Do less, work better with Personal KAIZEN

Christophe Berg
Feb 8 · 5 min read

Get in the flow, change for better & keep learning

What is Personal KAIZEN?

Kaizen stands for « change for better » and « continuous improvement ». This concept originated from the Toyota Way (like Kanban) and Japanese businesses after the World War II. You don’t need to run a business to apply some of the key principles of KAIZEN. Get inspired and practice Kaizen at a personal level. It is not about doing always MORE but doing things in a smarter and a slightly better way day after day.

What means KAIZEN?

In Kaizen, you are looking for small daily improvements focusing on quality over quantity, eliminating waste and avoiding burn-out from unsustainable self-imposed pace or stress. Enjoy the journey, focus your attention to get in the flow, unlock small achievements, visualize your progression, simplify the process and limit your efforts. A small 1% improvement every day can yield to big results over time.

The Compounding Effect of Small Daily Improvements

Unlocking the Power of a Daily Practice

Don’t wait and start to improve by doing. Make changes, experiment, look at the results and adjust accordingly.

The Virtuous Circle of Plan > Do > Check > Adjust
  • Prepare, Plan & Visualize
  • DO: Experiment, try-out… deliver in time.
  • Clarify things. Sort things out. Clean as you go. Safety comes first, always.
  • Observe and listen to feedback. Stay open, curious and willing to learn. Simplify, streamline the process.

How-to apply KAIZEN?

Kaizen is a daily process in which you look for quality, mobilize all your attention, limit overly hard work and unrealistic goals, perform experiments to learn faster and adjust along the way, spot and eliminate waste.

Each cycle is an opportunity for doing things in a smarter and better way.

In order to « eliminate waste » of time or energy, try as much as possible to avoid:

  • over-work, staying late at work just to do hours, or « junk miles » for a runner… being trapped in quantity (hours, repeats, kilometers…) over quality.
  • waste of time like waiting, procrastination, delaying action by over-thinking, interruptions, diversions…
  • unnecessary work, feeling good by doing something completely useless
  • solving non existing problems, worrying about problems before they even occur
  • thinking and worrying about things out of your control
  • multi-tasking
  • continuous conversations over social media while working, training…

Instead look to adopt a sustainable pace, visualize your progression, focus on quality, follow your personal scoreboard and respect your own standards, deliver in time, focus on deep work and incremental improvement, enjoy your learning and development journey.

How-to manage your attention in order to achieve deep work?

Organize your isolation (become impossible to interrupt, remove any notification…), clean your workspace, prepare your working session, work in time-limited blocks. Remove anything that is not essential, any unsolicited noise or interference.

Intermittent isolation to make time for deep work

Being in the flow is very similar to deep work. You can experience being in the flow from any practice that requires your full attention and during which you lose track of time and you feel fully immersed in what you are doing… It can be cooking, playing music, painting, designing, writing, running in nature, dancing…

Simplify and improve your decision making process

by using the Impact — Effort Matrix

Remember that you are looking not to work more but doing less by being smarter… A simple way to achieve this, is to choose solutions in which you manage to minimize your efforts while maximizing the impacts.

the Impact-Effort Matrix

In a given situation or problem, imagine and write down all possible solutions. Think out of the box and bring up as much ways to fix your problem as possible. Write each solution on a post-it. Draw a L-shaped matrix diagram (two-dimensional table) with EFFORT as a bottom line and IMPACT as a vertical line. Place each solution on the matrix at the right intersection between effort and impact. Pick first the solution that requires less EFFORT and has the biggest IMPACT. It is not to say that you can always avoid high effort, just START with higher impact and lower effort. You may hope that your solution will bring-up unexpected results and always reconsider and reevaluate the given problem. As you find a temporary solution and deal with the emergency, try to clarify the root causes of the problem. Look for long term solutions to fix the problem and to prevent it from recurring.

Dream with a PLAN

In order to work smarter, define SMART GOALs. Be realistic and pragmatic, set goals that you can achieve. Be specific and work on something meaningful and relevant. Set a realistic time window. Define relevant indicators to mesure and visualize your progression.

Dream with a Plan: SMART Goal

Waking-up after a party with the crazy idea of running a Marathon

Well, let’s think about it twice. You would need first to break down the challenge and your ambition into SMART Sub Goals, so to have a fair chance of getting there eventually. You want to avoid injuries so being smart is important. You may first decide to eat healthier, cycle or swim and move regularly. Losing some weight may have more impact than going for a run while being overweight. Depending on your fitness level, you can start with easy to achieve activities like 30 minutes power walks to walk-runs, from 2 times to 4 times a week… Slowly look for improvement and try to practice every other day for 1 hour… As you get better at running and start to enjoy it, you can eventually sign-up for a 10K or 15K to get a feel of what it is to run a race as well as getting an idea of what kind of shape you are in. As you get better and fitter, you can prepare for a longer race like a Half-Marathon. As you progress at your very own pace, you can finally set your ultimate goal of running a marathon in an achievable way and with the proper preparation time. Don’t compare to other runners and simply commit to give you personal best. Learn in the process, have fun and enjoy.

Christophe Berg

Written by

Project Coach, simplifier, planner & fixer. Director of Education at Blue Lotus 🌱 #plantbased

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