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9 Japanese Productivity Methodologies to Help You Get More Done In this age of fast-paced innovation and constant bustle, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the daunting list of activities we must complete daily. Sometimes, laziness takes over, and inspiration...

By Deanna Ritchie

This story originally appeared on Calendar

In this age of fast-paced innovation and constant bustle, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the daunting list of activities we must complete daily. Sometimes, laziness takes over, and inspiration is even harder to come by. Undoubtedly, it is natural to feel stuck in these situations. Success depends, however, on overcoming it.

Japanese methods stand out for treating lethargy because they are simple and effective. To overcome lethargy and boost productivity and efficiency, let's examine nine Japanese approaches.

1. Kanban

The Kanban method is a visual way to manage workflow across teams, individuals, and organizations. In Japanese, it means "visual signal" or "card".

The idea came from Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota Automotive. Aside from that, he started the Toyota Production System, which led to Lean Manufacturing.

Kanban was popularized in the West by Jim Benson because he personalized and distilled it. By using this system, obstacles are removed.

It's easy to be more productive with Personal Kanban. Why? You can manage all your tasks in one place.

Let's see how it looks.

Three columns on Kanban boards are Ready, In Progress, and Completed. You write tasks or work items on magnets, post-its, or thumbtacks. You can categorize tasks, for instance, into projects with color coding. Whenever you finish a job, you move it across the columns. There are also specialized apps like Trello, Asana, and Kanbanize.

What is the best thing about personal Kanban workflow? By replacing your to-do lists, you can remain on task and on schedule. With personal Kanban, you still have the satisfaction of crossing off a task in the completed column, just like in a traditional to-do list.

In general, Kanban is a very powerful concept. You can plan your day, week, and month more effectively when you visualize your outcomes. This makes staying on track much easier than writing out long task lists that can become disorganized.

In addition, a personal Kanban process will help you prioritize your tasks. As a result, this can help you combat procrastination.

2. Kaizen

Kaizen (the word) is derived from two Japanese words that translate as "good change" or "improvement." But its association with lean principles has come to mean "continuous improvement."

"Moreover, it means continuing improvement in personal, home, social, and working life. When applied to the workplace KAIZEN means continuing improvement involving everyone – managers and workers alike," explains Masaaki Imai, Founder of Kaizen Institute.

This is a Japanese quality movement that started after World War II. Due to Toyota's heavy integration of the concept into its manufacturing process, it's a huge hit. It's called "the Toyota Way" because it defines the company's management and production processes. Using the Toyota Way, people are encouraged to improve their work.

With kaizen, you eliminate waste and redundancy from a process. In the end, efficiency comes incrementally. The Japanese aim to do something faster and better each time they do something.

However, there are plenty of other places where Kaizen can be used besides business and production. You can improve pretty much anything that involves a process with Kaizen. Jiro Ono, a world-famous sushi chef, uses kaizen every day:

"I do the same thing repeatedly, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I'll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is."

In the same way, incremental improvements are enough to put us on the right path.

3. Ikigai

In Japanese, ikigai means "reason for being." In Japanese, iki means "life,' and gai means value. In other words, your ikigai is whatever brings you joy in life. Or, to put it another way, this is what inspires you to get up every morning and brings you joy.

In western interpretations, ikigai is used to discover your dream job, rather than finding your bliss, like in traditional Japanese philosophy.

When your career includes these four qualities, you've found your dream career according to Westernised ikigai:

  • Your passions
  • The things you are good at
  • The types of work you can get paid for
  • This is what the world needs

That's all well and good. What are the benefits of ikigai?

In terms of life expectancy, Japan ranks third in the world, with women expected to live 87.97 years and men expected to live 81.91 years. In addition to diet, many Japanese believe ikigai plays a vital role in longevity and quality of life.

Knowing your ikigai can help you live a longer and happier life as well as:

  • Create a work lifestyle that suits you
  • Establish a strong social network at work
  • Maintain a healthy work-life balance
  • Make your career dreams a reality
  • Take pleasure in your work

Knowing and understanding your ikigai can kick yourself into high gear personally and professionally.

4. Jidoka

Jidoka, also known as "autonomation,' ensures quality in product development and manufacturing. By detecting errors, you can keep your takt time, which is the speed at which products must be made. The first two stages can be automated, but the other two are usually manual. Many refer to "intelligent automation" as "automation with a human touch.'

There are four steps involved with Jidoka:

  • Identify a problem.
  • Immediately stop the process.
  • Resolve the issue.
  • Get to the root of the problem.

Any business owner can apply these four steps to address quality issues without halting the whole operation.

Basically, it detects errors while keeping your takt time and quality high.

5. 5S (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain)

5S is a Japanese system for organizing the workplace to ensure cleanliness, orderliness, and efficiency. Among the 5Ss are:

  • Sort. Make your workplace as clutter-free as possible.
  • Set in order. Make sure the remaining items are arranged logically.
  • Shine. Regularly clean your workplace.
  • Standardize. To ensure everyone knows how to implement 5S practices, document them.
  • Sustain. Maintain 5S practices.

The 5S method is a simple but effective way to increase efficiency and productivity. Furthermore, it can contribute to a more productive and positive work environment.

Tips for getting started:

  • Organize storage areas and organize items by labeling and color-coding.
  • Keep the workspace organized by scheduling weekly or monthly cleanings. For this, you can use calendar reminders.
  • Create a sense of accountability and ownership by involving your team in 5S.

6. Muda, Mura, and Muri

Muda, Mura, and Muri all refer to different types of waste in Japanese.

  • A muda activity is one that adds little or no value to a product or service.
  • In a process, mura refers to unevenness or inconsistency.
  • Stress or overburden on a person or machine is known as muri.

