Kaizen and Continuous Improvement in Taking Care of Your Health and Wellness
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP
Heart-Centered Career Transition and Job Search Coach | Life Strategies and Stress Management Coaching
Last week, I offered an introduction to the concept of kaizen. While kaizen is a business concept that refers to small, incremental improvement or continuous improvement, it can also be used in your personal life in many different ways.
As a business concept, kaizen also introduces the concepts of "force multipliers" and "automation" for the purpose of improving productivity. But think about how these concepts might also apply to your personal life.
So, what are "force multipliers?"
A force multiplier is any tool that allows you to get more done in less time or with less effort.
An obvious example of a force multiplier is a hammer. You can use a hammer for nailing nails far more efficiently than you could if you tried to use your fist or a shoe, for example.
In business, almost anything can be considered a force multiplier. A computer, for example, is a force multiplier. Likewise, a piece of software running on a computer is a force multiplier because it does specific tasks faster and more efficiently.
The same could be said fo a forklift. It allows a single employee to move far more palettes than he could do without it.
Used wisely, force multipliers can save you a lot of money and increase your output by a lot. And that's extremely important in the business world.
Personal MBA author Josh Kaufman explains the merits and importance of force-multipliers. But he also explains their potential risks and downfalls of relying on them too much.
While a force multiplier will amplify your productive output exponentially, it can also increase the potential for mistakes.
This is why the concept of kaizen becomes important. The more efficient your system, the more scalable it will be.
It's also why it's so important to build your business right the first time so that it is sustainable as it grows.
And the same can be said for your life, can't it?
Automation, the other part of kaizen, is the process of automating certain aspects of any activity. We usually think of automation in terms of production or marketing.
Automation is a logical outgrowth of force multipliers. Again, the same risk applies as with the force multiplier. There is danger in automating an error.
To avoid that happening, greater monitoring and observation is critical.
Okay, so far, we have looked at the theory regarding kaizen. We've seen how it works in business and manufacturing.
But now it's time to address how it can work to great effect in your personal life.
Let's start by looking at kaizen as it applies to your health and wellness--specifically to your workout routine.
An obvious way to apply the concept of "small changes every day" to health and fitness is to try the "micro workout."
This means that in the beginning, you will be exercising for just a couple of minutes each day. This approach has many advantages. It makes the prospect of workout far less daunting for one thing. It means committing to a much smaller challenge while your energy levels are low.
And it means forming a new habit one tiny step at a time.
So, let's say that instead of going to the gym four times a week and eating 500 fewer calories a day all at once, you commit to doing 20 sit-ups every morning and skipping your morning latte, saving 150 calories a day.
Now you're exercising a little bit every day. Done consistently, it will have some benefit. At the very least, it will get your blood pumping, and it will tone your muscles a bit.
What's more, you will begin to form a new healthy habit.
FUN FACT: Many people believe it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Others say it takes 30 days. I have also heard it argued that it's 40 days.
Using the 40-day rule, I started a workout routine back when I was in my forties. I committed to getting up an hour earlier than I needed to so I could do an aerobics routine for at least 30-45 minutes every day for 40 days.
I got up every workday and even on weekend days. I keep my promise to myself even on days I didn't really feel like it. And it worked. I kept that habit for well over three years before a change in my life made it impossible to keep up.
But I used the 40-day rule for creating a new habit, and that worked for me.
The actual research says that it may take closer to 66 days to form a new habit.
After analyzing the data, it was concluded that it took an average of 66 days for new successful habits to form.
But this was still greatly dependent on the individual.
In some cases, it took between 18 to 254 days for the new habit to form.
A good way to stick to a resolution to form a new habit is to keep track of your progress. Buy a planner or mark your activity on a calendar as a visual reminder of your commitment to yourself.
Regardless of how long it takes, habits are formed by sticking with them for the long term. So let's say after 66 days, you're now someone who does 20 sit-ups in the morning every single day.
It will be much easier to go from that to someone who does 50 sit-ups, rather than to try for 50 from zero.
The same goes for the habit of foregoing your morning latte. Once you become someone who doesn't need the latte every day, you can look for another small source of calories you could eliminate. It's easier to cut back on calories a few at a time, after all, than to try to cut 500 calories from your diet all at once.
