that works for you, then stick with it by all means. However, for the rest of you, giving the kaizen method is worth a try.

After World War II, the Toyota auto manufacturing centers in Japan were driven by an innovative philosophy that motivated workers to better themselves along with the processes and procedures of the car plants. And if an error was made, employees weren’t punished, but rather they were encouraged to pause production in order to determine and assess problems, waste or efficiency. An American auto executive who was visiting Japan at the time and returned home to the US with the concept.

Kaizen is not only useful at the industrial level, but is also helpful for personal productivity and work habits. Here are the basic ideas of the kaizen approach:

  • Create a successful process that’s organized and repeatable
  • Measure and evaluate progress based on data when possible
  • Ask yourself if you were able to deliver on your promise
  • Figure out if there’s a new or better way to get the same results
  • Face changing circumstances with flexibility to adapt methods over time

To apply the kaizen approach to your work-life, start with three simple steps. First figure out where you time and energy is wasted – you need to be efficient with your time by doing less and not more. Second, ask yourself what little changes can you make to be more productive – by thinking tiny, you’re less likely to become overwhelmed and get off track. And lastly, give yourself time to reflect on what works or what could be improved – you’ll never know where you stand if you don’t evaluate the situation.

The beautiful thing about kaizen is that as a mindset, it’s something that can be applied to anything, anywhere, or for any job or project.