Japanese economy is running full-speed and full-power with having most productive nation in the world. As someone working with productivity management concepts and having a personal experience of Japan, I decided to attain deeper knowledge on some notions that seem to have started latest Japanese economy boost.
If you are in any way familiar with Japanese culture of language you know that at times it is a quite challenging task to translate Japanese words, abundant with meanings, into other languages. The word 'kaizen' is not an exception. The most matching word for Kaizen in English would be 'improvement' although after Second World War, when kaizen became managerial practice in businesses as the way to economic recovery and was most successfully applied by Toyota, the notion of kaizen started to be used in the meaning of constant improvement' of work process. Nowadays spread worldwide as a practice kaizen is a technique for efficiency rise in various spheres of life.
Masaki Imai, Japanese organizational theorist, the author of 'Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success'(1986) outlined in his book that kaizen starts from fining the problem:
'If no problem is recognized, there is no recognition of the need for improvement'.
This leads to another Japanese word-concept 'hansei' meaning the acknowledgment of problem or mistake and relating to the fact that self-awareness is the first step to improvement. Referring to mentioned above Toyota company there is a hansei-kai, a meeting held for reflection of problems faced during a work project. If there was no problem defined this is stated as a problem as it means employee did not evaluate all the possibilities for improvement of the project.
Another pithy Japanese word/concept is 'kanban'. It can be translated as 'visual signal' or 'card'. Originally applied by, again, Toyota team the methodology was used to match inventory with demand for higher level of work quality and to do this cards came into use to signal steps in manufacturing process. While it proved to be successful in ever-growing company, the alternative of applying Kanban as visualized management is that of interest.
Kanban is a simple method, a classic standing at roots of organizing any process and work life in particular. Those are colorful sticky notes put on the whiteboard so as to create roadmap of work to do. Kanban method takes information that is, as a rule, communicated in speech and makes it into easy for the brain to instantly comprehend picture, thus visualizing the tracking of workflow and effectiveness as well as difficulties and problems occurred on the work way. This data when analyzed brings ways to change the system of work for the better every single time some issue arises, in this way getting us back to the process of constant improvement.
These three Japanese words that were turned into business techniques applied all over the world are also the ways to Japanese effectiveness and productivity. They are interconnected and from my perspective they form a circle, but at the center of this circle I would put another word which is 'ikigai'.
According to Japanese, everyone has an ikigai which would be translated as 'reason for being or waking up in the morning', the thing that brings meaning and satisfaction to one's life. Such a broad and philosophical term when diminished to the field of one's professional activities is the definition of dream job I would say. To define ikigai one should list answers in four circles shown at the picture below:
1) That what you are good at
2) That which you can be paid for
3) That which you love
4) That which the world needs.
I believe ikigai is a driving force of efficient work while kaizen, hansei and kanban are the methodologies, the means of directing this force in a smart and productive way.
Why personal data collection is your power.
When we think about personal data collection, first that comes to our minds is forcibly collected cookies on the websites and stolen passwords of the credit cards. However, there is another side to this where instead of being a victim of, you own your personal data. The other day, I ran into the person who shares the same idea and what is more, acts upon it.
Data selfie is how she calls it. The artist with scientific approach, Ms Laurie Frick, takes piles of personal data in particular field and turns it into organized artistic patterns.
'I've been investigating the future of data about you, when it won't be odd or strange to intimately know and see lots and lots of personal data about yourself. Not creepy....helpful, curious, maybe mind-bending in its ability to predict and see around the corner into the future',- says Ms Frick as an introduction to her website.
The truth of the future is that it was of the past: knowledge is power. Knowledge of self is awareness. Only the means of getting information has transformed as self-tracking is now the way to self-knowledge.
It is exciting to me how the concept of awareness through tracking Ms Laurie Frick applies, is very much matching the Personal Analytics benchmarks. 'It's become so easy to track our time, I use an app on my iphone that knows how often I touch the screen and how many minutes I looked at my phone today. Some days it's scary how many hours I spent online when I thought I was making stuff in the studio all day…'- says Ms Frick.
Only think of how much more value would be added to one's life if data selfie depicted roots of his misfortunes. And that is what Ms Frick does. She makes time visible.
7 days of time tracking in leather and aluminum, data from the Multinational Time-Use survey, color coded by activity and quantity of time spent. 2015.
“(c) 2015 Laurie F. Artist. All rights reserved"
Considering the patterns of time use Ms Frick addresses some important moment on how conscious we actually are about how we spend our time. Since we are what we do then unconscious time use patterns must hold a lot of information on the portrait of our inner-self.