True Kaizen and Getting Into Shape
So, is this "true kaizen?"
There is value in the concept of the micro workout, though. There is also a definite benefit to trying to cut calories here and there from your diet.
But kaizen for fitness should mean looking at your entire daily and weekly routine. You need to assess what you are doing--or not doing--that makes you unfit and create a plan that will help you become fit. You want to use force multipliers and automation as much as you can, too, to be completely successful.
The force multiplier may be anything that adds to your resolve to stick with a new health regimen. The automation kicks in once it has become a true habit and not something you have to think about every day.
Cutting that latte is a good start. But after you have done that, perhaps you can also look for other small changes you can make to reduce your caloric intake.
You might also look for the underlying reasons for why you aren't eating right or working out already.
Is there some mental or psychological resistance to being healthy that you haven't identified?
In other words, take some time to examine your entire lifestyle. Consider your health routine as one giant "flow" or "process."
Then attempt to make tiny improvements here and there where you can. And make the improvements continuous, each one building on the previous one.
If you want to get into shape but can't quite motivate yourself to do it, it is very unlikely to be a physical reason. It's probably a psychological barrier that is keeping you from committing to being healthy.
You have, after all, created the habit of eating poorly and not working out if you are out of shape.
So how do you go about breaking bad habits?
How do you get yourself into the gym despite your own mental resistance?
Start by assessing each of the psychological and situational blocks are that stop you from achieving your goals.
Then look at what you need to do to change or eliminate them.
This process works for health and fitness as well as it does in business. Indeed, it will work for many other areas of your life if you apply the same principles. You can apply them to your career, your finances, and even your relationships
The key is to recognize is that energy is a finite resource.
And so is time.
You can't keep adding more things to your daily routine and expect to magically get into shape. You're probably physically burned out and perhaps a little stressed or even depressed.
That is why you're not in shape!
If you want to improve your health, then you need to look at ways to make your day more efficient.
So first, ask yourself, "what can go?"
If you're currently using all your energy by the end of the day or week, then look at your current routine and ask what you can cut out.
It might be something simple: maybe you could stop going to the local pub on Sundays?
Or perhaps it's something that requires a little more organization. Maybe you could speak to your employer about working from home one day a week?
This could save you a HUGE amount of energy.
The important thing is to commit to building a new daily routine.
Then ask yourself when the best time for you to exercise is? Keep in mind factors like showering. If you exercise in the morning before your shower, then you are not adding extra time by showering as well.
Or you might find that working out on your lunch break at work works well for you.
Look for ways to reduce "waste" in the form of movement, or "non-utilized talent" (that's you!).
There are small fixes you can make in your mindset too.
For instance, ask yourself how many calories you are currently burning in a day. It may well be that you are like many people. You are hardly moving on any given day!
Wearing a fitness tracker or step counter can bring this to stark light.
If you work at a computer all day, you most likely sit most of the day. Research shows that sitting all day is as harmful as smoking is to your health.
So find a way to get moving.
If you are not moving at all or very little, any movement will be an improvement!
Look for small changes you can make in your routine that will help you get moving. Take a walk during lunch. Bicycle to work if you can. Whatever you need to do, move.
Find opportunities to improve your physical stamina by adding small amounts of exercise here and there. Even minor improvements will help if you work at them daily and make them habits.
These small changes add up to more significant effects, but what's more, they force adaptations in your body.
The take-away is this. If you're out of shape right now, that's probably symptomatic of an overly busy and overly stressful routine.
That means your lifestyle is probably inefficient. There are likely things you can do to win back time, energy, and vigor.
At the very least, you can find smarter ways to fit the new things that you want to do.
This is an entirely different way to go about getting into shape, and it is FAR more effective.
Using kaizen for small continuous improvement can certainly be used in helping your health and wellness. Why not give it a try?
Until next time.
Don't forget about the webinar workshop I am offering this afternoon at 2:00 PM EST (11 AM PST).
I am going to be offering a workshop I presented recently to a group of job seekers. It's entitled, "What Were You Born to Do? 7 Steps to Finding Your Passion and Purpose and Directing Them to Your New Career."
I hope you will join me!