Kaizen – The Japanese Method for Changing Habits


What is behind the Japanese Kaizen philosophy – and how can you use it to develop new habits? This article will answer all your questions!

Kaizen: What is it?

The term Kaizen is a composition from the Japanese Kai for “change” or “transformation” and Zen for “for the better”. The Japanese Masaaki Imai published a book about the principle of Kaizen as early as 1986. What is behind it? Roughly summarized, kaizen helps with production, service or quality management in companies.

Kaizen is above all a management philosophy, i.e. it is not simply a method, but a way of thinking that should be internalized by the employees: Processes, activities or products should be permanently improved – with the involvement of all employees. Waste should also be avoided as far as possible, not only in terms of resources, but also in terms of time!

The optimization process has a beginning in the Kaizen philosophy, but no end! As Imai is said to have said: “The message of the Kaizen strategy is that not a day should go by without some improvement somewhere in the company. The key to success here are the small steps and day by day! Step by step to visible improvement. How can we use this for us?

Kaizen: How can we use the principle?

With self-optimization we can overdo it! And yet there are habits that we’ve been wanting to get rid of for a long time – and simply can’t manage it. For this you need to know: Getting rid of a bad habit is harder than establishing a new one. However, there is a trick for this: the 1-minute method. That means you take one minute a day to get rid of your new habit! Whether you want to do some sit-ups, eat more vegetables or update your schedule, one minute is no excuse not to do it. And how fast is a minute over? Exactly! Instead of getting annoyed by bad habits, you can develop a better one and get closer to your goal in small steps …

Kaizen: establishing new habits

The 1-minute method motivates you from the start and gives you a quick sense of achievement – how great is that? And you can also take advantage of another principle: a small study by University College London found that a large proportion of test persons automatically adopted new habits in everyday life after an average of 66 days. If you repeat your new habit for about 66 days in a row, it is already part of your life. It’s so easy to optimize your life step by step!

Kaizen at home

The continuous optimization process is therefore not only suitable for processes within the company, but can be transferred to various areas of life. And what works in companies and offices also works for your home. For continuous optimization you can use the 5S method:

Sorting (Japanese: Seiri): Disposal of everything unnecessary! For things you are unsure about, put them in a box, label them and put them away, e.g. in the basement. If you do not use them for a longer time, you can also dispose of them.

Systematize (Seiton): Everything has not only a fixed place, but also a meaningful one! Keep everything that belongs together in one place. What is not often used is stowed away so that it does not get in the way.

Cleaning (Seiso): After a basic cleaning you can set up your organization system. Cleanliness also includes repairing broken things.

Standardization (Seiketsu): Standardization is only necessary to a limited extent for household use, but you can use this principle to think through routine procedures and optimize them step by step.

Self-discipline (Shitsuke): Bringing order into your home and planning procedures more sensibly are great ways to save time and resources. But without the discipline to maintain this standard, unfortunately not very successful. So: stay tuned!

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