It is that time of year again. What is your resolution? Are you going to quit smoking? Lose weight… get in shape… save money… paint the house. There is no limit to the different ways in which we want to improve. New Years is traditionally the time when we all take stock of our lives and decide what we can improve upon. Last year at this time, my wife and I decided to get into shape. We purchased the P90X program from an infomercial. We proceeded to work ourselves half to death over the subsequent 90 days and emerged transformed. We lost weight and inches. We looked and felt fantastic! Then we quickly fell back into the same old habits we had before and now sit here EXACTLY the same weight as we were last New Years! This of course is not the fault of P90X. It was our failure to change our habits that tripped us up. We followed a program, and when that program ended, we went back to living our lives the same as we always had. This year I am taking a different approach.

I have been working in the manufacturing sector for the last several years. One of the ideas constantly being drilled into us by our management team is Lean Thinking. While "lean" as it relates to the manufacturing industry is a subject that many, really thick books have been written about, the part of its philosophy that caught my attention, is that of continuous improvement and the elimination of non-value added activities. This is what I plan to integrate into my personal life. Now obviously what each of us considers to be a value added activity is different. Something you consider a huge waste of time, I might find very valuable. I am looking at the activities which are non-value added to me, yet I find myself spending time on. Did I really just spend two hours on a Sunday afternoon watching the movie Grease for the 38th time??? There is a reason people use the term "spend" in relation to time. Just like money, once we trade it for something, it is gone forever. I would like to learn to make better "purchases" with my time.

So how do we go about changing habits built over a lifetime? One small change at a time yields continuous improvement! Trying to make massive changes all at once will almost certainly result in failure. Small sustainable changes, however, are not even that daunting. If I want to change my diet, instead of throwing out everything in my kitchen and starting from scratch, perhaps I switch to whole grain pasta this week, and next week I cut out trips to the fast food restaurants at lunch. After that I add fish to my menu once or twice a week. This continuous improvement of my diet is far easier to implement and stick to, than a drastic overhaul, yet the end result is better because I can make adjustments as I go. If something is not to my liking I can back up and take a different approach without scrapping all the changes I made prior. These small changes can be applied to all aspects of your life. Finances, relationships, and home improvements can all be improved by making one small change at a time.

Image by Christian Ferrari -