We all have challenges as entrepreneurs. Sometimes we see money as the solution to our problems. But, as the Notorious B.I.G. emphasized is his lyrics, “Mo money, mo problems“. Did he just quote a rapper? You better believe it! There are life’s lessons to be learned everywhere. Even the most successful business owners in the world are facing similar challenges as you, just on a WHOLE different level.
After a recent phone conversation with one of my friends/mentor, I was able to address some of the challenges in which I was facing. Then I started to see more. And more… And more until I realized, damn I am pretty messed up! It actually became a bit overwhelming. I started digging into why I struggle with discipline, which was justified by the juggling of several projects at once, which in turn was in result of my lack of focus. It turned into a big snowball effect.
I took a step back and looked at everything I desired to self-improve on to get to the next level. I quickly realized it was a whole heck of a lot. “Where do I start?” I was asking myself and my mentor. Have you ever felt that way? It is frustrating because we want to keep moving forward, but sometimes we need to take a step back to address certain issues. That is when my mentor said “I want to introduce you to one of the most powerful words I know”.
The word is “kaizen“, he proclaimed.
“Kaizen”, he continued, “is a Japanese word for continuous incremental improvements”.
As soon as he said “continuous incremental improvements”, something clicked for me. You see, I always strive to be perfect in every area of my life. If there is an unbalance, I desire to correct it immediately. Sometimes we have to just surrender to the process. Be content with exactly where we are at the present moment and realize that 1. nothing will happen overnight, and 2. too much drastic change can detrimental to our businesses.
Kaizen is a Japanese management concept for incremental (gradual, continuous) change (improvement). K. is actually a way of life philosophy, assuming that every aspect of our life deserves to be constantly improved. Japanese companies distinguish between innovation (radical) and Kaizen (continuous). K. means literally: change (kai) to become good (zen).
The foundation of the Kaizen method consists of 5 founding elements:
2. personal discipline,
3. improved morale,
4. quality circles, and
5. suggestions for improvement.
–More on kaizen from (valuebasedmanagement.net).
I like to think of the “business of life” as a marathon. The ones who come out of the gate sprinting, always tend to fall short. The runners who keep a steady pace will overtake the sprinter in the long hall. Just a few steady improvements each day will get you to where you want to be.
So, let’s talk about what has worked for me. My tips for continuous incremental improvements:
Work Backwards. When you feel you are losing focus or you don’t know what to do, take a step back and breathe. Ask yourself “is what I am doing at this very moment bringing me closer to where I want to be”. If the answer is no, then you must look at where you are going. If you don’t know where you want to be, that is a deeper problem and you must work the clarity of what you really want. Work yourself backwards from your goal and what has to be done to get there. If you take those large, scary tasks and break them down even further, you will realize what you should be doing at this very moment.
Have YOU time every morning. First thing in the morning, take time to yourself to do something that makes you feel good. It is so important not to go straight to Facebook to check your messages (although I do that sometimes). Every morning I walk my dog, go running and read for an hour before I start my day. When I do these things in the morning, I feel great about myself and charge forward into my day. Not to mention when we get caught up in our work, we won’t have to worry about it later.
Create a to-do list. Every night before you go to sleep on a small notepad , write out all the things you must accomplish for the next day. I fell asleep last night before I could write mine and I already feel out of sync today! Tear that sheet of paper off the next day and carry it around with you throughout the day. After you have your YOU time first thing in the morning, knock out the most important thing on that list and you will have a more fulfilled day.
Journalize every night. Recapture your day. What went well, and talk to your journal about what didn’t go so well and the challenges you are facing. Usually I will struggle in my mind for hours trying to come to a solution about a problem. Try asking your journal a question. As soon as I take it to my journal, I work out the problem fairly quickly. You will be surprised how therapeutic it actually is if you never kept a journal.
So, when are you going to change?