Kaizen System



by Luke Setzer

If you are like many workers in corporate America, you frequently find yourself overwhelmed with multitudes of papers, documents, and other clutter that can overwhelm your workspace and short-circuit your thought processes. Visual clutter is depressing and robs you of your ability to satisfy your very real, human need for control of your circumstances. Worse yet, "pile-o-mania" has been proven in studies to rob office workers of up to 30% of their productive time as they continually have to search through stacks of paper fluff to get to what they really need.

Fortunately for you, the reader, you have stumbled across a system that can innoculate you against the pile-o-mania disease, giving you control, power, and happiness in your personal work area.

The Japanese culture places heavy influence on the value of Kaizen (continuous improvement). Their industries practice four cardinal virtues they consider critical to achieving Kaizen:

bulletNeatness (Seri)
bulletOrderliness (Seiton)
bulletCleanliness of work area and person (Seiso and Seiketsu)
bulletPromptness (Shitsuke)

These four virtues will pay you in the long run with dividends of increased control and decreased stress.

Without your conscious control, your work area can become a major traffic jam of papers. Remember the ultimate system for handling paper TRAFfic. There are only four actions you can take with any piece of paper:

bulletTrash it!
bulletRefer it to someone else
bulletAct on it
bulletFile it

Get a metal file tray with at least four trays. Label these four trays as follows:


Begin today taking every piece of paper that crosses your desk or enters your mailbox and rifling that piece of paper into its appropriate tray. Make sure you place the tray somewhere out of immediate reach, but not out of your cubicle. I have found the top of my filing cabinet to be the perfect place for this item. I have even attached it with double-backed tape so it will not be at risk of falling and scattering my papers!

Go to supply and get a box of file folders and two packages of folder labels. Also get a handful of cardboard folder separators with the label locator in the top center. Take the time to go through all the papers you currently have stored in your file cabinets (or elsewhere) and estimate their real worth. Ask yourself, "If my office burned to the ground, would I miss this piece of paper?" You will be surprised by how much paper you keep that adds no value to your job. Determine the categories for paper that you will file. Take the time to file every piece of floating paper into an organized, tightly controlled system. Keep on your desk only papers on which you are currently working. With less visual clutter, your brain will find it easier to stay focused.

Go through your desk drawers and book cases and get rid of anything that does not help you do your job. Collect all floating paper clips, thumbtacks, pens, pencils, paper pads, etc. into common areas in your drawers using small boxes and rubber bands. Keep staplers, scissors, and other infrequently used items in a desk drawer. Order a Scotch desk organizer if you do not already have one, and set it on a corner of your desk. It is set up with a tape dispenser, slots for holding sticky labels and business cards, a flat area for Post-It notepads, and individualized holes for up to three writing instruments. Drive your desktop toward the Kaizen standards of neatness, cleanliness, and orderliness.

In your Windows 95 StartUp folder, add the programs Inbox (part of Windows 95) and Schedule+ (part of Microsoft Office). This will run them automatically when you first boot your computer. Leave them up all day for instant access to e-mail and your daily schedule.

The new Microsoft Schedule+ 7.0 has some slick features not found in older versions. The "To Do" list now has a method of listing projects as well as their associated tasks. List all of your current projects in the To Do list, then go under each project and list the tasks you need to do to carry out that project. Now go to your daily list, and presto! You can see your list of tasks. You can even set these tasks up with due dates so that if you miss a due date, the task's appearance will change to alert you of its urgency.

The appointment minder in the new Schedule+ is also pretty slick. Not only can you track your own appointments in it, but you can also set up meetings within it to invite other people, and it will send each attendee an automatic e-mail message alerting them of meeting time and place. You can also set up recurring appointments for self or others. If you do not have an electronic organizer, then contact FranklinQuest and order their time-management system, the Franklin Day Planner, which is the on-paper equivalent of Schedule+ and will give you the kind of control you need.

There you have it: Luke Setzer's sure-fire stress-busting Kaizen system. I hope you find this information useful and begin taming the paper dragons, gremlins, and poltergeists that now haunt your work area.


Objectivism 101
Objectivism 101