I read somewhere that the secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine — which forced me to stop and really look at my own routine. How do I chase after my goals? Do I track my progress? And most importantly, how do I measure success? Short answer: I did not!
We all have goals, but between procrastination and self-doubt, they end up at the bottom of our to-do lists. Something that keeps you up at night becomes just another thing you want to have done before you turn 30 or 40. Well, this deliberate lack of specificity only pushes your dreams farther, because they can only come to pass if you start as soon as now.
Good news: A Japanese concept called Kaizen is one way to ensure that you form and stick to positive habits that get you a step closer to achieving your goals, every day.
If it does not add value to your process and/or life, do away with it.
What is Kaizen?
The word ‘Kaizen’ is a combination of two Japanese terms ‘Kai’ (good) and ‘Zen’ (change), which essentially means continuous improvement. The concept, originally developed by American businessmen, traces its roots back to World War II as a tool for industrial growth. Kaizen was later popularized in Japan, with industry leaders like Toyota implementing and running with it.
While the philosophy is mostly used in business, it can also be applied to our personal lives as a means to increase productivity by eliminating waste and focusing on small, continuous improvements.
Here is how you can incorporate Kaizen principles in your daily routine to make the most out of your time:
Change how you view your goals
A simple way to do this is to visualize your goal and understand that it is a process. Picture it in your mind, or draw it out if you want to. Instead of viewing your goal as this huge task, ask yourself, “what can I do today to get closer to achieving my goal?” Your answer to this should give you a few mini goals that are measurable and simple to start with. For example, if your goal is to read more, measurable mini goals can be identifying the topics you like to read, the time of day you can squeeze in a few pages, or even the number of pages you can read in a day without feeling overwhelmed. This also dwarfs the challenges and hardships that may have been scaring you into pursuing that goal. Go at it a day at a time, focusing on gradual improvements.
Create a routine
To ensure you take action on your goal, you have to plan it out and dedicate time to specific activities. Do this repeatedly for a few days to see if it works for you. The idea is continuous improvement, so do not get attached — you are allowed (and advised) to change something if you find it ineffective. Embrace change as a natural part of life and keep adapting your routine to changes as they come along. Eventually, these small self-improvement activities will become a normal part of your routine and seamlessly blend into who you are.
Track your progress
I call mine a gratitude journal — which I find very therapeutic by the way. The concept of Kaizen is about that important 1% that grows bigger and bigger every day. You can command your day by writing down goals of the day each morning, and ticking off the ones you managed to crush at the end of the day. Remember to go easy on yourself where you fall short. You can take this a step further (like me) and write out what you are grateful for. Keeping track of your progress acts as a roadmap, to show you where you are going, remind you how far you’ve come, and most importantly, show you if you are going in the right direction.
Determine where time, energy, and resources are wasted
Kaizen principles are centered towards being economical, and eliminating waste as much as possible. In your quest, take time to determine and eliminate things and/or activities that are unnecessary and time consuming — these also include physical and visual distractions. As Kaizen dictates, you can start small: remove unnecessary things from your workspace. As a rule of thumb, if it does not add value to your process and/or life, do away with it. Similarly, be mindful with your finances throughout your improvement journey. Seize every opportunity to save money, and only aim to spend on the things you need.
Set aside time to review what is working and what needs to be improved
Remember that Kaizen is a continuous process of small changes that need not be permanent. To see results, it is critical that you continue adjusting and making corrections where necessary. Set aside time to review your plan to see what’s working, and what you need to pivot from.
The beauty of Kaizen is that it ensures you are chasing your goals aggressively, and being kind to yourself at the same time. Of course, success will not happen overnight, but your efforts will prove worth it when you take time to strategically go about your journey. Following these simple Kaizen principles should help make the whole process less daunting, achievable, and most importantly, enjoyable.