Be Playful

Archive for the ‘kaizen’ Category

Photo by Lex in the City.

Playful people always seem so full of life and energy. Have you ever wondered how they do it? Getting up early has been really helpful for giving me that extra energy boost. In this post I share my top tips for getting out of bed.

At the moment my alarm goes off at 6am. I usually manage to be out of bed by 7.15am. This is much better than I used to be. My alarm used to go off at 8am, and I’d struggle to get up before 9.

However, I want to get even better at waking up. This week, my Kaizen Challenge is to get up every morning when my alarm goes off at 6am.

I will use fifteen minutes of my extra time gained to engage in a spiritual practice. At the moment I am reading through a book called The Sacred Art of Listening by Kay Lindahl, and I would like to take the time to meditate slowly on one of the short chapters every day.

Top Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

Here are some tips I have found for getting up early – they have all helped me to get up way earlier than I used to.

1. Know how much sleep you need, and have a set bed time. At the moment I start struggling after a few days if I’m not getting 8 hours every night, so 10pm is the time that I need to be in bed. Remember that everyone is different!

2. Have a bed time ritual. This gets you in the right frame of body and mind to sleep. I often find it difficult to sleep if I go to bed straight after watching television. My one indulgence this week will be waching the Apprentice – it is unmissable!

3. Don’t use your bed as a reading chair. Reading in bed means your brain starts associating mental activity with your bed. This doesn’t bode well when you’re trying to sleep. I have a comfy chair, and a bean bag, so I’m going to start using these instead of my bed.

4. No caffeine or sugar after 5pm. Because I don’t have a regular caffeine intake, I often struggle to sleep at night if I’ve had a coffee or a cola any time after 12pm. I got the sugar tip from Peter at TheChangeBlog , and having started watching the patterns of my body, I wake up far more refreshed if I’ve not had sugar in the evenings.

5. Have something to wake up for. This can be a spiritual practice, morning exercises, time with your children or a slow, relaxing breakfast. I began getting up early because I wanted the extra time to kick-start my writing.

6. My extra special secret is a sunrise alarm clock. I have a Lumie clock – it was very expensive, but it is brilliant for a slow, relaxing wake up call. Noisy alarms would wake me up with a jump, and put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day.

Happy sleeping!


Photo by rastafabi.

According to Cal Newport, will power is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. At the same time, the more you use it within a short period, the more worn out it gets. At the moment, I’m feeling more worn out than strong from the self control needed on my Kaizen Challenge.

This week my Kaizen Challenge was to take time out every evening to write down the five most important things that I would like to accomplish the next day. On the days that I wrote down five things to accomplish, I achieved my goals. However, I found it difficult to remember to take the time to write down the goals.

I’d like to share you with you what I found helpful in this challenge, what I found less helpful, and suggest some improvements that I think make it work better.

The benefits of daily goal making

Time and space to reflect

I enjoyed taking out time from my schedule to reflect on what is important to me – even if it is just at a day to day level. I am beginning to see the importance of developing a habit of reflection. My favourite way of doing this is to have fifteen minutes with my notebook.

Clear goals and accomplishments

Writing down clear goals for the day allowed me to get things done that I might otherwise have put off or tried to avoid. There was also a great sense of achievement in completing everyday tasks because I had set them as a goal.

I recommend including every day tasks onto your goal list that you don’t enjoy doing to give an extra sense of accomplishment once you have completed them. It may also be helpful to use goals to set time-limits for tasks that encourage procrastination – e.g. only spending ten minutes checking and replying to email.

Improving the system

I had a number of difficulties with this task. The biggest difficulty was remembering to write a to-do list in the evening, especially as I tend to set aside the evenings as relaxing time, and try not to think about work.

I think it would have been helpful for me to set aside a specific time in the day to write my goals list. The best time for me would is it at the end of my working day, before I have started relaxing. Another tip is to make your fifth task writing down your five goals for the next day.

