Lean Living — Way to Happier, Productive and Economical Life

Derived from the concept of Lean Manufacturing

Since I joined a manufacturing organization, I have learned a huge number of concepts that I never knew about. Or may be I overlooked them since they were not much related to my industry or role. However, I find some of these concepts astonishingly brilliant. One of them is Lean Manufacturing. The concept is simple — eliminate everything that is ‘non-value add’ in the production process. Essentially, it means reducing each and every type of waste during the production process.

After learning Lean Manufacturing, I thought a lot — could we inculcate this concept in our daily life? We use a lot of our space, time and emotional energy in things that are non-value add. That is a lot of waste. Is there a way we could happier, more productive and more economical by reducing wastes from our daily life.

Lean manufacturing talks about reducing 7 wastes (muda — Japanese word for uselessness/wastefulness) from the production process. However, to borrow the concept and throw it in our day-to-day life, we need to club a couple of wastes. Let me try to elaborate on what these waste are and how these could be reduced from our life. You tell me if it makes sense and would it help to make us happier, productive and economical.

  • Reduce Inventory
    There is a lot of buzz on the internet around minimalist living. Minimalism says to reduce the gluttony around us by owning only things that are necessary. We could say minimalism is a subset of Lean Living.

Why stuff up our house with the things we are not sure we really need — fifty plus apparels in the wardrobe, house filled with furniture & appliances and number of different vehicles to drive around. After we stuff up our house with all the things we desired (not required), we are short on space to buy and store more stuff. So we desire a bigger house with more spacious furniture. This adds up to our real estate costs and furnishing cost over a lifetime. Imagine how much more economical we could be without all this gluttony. Huge inventory makes us resistant to move from one place to another compromising our risk taking ability thus impacting our overall productivity and growth. We invest a lot of emotional energy in buying those houses/furniture and stress up on the fear of losing it. This impacts our focus on health and hobbies affecting our overall happiness.

  • Stop Waiting
    There is a wastage of tremendous amount of emotional energy in waiting for that one message from our crush, for an appreciation from boss, or for that light to turn green. My thought — why waste that precious time in waiting for things to happen. Wouldn’t it make more sense just ask him/her out if (s)he’s not responding. Isn’t there a chance that appreciating you for your work slipped your boss’ mind and rather than sweating over it we could just ask for feedback. And why drive so that we have wait for the signal to turn green — instead we could take a public transport, sit back and use that time to read or listen to music. I believe, the amount of frustration felt in waiting for things to happen would definitely reduce making us more productive and happier.
  • Defect Free Work
    This is a no brainier. Why do things half ass-ed and then do it all over again because it’s defective/erroneous. We are so distracted with continuous notification from umpteen of apps in our mobile phones that continuously hits our productivity. We feel that we are taking care of multiple things at a time, but instead we are not doing full justice to even one task.

We end up delivering incorrect, erroneous and defective work.Then, we have to do it again which makes us angry, frustrated and inefficient. In Cal Newport’s Deep Work, he talks about how to develop one’s ability of focus and master the concept of distraction free work. He bets how few minutes of deep work could help achieve significant results in any profession. Defect free work seems to me a sure shot way to productivity and happiness.

  • Cut Back on Motion & Transportation
    E-commerce companies are already doing a lot of work to help us reduce our motion or transportation in getting our essentials. They are doing all the research in logistics and supply chain to achieve optimum cost reduction, faster deliveries and minimal transportation. We can just sit back, relax and utilize more and more of their services to fulfill our day to day needs. Today, our workplaces are designed based on years and years of time and motion study so that employees have everything within their arm reach. We could try and think from same perspective at our homes. Rearranging things, so we have to do least movement while cooking in kitchen, eating at dining table or watching TV in the living room. At the same time, be careful, I am not suggesting we all become couch potatoes in our efforts to reduce motion. Being healthy should be part of lifestyle as well, which should be separate from being economical and productive.
  • Check Over-processing & Overproduction 
    This could be a counter argument to point no (3) Defect Free Work. In the pursuit of achieving zero defect is it worthwhile to review your own work five times and sweat over every punctuation, font size of each alphabet or other such minute details. That would be counter productive. We need to look at things that matter. No one is going to notice how perfectly aligned are the texts and images in your presentation. We are not Toyota that we need to achieve six sigma quality of our work. Achieving a minimal defect without overworking should be the goal. Being a perfectionist could make us control freak and over-obsessive with things we do — checking those behavior could make us happier and productive.

As I am reaching the end of this article, I feel, productivity, happiness and economic are all interlinked. If we try to achieve productivity we by default achieve some economic advantages and become more emotionally satisfied. Thinking about it consciously, might help us in achieving these three goals or it may not, but if these things matter, we could give it a shot.