When distrust that many feel towards any personal data collection and measuring is understandable, the reality is that the benefits of it are undeniable as long as you are ready to face true colors (or numbers when talking of Personal Analytics).
At one of the webpages Ms Frick invites you to imagine the reality where everything about you is known. Thrilling and scary at the same time isn't it. And her final thought is brilliantly simple: the biggest problem is that self-delusion becomes not possible anymore.
We cannot disagree on this, Ms Frick.
More and more applications appear today in
attempt of digitalizing time management techniques. As a person of interest, I
decided to take a closer look into latest advancements in digitalized time
management and check them for myself, monitoring along the way what my Personal
analytics thinks of it.
I started with exploring the Forest App that is
gaining popularity across the web lately. It is the application based on one of
the famous time management techniques. As we all know, checking the
notifications or scrolling down the social media is one of the biggest time
killers today. If you prone to checking your smartphone every 5 minutes for no
reason and you came to realization that this is in fact habitual/obsessive action (most likely it is),
this application can be quite helpful. If you do not want to get distracted by
your smartphone at least in working period, you set the worktime and the phone screen
gets blocked with an image of a sprout which is to grow into majestic tree.
However, if you let the temptation of using the smartphone to take over, the
tree will die. Along with work time, you also set time for breaks. Usually the
proportion is 30:5 minutes. You can see below that I managed to grow 11 trees
in one day and am proud to say that I did not kill any virtual plant. You can
also chose the type of a tree or flower to be cultivated keeping in mind that it
is paid content. You gain points every time you complete work without being
distracted with your smartphone and you lose points whenever you didn’t manage
to conquer you desire of scrolling social media. You can install the app on
Android, Apple as well as Microsoft both desktop and smartphone version. The
app has free trial for one day. After that you can proceed using it for 0,99$.
The innovative approach of making time
management into amusing game with good graphics keeps you involved and focused
at the same time. The application is interesting to use and gives you
determination to grow your trees into the forest, making the management of your
worktime into entertaining task. What is more, while I was using Forest App,
several of my productivity indicators at Personal Analytics boosted which seems
to be a prove of its effectiveness.
What does your Personal Analytics think of ForestApp?
There is a grey area people usually face, thinking of
time management as one-dimensional notion when, in fact, it is 4D. In this
article I will try and shed light on some concepts regarding time management.
Time management – seems easy to interpret as the name
speaks for itself. But after giving it second thought it is safe to say the
notion is discrepant. We cannot manage the time literally as it is constant
value whose flow is beyond our control. Although, what we can really do is to
manage ourselves. As it is known, the time in the day is limited to 24 hours
for all of us, including successful, prosperous and content people. The only
difference is that these people took conscious control over their time. The
point is that time management is not a just a tool but a lifestyle, and in
order for it to impact one’s life it should be balancing every sphere of it. What
are these spheres?
Life balance model
Important ideas on this topic belong to German psychotherapist Nossrat Peseschkian, who in his intercultural studies constantly returned to
the problem of balancing personal and professional life in these four dimensions. The
task of a holistic management of time and one's life is not only to find time
for all important spheres of life (work, family, health, self-realization), but
also to bring these four spheres into equilibrium and maintain it.
Suppose that all four spheres of life are 100% in
total. Now, imagine your current life situation:
much of your active time (= "time awake", as about one third is
"sleep time" which is not taken into account), do you devote your
energy and priorities to the "achievements and work" area?
long does it take you to interact with loved ones which goes to the time spent
on "contacts and personal relationships"?
much interest do you give in the sphere of "body and health"?
much time is spent for bringing the meaning to your future and existence as the
Quickly divide the total amount - 100% - into four
spheres of life. The longer you fiddle with the calculations, the less trust
the result deserves.What does your current time balance look like?
"Achievements and work", as a rule, account for 50, 60 or 70% or
sometimes even more. Questions about the meaning of oneself and life are usually
assigned with 5 to 15% (if assigned at all).
In his research on psychosomatics Nossrat Peseschkian
stresses the importance of devoting enough time and attention to all four life
spheres in order to reach the sense of life fulfillment as well as to prevent
any physical and mental health problems when managing work/personal domain.