Another difficulty was finding five tasks. Yesterday I had a job interview, and that dominated the whole day – the morning I spent preparing for it, and the afternoon and evening I spent winding down.

A better approach than always having five tasks is to be flexible with the number of tasks you write down. Many more than five would be stretching yourself, but it’s definitely okay to have less than five somedays.

Your Thoughts

If you tried this task too, let me know how you got on. What do you think of my suggested improvements?


Photo by Jeff Belmonte.

What idea could be worth one hundred thousand dollars?

When he was alive, Charles Schwab (1862 – 1939) was one of the richest, most successful and powerful men in the world. He ran the biggest independent steel company in America, and lived in a $7,000,000 seventy five room mansion in New York.

One day, someone approached Schwab with a request. They said: ‘Mr. Schwab, I would like to give you an idea and I would like you to use it for one month. At the end of that one month, you pay me whatever you think the idea is worth.’ Schwab agreed to this.

After trying the idea for a month, Schwab agreed to pay the person $100,000. Today, that would be over $3,000,000. Three million dollars!

I’d like to share this idea with you now.

The $100,000 Idea

The idea given to Schwab was simple. He was told to sit down for a few moments towards the end of each day, and write down the five most important things that he needed to accomplish tomorrow.

When he got up the next day, he was to ensure that those five things got done, whatever it took. If only four got done, the last thing was to be first on the next days list.

Massive Action

Rock Climbing
Photo by Susanica.

The $100,000 idea is massive action in practice. As Michael Heppell puts it, Massive Action = Massive Results. You can read more about massive action in my Change Your Life with Kaizen post.

Photo by eye of einstein.

This week my Kaizen challenge was to blog every day. It was quite an adventure, especially finding so many beautiful photos on flickr – I was spoilt for choice! I thought I’d share the mountains climbed, the seas sailed, and the lessons learnt.

Posting to my blog every day was a challenge that I enjoyed, and I learnt a number of lessons from the difficulties that came up.

The main difficulties were getting motivated, finding the time to write, and technical problems with my internet connection. Also, because I was writing everyday, I felt that I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to research and plan my posts, so they could have been better quality.

The four key things I learnt were:

1. Writing blog posts takes a lot of time

Like any venture or adventure, you need to set aside time to blog. I think that’s why there are so many blogs in the world with only one or two posts – people set them up thinking it only takes five minutes a day.

I have found that it takes around 2 hours to write a blog post, find exciting pictures and relevant links, and edit it all together in WordPress. This is longer than I expected, and it means that if I was to continue posting every day, it would be a big time commitment.

2. The need for planning and research

ResearchPhoto by gadl.

When travelling there’s nothing worse than finding that your destination is sweltering hot and there’s nowhere to buy sunscreen. Research and planning are vital skills for even the novice traveller.

It was much easier to write blog posts when I had drawn up a rough plan in my notebook. I would have liked to have had more time for research, as quality research leads to quality blog posts.

3. I love writing

Since I left school I have always imagined myself as a writer, and at the moment I am fortunate enough to earn money writing. However, I found writing for pleasure about topics I choose even more enjoyable. The difficulty has been finding the motivation to do it, and committing myself to writing a blog post every day really helped.

4. Contributing is better than lurking

Adventure travel can be a solitary past-time, but it’s also one of the most sociable. You’re likely to get lost, lonely and bored very quickly if you’re not willing to communicate with fellow travellers. And it always amazes me the opportunities that arise when you do pluck up the courage to chat to that random person sitting next to you on a train.

Peter at The Change Blog has a great post about how being a contributor to the internet (through commenting on blogs, writing a wikipedia entry, writing your own blog, etc.) is so much better than just ‘lurking’ on other people’s web pages. Writing my own blog, I have found the truth of this for myself. It is very satisfying to see your own work on the internet.

Photo by Linda N.

Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy of continuous, incremental improvements. In this post I outline some of the theory behind Kaizen, and explain how implementing Kaizen has changed my life. I hope this will encourage you to think about your life and act upon any changes that you believe are necessary.

Because of living the kaizen philosophy I have two writing jobs, am getting up earlier, eating healthily, exercising on a regular basis, and living my dreams. Following the kaizen philosophy, you too can live your dreams.

The Kaizen Philosophy

The word kaizen is made up of the Japanese words kai (change) and zen (good).

Kaizen is a way of life. Those who follow the path of kaizen seek continual improvements in all aspects of their life, from career, to family, to leisure activities.

Kaizen is about making lots of small changes that build up to take you where you want to be in life. It is a playful philosophy because it is about embracing life with all your being, living life to the full.

The Continual Tipping Point


Photo by HaPe Gera

According to chaos theory, the flapping of a butterfly’s wings on one side of the world can cause a tropical rain storm on the other side of the world. The trouble is, it’s impossible to predict which butterfly’s wings will cause a storm.

The small movement that does cause the storm is what Malcolm Gladwell calls the Tipping Point. I’m sure that you can think of tipping points in your personal history – moments that seemed insignificant at the time, but ended up changing the course of your life.

Kaizen is an attempt to create more of these moments. It involves making a conscious decision to gently but resolutely push constantly at your boundaries and expand your horizons. It turns your life into a continual tipping point in which you take the general direction of your life into your own hands, whilst being able to spot and make the most of the moments when tipping point opportunities come your way.

The Ingredients of Successful Kaizen

For kaizen to work, two key ingredients are required. The first ingredient is thoughtful reflection. The second ingredient is massive action.

Thoughtful reflection involves working out your goals and your values. It means sitting down and thinking about your life. In terms of goals, think both long term dreams and short term ambitions. Work out where you would ideally be within 10 years, 5 years and 1 year. Then break that down into what you can do towards those dreams in the next three months. What about in the next month, and the next week. What can you do within the next 24 hours? The most important thing you can do within the next 24 hours is set aside a period to sit down and think about your goals.

Remember, Kaizen is about changing things slowly in small, manageable chunks. Don’t try to change everything at once, or you are very likely to become disheartened and give up altogether.

Massive Action means acting on your goals and dreams. Having worked out what you need to do, do it! Without action, you stay stuck where you are.

Two ideas have been hugely helpful for me in making sure I commit to massive action. The first is making sure I don’t take too much on. This is especially difficult for me, as I find it all too easy to take too much on. I love to start new projects before current projects are finished, and I often say yes to things without considering whether or not I have time to see through the commitment. It’s been hugely helpful for me to make myself focus on one small change at a time.

The second idea is the 30-day trial. Commit to trying any changes for 30 days. If after 30 days they work for you, great, you can continue. If you realise that it’s not for you, you can give it up then. Trialling for 30 days gives you time to get through the difficult beginnings, knowing that you can give up in the future if it continues being hard.

How Kaizen has Changed My Life

I’d like to give a few examples of how the kaizen philosophy has changed my life, to inspire you and give you ideas of things you could change.

Over the past six months I have started waking up on week days at 6am. I made this change gradually, in small increments of 30 minutes. I love having the extra time in the mornings, and it has given me more energy throughout the day. I used to struggle to get up before 8.30am and be tired by 4pm.

I have also started eating more healthily and exercising on a weekly basis. This is something I am still working on, but for someone who never used to exercise, it’s definitely a start.

Another change I have made is in writing essays for university. I now organise quotes using the tiddlywiki software. The first essay I handed in using this method received a mark almost 10% higher than any previous essays.

Finally, I carry a creative notebook with me everywhere to note down any inspirations I have in the day, as well as my to-do list. I’m now much more organised, and I even have a clear desk!

Future Changes

Each Monday on I am going to publish a post with my kaizen change for the week. This week I am going to write and publish a blog post every day.

Your Thoughts

What have been the tipping point moments in your life? What small changes will you be making towards your dreams? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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