Updated June 15, 2023
Most people love to grow swiftly in their careers. But what they don’t realize is running constantly will take a lot out of them and they will eventually stop to gasp a breath or two and then in the moment of introspection, they will realize how running has affected their overall being. Running is not necessary. But you may point out – what if I want to grow a lot, catapult my career to a new height where very few have ever been able to reach? Yes, we hear you. Here’s the answer – take a small step today and try to make it sustainable. If you do it constantly, in few years you will be drastically different than you are now. And you will do it by using Kaizen.
Kaizen is a Japanese word which means continuous improvement. If you want to reach the highest level of your career then you should take this approach of continuously developing yourself. For example, let’s say you always want to read more books, but you always fail to do it for very long time. Here’s why. You start with too much improvement at once. You decide and start reading 40-50 pages a day. But you are not at all habituated with it; thus your mind can’t adapt to the new behaviour and thus it resists. You feel very enthusiastic on the first day and you say to yourself – “No matter what, I will read 50 pages a day.” You do and next day you feel a little less enthusiastic. You fight the resistance and still manage to read 30 pages. On the next day, you don’t feel like reading, but as you have committed to yourself, you read 10 pages. Next day, you want to read but it becomes too heavy for you and you say I have read a lot in last 3 days, let’s take a break today. But that break becomes a full stop and you stop reading at all until the next time when you feel you need to make the habit of reading more.
Here comes Kaizen
If you want to make something a habit, you need to do it for a long time. You can do it and it is always do-able if you know how. First of all, your idea of doing too much too soon will not install a new habit. What will do is a little bit every day plus a tiny improvement. Let’s take the same example from above to illustrate the point. Suppose you want to make a habit of reading. Don’t start with something prodigious. Start half a page a day. So, first day you will read only half page and no more. Why half page? Because it is so tiny that you can’t say no even if you don’t feel like doing. Now how much you should read on the second day? You would increase a paragraph more. Meaning on the second day you will read half a page and a paragraph. As you progress to make a habit, read one paragraph more from the previous day. Within 66 days you will make it a habit and you would be able successfully read 25-30 pages a day once you reach 66 days. This is the power of Kaizen. Every day a little improvement and you will reach the level of mastery within few months, if not days. Now where did we get this number 66 days? The recent study proves that it takes at least 66 days to install a new habit. So practice reading in kaizen way for 66 days and you reading habit would be installed.
Why kaizen works?
If you have dealt with interest or ever invested some money, you may have heard the concept of compound interest. Compound interest multiplies your money much faster than the simple interest rate. Kaizen works the same. It compounds your effort over time. Thus you get multiplied benefits which very few processes can provide with.
Moreover kaizen focuses on thinking small and acting small. You have tried the concept of big and it didn’t work. Try kaizen instead. Think small. Act small. Get enormous results. What thinking small would do is to pare down any resistance you have for not doing it.
Kaizen is sustainable. If you follow the procedure of kaizen, you can continue it without much resistance. You don’t need to put a lot of effort to make it a habit. All you need to do is to do a tiny portion and improve a tiny bit and you are done.
Kaizen focuses on continuous improvement. Of course, if you continue the activity, you will get positive output just by doing the activity. But kaizen helps you improve the process as well as the results. And the improvement is so small that you don’t feel that you are putting too much effort into it. Thus you don’t give up in between and ultimately creates habits for good.
How to use Kaizen to catapult your career to the best level possible?
Use the following steps to propel your career to its highest level. These things will work if you will do the work. Let’s get started right away with how you can implement kaizen in your life and career.
Most people would tell you to think big. But there is power in refraining yourself from all the thoughts and concentrating on one small thing. It is easy. All you need to do is to stray away from all the distraction and focus all your attention to do only one tiny thing. For example, simply concentrate on reading half a page a day once you start with your reading habit. You don’t need to think about what will happen afterward. Simply think only about completing half page. Thinking more will only distract you.
Don’t start with something big. Start small. If you can train yourself to think small, acting small would be easier. All you need to do is to implement what you thought through. And that’s it. You will be able to use Kaizen effectively.
