Mental Health Occupational Health Sophia Pollalis Uncategorized

The Rise of the Kaizen: Simplifying a parody life

by Sophia Pollalis

Yes, the title is in reference to Weird Al’s Rye or the Kaiser parody of Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger. Use this information as you will.

One of the things I have struggled most with my entire life is being satisfied with sitting still. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t accomplish everything I set out to do, but my mind is constantly going with “how can I achieve this” or “how can I make this better.” I have an entire archive of inner monologue stored in the depths of my brain of how to end complex problems that affect me, my community, The United States, even the world (and I suppose the universe beyond, thanks Star Trek for making me an idealist.) These conversations are never ending. They have been a million times more active with being out of my normal work environment due to the coronavirus. These are weird times we’re going through. I say we because we are all in this together, in that our worlds have drastically changed. Whether your daily work location has been unchanged, working from home, or out of work, things are different. But, what that different looks like is very unique to each one of us, and that is nothing to ignore. Your experience is your experience, and no one can tell you how you feel about it, how to react to it, or what you should have done two weeks ago.

What has been largely unchanged for me is not acting on things that I want to achieve or that would make my life better. I have lists upon lists of things I could have accomplished during this down time, but they really aren’t any different from the past two years I’ve been out of grad school and wearing my big girl pants. I want a porch on the house. I want a garden. I want flowers that my grandma would have loved to tend around her house that I currently live in. I want to be the best runner I have ever been and crush this next half marathon. I want to read these books that I have an interest in and further my education and well-being. I want to start my next degree. Looking at my list of wants, you’re probably thinking that I’m super high achieving, constantly going, up at the crack of dawn, perfect skin and wardrobe every day, and always on time. I’d be thinking that too, but I rarely get up before the dog, and even then, I hit her snooze/cuddle button. I still get breakouts and I’m closer to 30 than I’d like to admit. I’ve worn jeans 2 days out of the last month, otherwise it’s been sweatpants (and probably the same pair every day for a week). Rarely am I early or on time. My dog doesn’t listen well AND I got her with the purpose to go running with me. It’s been almost a year and I gave up after one run with her 6 weeks ago that I was so concerned about her seeing a dog that I didn’t see a huge crack in the sidewalk and wiped out. This last one is important, because it leads to an important fact: I’m more concerned with the wellbeing of others than myself.

This time of uncertainty has both increased and decreased my stress levels. I don’t have anyone to take care of, but I also don’t have anyone to take care of. It’s a problem. When you don’t have anyone else to focus on, I guess you have to take care of yourself. If anyone else has been in this boat, you know this is probably one of the most daunting tasks you have ever faced. Some days I sit on the couch and flip through social media and only get up to walk the dog and scrounge up some food. Other days I run around the house and clean, do laundry, organize, take the dog for an hour-long walk, do some crafting, read, and still find time for some social media scrolling. There is no in between. The important thing is this: I met my needs for that day. I listened to my body and did nothing if that’s what it told me, and that’s ok. I accomplished a million small tasks because my body said it wasn’t ok if it went undone, and that’s ok.

My employer has come up with a task for those of us who have been without work or not getting their normal number of hours. I am so very grateful for this opportunity, as many others have not been so blessed. My employer has chosen to invest in its people by completing a Lean Six Sigma course. I have only just started, but I wanted to share a piece of it. The Japanese word, Kaizen, means change for the good or continuous improvement. I strive for this on a large scale (see my above wants), but I really struggle with making the changes necessary to achieve those goals on a small scale. It’s something I’ve forced myself to become more aware of in the last 6 months. What they’ve repeated over and over in the videos I’m watching is that making the company better as a whole starts with something small; the butterfly effect, if you will. Something as simple as moving a garbage can or a printer to reduce wasted time walking to either of these can improve company outcomes. Mind blowing stuff, but it doesn’t stop there. Your home routine that gets you to work on time affects company outcomes. I really felt that one, because good things happen when I’m on time. I’m more likely to go running if I have all my stuff laid out the night before. I review notes better when they’re color coded. I keep my laundry detergent in my laundry room. Simple things to make your life better and easier.

One of my dad’s favorite phrases is KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid, or if you prefer, keep it stupid simple. While Kaizen isn’t equivalent, I feel like they’re on the same track. I get so frustrated when someone is doing something and I know of an easier or more efficient way of achieving it. I want to jump in and help them or show them my way. Right now, I have to focus on myself and find different ways of looking at things or achieving tasks. Do you eat more nutritious things when you don’t buy junk food? Do you try new things because you’re on social media and other people are doing them too? Do you thrive in a social media free environment and stick to your lists and lists of accomplishments you haven’t reached yet? We are all experiencing different things day to day, whether we’re in our old normal or the new normal. Some days you’ll dig up a hedge in your backyard solo. Some days you just need to sit on the couch with your dog and binge watch Golden Girls. I encourage you to meditate for a few minutes each day on these thoughts and choose what will bring you toward continuous improvement, whatever that may be.