To increase productivity, muda, mura, and muri must be eliminated. A good way to do this is to identify and get rid of waste, improve the flow of work, and reduce stress.

7. Shinrin-Yoku

Forest bathing, also known as Shinrin-Yoku, involves immersing yourself in the relaxing atmosphere of nature. Researchers have long found that nature enhances focus and reduces stress.

Overall, in order to overcome laziness, Shinrin-Yoku can provide a much-needed energy boost. For example, you can spend your break taking a short walk outside. Studies show that spending two hours a week in nature, such as town parks, woodlands, state parks, and beaches, improves health and well-being.

8. Ho-Ren-So

In Japanese, horanso means spinach. How does this relate to productivity?

Besides being a healthy food, spinach is not a productive methodology. However, the most important parts are Houkoku, Renraku, and Soudan, which you can call Hou-Ren-Sou or Ho-Ren-So.

  • Houkoku (報告; ほうこく) stands for report.
  • Renraku (連絡; れんらく) refers to communication or contact.
  • Soudan (相談; そうだん) indicates consult or ask advice.

In the 1980s, Tomiji Yamazaki, the former president of Yamatana Security, coined the term Ho-Ren-So. With the publication of his book, "Strengthen your company with Ho-Ren-So", the idea spread throughout Japan.

As an employee, Ho-Ren-So is one of the most essential skills. During employee training, new staff members learn Ho-Ren-So. For communication in the company to be effective, it is necessary to master the principles.

Ho-Ren-So has the benefit of helping firms to resolve their problems quickly and avoid repeating them. Furthermore, all team members can take responsibility for their tasks once informed.

9. Wabi-Sabi

A central idea of Wabi-Sabi is to appreciate the beauty in imperfection and transitory nature. In terms of productivity, it encourages accepting mistakes and letting go of perfectionist tendencies, encouraging a healthier and more balanced way of working.

When you embrace mistakes as learning opportunities, you can grow and learn more effectively. Since there's no such thing as perfection, progress should take priority.

What you need to know to get started:

  • Acknowledge your efforts and progress, regardless of imperfections, in order to practice self-compassion.
  • Develop mindfulness meditation skills by using apps such as Headspace.
  • Create a culture of vulnerability and growth by sharing your experiences and challenges with colleagues.

How to Use Japanese Productivity Methodologies

It is possible to use Japanese productivity methodologies in many different ways. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Start small. Rather than trying to make a lot of changes at once, try to make a few changes at a time. Before moving on to another methodology, master one and master it well.
  • Be flexible. It is okay to adapt methodologies to fit your own preferences and needs. In terms of productivity, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
  • Be patient. Results from productivity methodologies take time to appear. Don't get discouraged if you don't see results right away.


If you want to be more efficient and productive, Japanese productivity methodologies can be valuable. If you follow the tips above, you can use these methodologies to improve your life and career.

The following are some additional Japanese productivity tips in addition to those mentioned above:

  • Take breaks. It's known in Japan that people work long hours. However, there's also the practice of "inemuri," which is "sleeping while present." This could happen during meetings, during the commute home, or even waiting for the train after a long night out. This helps people stay focused and refreshed.
  • Don't multitask. There is a common misconception that multitasking makes you more productive. Still, it can actually hinder you—the constant switching between tasks when multitasking can result in errors and decreased productivity.
  • Delegate tasks. Be open to delegating tasks to others. By doing this, you can focus on what is most important instead of spending time on the things that are not as important.
  • Say no. If a request will take up too much of your time or energy, it's okay to decline. Protecting your time and focusing on what's important to you will be easier when you learn to say no.
  • Take care of yourself. Taking care of oneself is very important to Japanese people. Regular exercise, healthy eating, and sleep are all important. Taking care of yourself will give you more energy and focus so that you can be more productive.

These tips will help you improve your life and work using Japanese productivity methodologies.


Are Japanese productivity methodologies effective?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer because Japanese productivity methodologies can be effective in different situations and with different people. Nevertheless, these methodologies do seem to be effective in increasing productivity.

What are the benefits of using Japanese productivity methodologies?

Among the benefits of using Japanese productivity methodologies are:

  • Productivity and efficiency are improved.
  • Errors and waste were reduced.
  • A higher level of employee satisfaction and morale.
  • A higher standard of quality for products and services.
  • An increase in profits.

What are the challenges of using Japanese productivity methodologies?

When it comes to Japanese productivity methodologies, there are a few challenges:

  • Culture must change.
  • A need for education and training.
  • Employees and management must commit.
  • Resistance to change must be overcome.

Which Japanese productivity methodology is right for me?

Your individual needs and preferences will determine the best Japanese productivity methodology for you. Among the factors to consider are:

  • Your organization's size and complexity.
  • What you do.
  • How you learn.

It is a good idea to learn more about the different methodologies if you are unsure which is suitable for you. You can also ask other people who have used Japanese productivity methodologies to gain insights.

How can I learn more about Japanese productivity methodologies?

For more information about Japanese productivity methodologies, there are several resources available. The following suggestions may be helpful:

Books. In terms of Japanese productivity methodologies, there are many books available. Some popular titles include:

Online courses.

Online courses are also available to learn Japanese productivity methodologies. Among the most popular platforms are Udemy, Coursera, and LinkedIn Learning.

Articles and blogs.

You can find many articles and blogs about Japanese productivity methodologies online. Among the most popular websites are:

Featured Image Credit: Tokuo Nobuhiro; Pexels; Thank you!

The post 9 Japanese Productivity Methodologies to Help You Get More Done appeared first on Calendar.

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