Have only one goal at a time
To get the best out of kaizen, you need to narrow your focus to one thing. If you have more than one goal, you would not be able to get the benefit of kaizen. Have only one goal at a time. You can do too many at a time, but ultimately you will fail and the failure would affect drastically on your psyche. It’s much easier just to choose one and then put your heart and soul into it. Yes, the main issue with concentrating on one thing at a time is you feel like missing out. But you won’t miss out anything. This is the way if you want to improve your career or life. Kaizen or continuous improvement can’t happen if your focus gets spread too thin among too many things. Take your time and change one thing at a time. The second issue with concentrating on one thing is the temptation of doing more. Our mind wants to be the king for the day and want to remain the beggar for the rest of the period. Be aware. Even if you can do more than one thing at a time in the beginning, don’t attempt it. As every temptation has failed you in the past, this too would fail you. Remain ultra-focused on one thing and see the benefits of kaizen.
Improve a little every day
We talked about the temptation of the mind. Our minds want to do too much too soon. So, you need to stop your mind from attempting too big in the beginning. As kaizen is a process of continuous improvement, it is natural to feel that you can improve a lot a day. But don’t. If you have decided to read half a page in the beginning, then just choose the “improvement ratio” as not more than 10% of it. If you feel 10% is too much, just improve 1% a day. And go along with that. For example, suppose you want to take care of your health to be able to have more energy at work. You decided to start with 10 push-ups a day. That’s an easy goal. Next day just do 11 push-ups and not more. One thing you should remember here is that don’t just improve on the basis of number; but on the basis of proportion or percentage. If you decide on a number, after a certain point of time, it would become stale. And that way you will only get the benefit of simple interest. But if you use percentage, your benefit will be compounded like nothing else.
Make a list of things to improve
If you make a list of what you want to improve, it would be easier for you to sort out and start immediately once you get success on the first thing. If you do it well, you will be able to improve at least 5-6 things a year. Start with something that seems easier and then gradually increase the intensity.
What to do if you miss out a day
Yes, it’s quite natural that you miss out a day while following the process of kaizen. The simple answer is to start again the next day. You may feel bad; but don’t beat yourself up for not doing the chore one day. Start the next day immediately. But don’t allow yourself to miss two days in a row. If you miss two days in a row, it would be difficult for you to get back again with the same swing. Thus even if by any chance you miss a day, don’t allow yourself to miss it twice.
Do it first thing in the morning
If possible, you should do whatever habit you want to install in your life first thing in the morning. Just get up and do it. It may be reading few pages from a book to install the reading habit or simply taking a walk for 5 minutes or drinking a glass of water or doing 5 minutes of exercise. No matter what it is, if you do it first thing in the morning, it would not be easier to miss the habit. Now you need to do another thing. You need to prepare for the habit next day the night before. If you want to read few pages from a book first thing in the morning, keep a book just beside your pillow. If you want to go for a 5 minutes’ walk or a mild jog, keep your shoe just near the bed where you sleep. The idea is you shouldn’t leave any room for your mind to give excuse. And you will be able to successfully implement the magic of kaizen.
The miracle lies in starting. Most of people are not able to start. They procrastinate or they are not able to get rid of the inertia; thus they are not able to install any new habit and always remain frustrated. But you can trick yourself to start. If you want to read few pages of the book and your mind says that it is hard, simply talk to your mind that you need to just pick up the book and read one sentence and you are done. Once you read one sentence, you will not stop and finish up few pages of reading. You can use the same tactic with walking or jogging. After getting up in the morning, your mind may tell you – It’s too hard to go out and walk or jog; simply talk to mind and say that you will only wear the shoe and go out of the home. And that’s it. By tricking your mind you would be able to do the activity your mind resisted before. There is a power in starting things. Just start and see for yourself.
Most people don’t realize the value of kaizen. They think they can’t implement something Japanese in their daily life. But the truth is they can. All they need is an open mind and willingness to try kaizen.