45 Ways to Strengthen Kaizen Habits

By Jon Miller Published on August 16th, 2007

I have a suspicion that personal productivity bloggers are actually moonlighting Lean people. The 27 great tips to keep your life organized at Zen Habits contain advice familiar to us as one piece flow, bias for action, “zero” thinking, 5S, and visual controls:
5. Do one thing at a time.
6. Do it now.
7. Make use of the word no.
8. Use the recycling bin/trash basket. Organizing unnecessary items is wasted energy. It is amazing how much more in control I feel just by ridding myself of now outdated articles I’d like to read “someday,” or countless meeting notes from which relevant action items have already been extracted.
9. A (good) place for everything, and everything in its place. By finding places that are easy to get to for all the things I use most often, and places that are pretty easy to get to for the things I use less often, I spend less time dreading doing things and more time actually doing things. And the place for things you never use is elsewhere (trash can, place that accepts donations, etc.).
10. Simplify, simplify, simplify!
11. Put it away now. The single, simplest thing I do to stay personally organized is to put whatever tool, item, clothing, bag, hairbrush etc., away immediately after using it. I always know where everything and anything is so I never waste time looking for something. Very efficient. I could tell a stranger where to find anything in my home.
13. Change. It obsoletes unimportant things. It brings down any method or idea that isn’t timeless. It brings up newer and more important things that you and others can’t resist anymore. Best of all: it’s an organizing tool that operates itself. You simply have to embrace it.
14. Divide material into red, yellow, blue and green plastic file folders. For example, anything that has to be done today (paperwork to be given to a client, bills to be mailed) go in the red folder. Contact material or anything related to customer field support goes in the yellow folder. Your mileage may vary as to how you organize your briefcase, and like me you may also have project-specific manilla file folders as well, but dividing stuff up into just four color coded folders is a huge help.
17. Sort at the source. My favorite organizational tool is my post office box. I visit it once a week (usually Saturday), stand at the counter in the lobby and sort my mail. I use the P.O.’s trash bin. What comes into my house is only what I need to have. Bills and letters and checks go into my inbox (which by the way is a box with a lid that is wrapped in lovely fabric and has a yellow bow on it so it looks like a present sitting on my desk). Reading material goes on the table by my chaise lounge which is where I do all my reading.
19. Color coding. I’m a visual person, and I find that color-coding my various lists and calendars minimizes the time I have to spend looking at them. This worked especially well when I was in school: I dumped every class syllabus into Outlook, and then color-coded every class period (blue for paper due, yellow for quiz, red for test, etc). It took awhile to set up, sure, but then for the rest of the semester I only had to glance at Outlook to get a very clear idea of what kind of week I was going to have.
And more. Great ideas, but how do you put them into practice consistently so that they become a new habit. This takes repetition. Habits are basically neural patterns in your brain, so you need to practice new habits just like you would practice a musical instrument. Scientists who study the brain have a saying “nerves that fire together, wire together”.
The Lifehack website offers 18 tricks to make new habits stick. The following selection to making behavior change stick looked very similar to Toyota Production System principles and kaizen habits:
2. Make it Daily
9. Be Imperfect
12. Associate With Role Models
13. Run it as an Experiment
15. Write it Down
16. Know the Benefits
18. Do it For Yourself

I’m tempted to start a blog called Kaizen Habits about personal productivity, but I won’t.

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