Kaizen: get things done (better), one step at time

Kaizen: get things done (better), one step at time

When I’m out hiking, I often get intimated by the big climbs. I start making up stories about how hard it will be and how long it will take and how my lungs might burst with the effort. I worry about my knees hurting, and running out of water, and bonking (running flat slap out of energy).

(Would you like a little cheese with that whine, Angie?)

The thing is, there’s only one way to climb a mountain.

One step at a time.

And I know that each step is helping my cardio, my muscles, and my mind. And if I stick with it, I’ll get better at it each time.

See, that’s really the only way to get better at anything: stick with it and take it one task (or step) at a time.

In fact, there’s a whole philosophy around small improvements called Kaizen.

Kaizen is Japanese for “good change.” It refers to any improvement, big or small; one-time or ongoing.

In Kaizen, the whole idea is that change and improvement is a process.  And the cycle looks like this:

  1. Standardize an operation and its activities
  2. Measure the operation (so you have a baseline – a place to begin)
  3. Gauge measurements against requirements
  4. Innovate to meet requirements and increase productivity
  5. Standardize the new, improved operations
  6. Continue cycle ad infinitum

Here’s a working example using email.

Step #1: Decide you’ll follow my five step email processing plan (Unsubscribe, Delete, Do, Delegate, Defer)

Step #2: Note how many emails are currently in your inbox (this is your baseline – your desired outcome)

Step #3: Decide how many emails you want in your inbox (my answer is never more than 30; yours might be more or less than this)

Step #4:  Decide you’ll only spend one hour, three times a day on email.  Stick to this schedule using a timer.

Step #5: Perform this way for one week and then check yourself according to your desired goal (for me, do I have no more than 30 emails in my inbox at any one one time? If yes, continue doing what I’m doing; if no, what small change do I need to make to approach my goal?)

Step #6: Continue, continue, continue. Adjust goal if/when necessary. Otherwise, the system works for the desire outcome you’ve chosen.

Give it a try for anything you would like to accomplish or improve. And let me know how it works for you!

Make Some Room,


P.S. I’m starting 31 Days of Organizing on Monday, December 1st. You will hear from me every single day in December with a tip, idea, or video on “getting organized.” December is my favorite month and I like to give, give, give. I hope you’ll play along!

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