Too focused on work life without
building personal relationships? As
a result, no one to share the joy of your
not care about your health ? A steep turn of life will bring bad health and
psychosomatic illnesses getting on the wat to happy and content work and
This looks clear in theory but is certainly to be
chaotic when applied. Managing time is not easy, it is quite complicated in
fact, and will probably bring you bitter feelings of not getting what you
expected, first as you try and find your balance of these four spheres. Good
news is that eventually you will find yourself taking more and more control
over your own life while getting conscious about finiteness of the time you
possess. Keep trying and be determined. As there is no universal way to
successful, mindful lifestyle you need to figure your own. However, today there
are numbers of tools which can help you with time management and which you can
try out, combine or even give them your own new meaning. Our application, Personal Analytics, is one of them. The choice is always yours as well as the
Productivity in highly developed countries of our world is not growing anymore. It used to constantly go higher and higher each year for many decades, but it stopped now. Bad news are faster to spread, so probably you have heard it and you are in consternation. But maybe not, maybe you care more about your own individual productivity (and income) growth, so these global trends don't bother you. If this is the case, you are in the right place, welcome to Personal Analytics world, where we take productivity personally! However, you may still be concerned with it, because if there is some reason for that and this reason tramps across the world, it may knock at your door one day and you will be busted. Can you believe it?
Not being so frightened with that (yet), but out of pure interest I have read New York Times article by Neil Irwin about this phenomenon, presenting interesting spectrum of theories. Here they shortly are:
Pessimistic one. It's true. Terribly true. Everyone knows that managers and specialists for years were doing everything possible to get more. We've been through this, they were redesigning our workplaces, reorganizing our days, straining their ideas to encourage and motivate us, revealing every hidden bit of productivity they could find. So here we are, they got it all. We always feared that it cannot be done forever and now that's the end of it. We'll all die of hunger.
Neutral one. It's not true, nothing's wrong. They are just making it wrong. They are always counting money because it's the easiest, but there's a lot more, that you cannot measure. The work is easier and better. You can see it at every turn. We all have powerful aids, business cell phones and cars, shinier and more comfortable offices. Don't forget that our work is becoming friendly for environment and socially aware. That's all value, lots and lots of value. We are not only making more, but much better. They just don't see.
Optimistic one. It's not true at all. Even more, it's terribly false. World is investing like it never did. They have means like they never did and they use it. It's just in latency phase, so the results are not visible immediately, but when they will… Examples? You surely know these freaky billionaires, who put their money in unbelievable things. They design space shuttles and it's not taken from our taxes but to return the input manyfold. You can see first flights already. How many years they are making these self-driving cars, putting billions into it and you have barely seen them working yet. But when they will, it's obvious they will boost the productivity like steam machine did in revolution times. And this guy in Tesla who wants to change the world, not mentioning Gates'es, which invest in fighting diseases so we will be able to live and work better. And it's only several things from the news.
These are obviously different views of the same world, but not just views, it's actual, and it's amazing that each of these seem convincing, reasonable, even capturing, while all of them cannot be right, can they? Well, you have to remember the most common error humans make, that if something can be, doesn't mean it is. Even if it's called hope or it's called doubts or sometimes distrust. I really sympathise the most with economists that would die (not literally, of course) for being able to tell which one is true and where. Easy, they have a lot of clues, but let's not spoil this crystal picture with doubts and discussions. So many people these days take just one of the views, totally convinced it's the only one.
It's interesting to translate these theories into individual perspectives. Let's imagine this. – Yes, I have learned a lot and it was quite an effort, I got a job that fit's me, so I did what I could to perform the best. I really pulled my weight to it. I would know if I wasn't. So, is there anything I can do more? – It only looks like I'm just working as usual. I do things with ease now, more orderly, no doubts. I am not that stressful, I take care of the family and put weight to my health. That all matters and you shouldn't forget it. It's not only cash! – Now that I have it under control, I can really start to evolve. Everything I do makes me learn more, not mentioning possibilities to develop that my company offers. I have got means, I have perspectives and orientation and I have new chances. I'm sure I will go high, just wait and admire!
When you look at it like this, it does not seem that contradicting. The first one feels pessimistic and closing, but only until you will honestly answer this question at the end – to find what you can really do more. But actually these are all possibilities just ready to achieve. If you decide it can be, it will be – as I would traverse the popular mistaken belief I mentioned earlier.
All you need now is some passion in finding the truths in all of these views (and questions). Looking closely at yourself from different perspectives, we can notice many things about us. The efforts that we've made so far, how truly we are to themselves, what we have reached and what yet we haven't, what counts the most, other things that matters, who we have become, who we can make of ourselves… I hope Personal Analytics idea will help you and guide you in this quest. It can be your sword and your shiny armour while you are discovering yourself.