Things you can do TODAY to improve your life by tomorrow
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
Many people have long-term goals or projects they want to address in their (near) future. However, many of these are never reached or worked on. For example, how many of your New Year’s resolutions do you typically accomplish?
Today, I would like to introduce you to a simple concept that allows you to improve your life TODAY. Not tomorrow, not next week, not next year. The magic bullet I’m referring to is called Kaizen. While Kaizen is typically used in a business context, you can apply it to almost any aspect of your life. But what is Kaizen?
The Japanese word “Kaizen” consists of two Kanjis (Chinese Characters). 改 (Kai) stands for “change, renew or reform” and 善 (Zen) stands for “Good.” The literal translation of it means “Improvement.”
Kaizen describes a philosophy of continuous improvement based on an overarching vision. Kaizen focuses on small steps that — eventually — lead to significant changes. The base for the improvements is an analysis of the status quo. In the business world, the analysis of the current situation is very detailed and time-consuming. And yes: ideally, you should be very specific in describing your baseline. However, if you want to try Kaizen today and start working towards your goals within the next hours, you can use a shortcut:
What can you do today?
- Identify one area in your life that you want to improve. This could be your health, your professional life, your fitness, etc.
- Rate the status of this area from 1–10.
- Brainstorm how you can improve the selected area in the next 12 hours. If possible, within the next 60 minutes.
- Try to estimate how long it will take to improve the value on your scala by 1 point. This is your first milestone.
Why is it essential to start working towards your next milestone within the next hours? I’ve made the experience that the likelihood of achieving your goals drops by every day the project is procrastinated.
Apart from that, it will be motivating and empowering if you accomplished a task or a mini-goal soon after you committed to change.
How to continue
The beauty of improving your life in small steps is the fact that you tackle one step at a time, which will build your skills and confidence while preventing you from burning out.
The “downside” of this concept is that you have to work on your goals continuously. Ideally, daily. Once the excitement of working towards a new goal is over, you have to be disciplined to stay on track.
From my experience working with clients and teams, they’re three techniques that can support achieving your goals with Kaizen:
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A milestone without a plan is like driving without a GPS. Planning will help you know what to do and when to do it. A plan reminds you of your daily tasks and weekly or monthly milestones.
Tips for successful planning:
- Pick a planning/scheduling tool that works for you. Some people prefer digital planners like google calendar. Others prefer apps such as Planner Pro or Zenday. I’m very old-school and prefer writing everything on my schedule.
- Create a planning habit. Writing down tasks, setting reminders, or reviewing progress requires discipline at first. However, once you’ve done it for some weeks, it will become a habit, i.e., second nature. Create a daily ritual for reviewing your to-do list and tracking your progress. For example, I set my weekly goals every Sunday afternoon and write down my daily tasks while having my first cup of coffee. Find a ritual that works for you and practice it DAILY, ideally, at the same place and time.
Many studies show a correlation between progress tracking and successful behavior change. You can either track results (outcome goals) or so-called process goals. Process goals are activities that you perform to achieve the desired outcome. For example, you commit to walking 10,000 steps per day (process goal) to lose 4 pounds within the next month (outcome goal). When working as a consultant or a coach, I try to use a combination of process and outcome goals.
Reviewing your process and outcome goals regularly will help you to adjust them according to your needs. If you fall short on your outcome goals, you can either decrease the pace of your project or change your process goals. But — more importantly — regular check-ins will allow you to be clebrate quick wins, which will help you to stay motivated.
“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In good health,