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Published on July 24, 2018

How Continuous Improvement Can Enhance Your Personal Life

How Continuous Improvement Can Enhance Your Personal Life

Kaizen is the Japanese philosophy and practice of continuous improvement. This concept of continuous improvement was first conceived in the USA during WW2.

To maintain the production levels and meet demand, the industry had to come up with a system that would allow for incremental progress in production rather than no progress at all – which was very much the reality the industry was facing.

This concept of consistent incremental improvement proved to be a huge success and saved the US manufacturing industry from a rapid decline.

After WW2, as part of the rebuild programme for Japan, the Japanese were invited to visit manufacturing plants through out the USA. The Japanese took this successful concept of continuous improvement and adapted into Kaizen.

This philosophy formed the base from which the Japanese have built a manufacturing industry that dominates the world today.

In this article, I’ll look into what continuous improvement is and how you can make use of this concept to enhance your life.

What does Kaizen (continuous improvement) have to do with you?

So what does Kaizen have to do with us? How can it help us enhance our personal lives?

“Persistence, perseverance, and continuous improvement are the ingredients for forming a successful person.” — Debasish Mridha

While Kaizen was originally developed to help businesses improve and thrive, it’s just as applicable to our personal lives.

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The Kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement I believe is a failure proof system that enables us to achieve and sustain our personal goals and dreams in life.

The concept of continuous improvement offers us a way where we can live our lives to the fullest by continuously learning, growing and thriving.

We live in a world of never ending disruption and change. By adopting the philosophy of Kaizen, we become more adaptable, flexible and resilient to dealing with the constant demands and disruptions we face in our lives.

What continuous improvement is exactly

The philosophy of Kaizen is based on the concept that instead of making big changes at once, the continuous improvement approach focuses on making small improvement over time.

Kaizen is often referred to as the “strategy for 1% gains”. It is these 1% gains that athletes focus on to improve their performance. The 1% gains are incremental and if you keep building on the 1% gains the rewards are phenomenal.

Continuous improvement is perpetual and so to maintain gains and improvement, you need to work on them continuously.

Your personal improvement journey is never finished! What this means is, if you are truly committed to philosophy of continuous improvement, you are less likely to quit because you are always in search of the next goal.

How continuous improvement empowers you

How many New Year resolutions have you made and never achieved over the years?

Unless you are one of the small minority who are goal orientated high achievers, maintaining motivation and the commitment to achieving your goals is hard work and dare I say it – with not much success – one big FAILURE after another.

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Hence, these are the reasons why New Years’ resolutions are never achieved.

Continuous improvement can help you to achieve any goals you set. If you commit to the practice of continuous improvement, your motivation to achieve your goals and aspirations in life will never die.

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” — Benjamin Franklin

You will never have to struggle with the dilemma of giving up or giving in because it all became too hard.

Your achievements and success in life will be as a result of you taking continuous incremental steps toward your goals.

Continuous improvement is not about reaching the big goals in life but about taking small steps and improving and refining along the way.

How to commit to continuous improvement

If you truly desire a successful life where you are thriving, the first thing you must do is embrace and accept that your journey of self improvement and growth will never end. It is a lifelong journey of learning.

Once you have accepted that your journey to improving your life is life long, you then follow these steps:

1. Set your goals based on the philosophy of 1% incremental achievements

Remember that setting the goal is the easy bit. Keeping motivated, focused and on track to achieving any goal is the hardest part.

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The concept of continuous improvement provides you with a system or a process that if you commit to following will enable you to confidently achieve any goal you set- you are guaranteed to win.

“Instead of trying to make radical changes in a short amount of time, just make small improvements every day that will gradually lead to the change you want. Each day, just focus on getting 1% better in whatever it is you’re trying to improve. That’s it. Just 1%.” — Brett and Kate McKay of The Art of Manliness

It might not seem like much but continuous 1% improvement/achievements every day will gradually add up to 100% and the goal is achieved!

In their book The Art Of Manliness, Brett and Kate McKay talk about how the journey of self improvement and personal growth is a lot like a rollercoaster ride – scary, exciting and with lots of ups and downs.

They believe that by following the concept of Kaizen (the 1% improvement) every day enables you to get off the roller coaster ride of feeling like a failure and being angry with yourself because you keep giving up.

2. Break down the system into small actions

Continuous improvement is a journey of personal growth where you are making long-term steady progress. It is not about random bursts of improvement with fits and starts of activity. This approach to self-improvement will not give you the sustainable long-term changes you seek to improve your life or achieve your goals.

For example, if you have huge debt and you want to pay it back but it is all too much, so you hide away from taking any action. To put the concept of continuous improvement into action, the first thing you need to do is not focus on how much you owe, instead focus on creating a system or process that enables you to pay back an incremental amount each week.

Once you have created the system, you must break down the system into small actions or behaviours with the least resistance and effort. Commit to these actions on a daily basis until your original system is habit.

Commit to paying back a realistic amount each week and then increase the amount you pay back by 1% plus every week after that. Keep going until the debt is paid off.

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3. Keep track of your 1% success

The other important factor about incremental achievement is that you must measure and keep track of your 1% successes.

Evaluating and measuring your improvements are important for your own motivation and commitment to the journey. If you are not measuring your progress, your subconscious brain will kick in and sabotage your progress by convincing you that it is all too hard and you are not making any progress at all.

Your subconsious brain only believes what you tell it. Unfortunately you have told your brain a lot of untruthful things over a long period of time about how you are a failure, not motivated and never really achieved anything in life. Your subconscious brain as a result believes all these “facts” that you have told it to be true.

Measuring and evaluating your 1% successes is key to you retraining your subconscious to believe that Yes – you can achieve your goals and succeed in life!

Focus on the progress, always

Continuous Improvement does not focus on making huge gains or big improvements all at once. Instead it focuses on long-term steady progress.

When you follow the philosophy of Continuous Improvement, you won’t radically change your life but over time with consistent and constant improvement and change, you will find that you are living your life to the fullest – empowered, resilient and thriving.

Why would you not want to embrace this philosophy of incremental improvement and growth into your personal life?

“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will be a stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” – Sir Winston Churchill

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilence Coach who is passionate about thriving and growing in a complex world

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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