Why My Theme For 2013 Is Kaizen

I've decided on my theme for 2013. And it can be summarised in one word: kaizen.

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No I haven't decided to learn a new language. I'm not about to move to a new country. In fact, I'm actually not going to do a lot that's "new".

This might sound a tad boring, considering that the new year is usually filled in new resolutions, new visions – and bold statements about achieving them.

I should know. That was what happened to be exactly one year ago. In the first week of 2012, I made big plans for the year ahead. I decided that it was time to:

The Consequences Of Dreaming Big

On the plus side, these goals were achieved. However, getting there took an effort of epic proportions. I'm talking the kind of effort that means:

  • you're always "on" and winding down can only be achieved by watching something as mindless as trashy as The Real Housewives of NYC (to which I am now addicted)
  • your "to do" list is so long you feel faint if you read to the end of it, and
  • from time to time, your heart is racing so fast you think it's going to bust through your chest.

I don't regret having a few big goals. I feel great that I've achieved them. But you know what? After a year of running on adrenaline and chasing these Big Hairy Audacious Goals, I actually don't want to pursue too many new ones.

I want to appreciate the Big Hairy Audacious Goals that I've recently worked so hard to achieve. And, before I get distracted by any new ones, I want to make these current projects … even better.

That's where kaizen comes in.

If you're not familiar with the word, kaizen is derived from Japanese and is a commonly used term in business/management circles referring to the practice of continual and incremental improvement.

Grand Vision Versus Small Improvements

I used to spend a full day, approximately every quarter, in front of a big whiteboard – along with flipchart paper and a rainbow of Sharpies – plotting out big plans for big projects. It's exciting and energising.

Instead, this year, I'm committing to asking myself every day: "What one small thing can I do today to improve X?"

I've identified the key areas where I want to see improvement in my business and life — and I know the direction I want to head in. I'll still have my quarterly sessions with the whiteboard. But instead of plotting out grand visions, I'll be using them to monitor where I'm going and to ensure that I'm on the right track.

While improvements may be incremental, it's vital that they are consistent. Making a small improvement every month isn't going to affect much change over a year. But do it every day and you'll be surprised at the impact it can have.

Don't get me wrong. I love big goals and dreaming of the impossible. And if that's what you have planned for this year, I'm excited for you! But I'm going to take a break from the Big Hairy Audacious Goal brigade this year.

Words To Focus Your Efforts

At that start of each year, author Chris Brogan blogs about choosing three words to help him focus his goals and efforts. For example, his first set of three words were: "Ask. Do. Share."

This year, mine are: same but better.

In fact, just one word sums it up: kaizen.

Whether your goals are big, small or in between, here's to a wonderful year ahead! What are your plans for 2013?

Valerie Khoo is Managing Director of the Australian Writers' Centre and author of Power Stories: The 8 Stories You MUST Tell to Build an Epic Business. She blogs on storytelling and startup life at ValerieKhoo.com.


    Remember to keep the improvements small, and do not prioritize them over anything related to actual productivity. You can refine the fuel in your tank and perfect your tire pressure, but if you never turn the key and put it in gear, you're going to achieve nothing.

    Your theme for 2013 should expand to The Toyota Way - so much to love in their principles (though working there is something else)...

    My motivational quote for this year is:
    Life is simple, you either do it or you don't.
    I'm planning to stop working for the man and mind my own business.

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