If you want to get 2020 off to a good start, using the Japanese technique of kaizen could help you to achieve your goals. Sarah Harvey, author of Kaizen – The Japanese Method for Transforming Habits, One Small Step at a Time, moved to Japan after turning 30 and deciding to quit her job.


While she was there, she was intrigued by all the Japanese philosophies, especially after seeing all the ikigai books and Japanese trends that had come to the UK.

She came across an article about kaizen and found it fascinating. "It had previously been known mostly as a business theory," she explains. "And the article was asking why hasn't ever become kind of more of a mainstream personal development idea. So I became intrigued and investigated a bit more and pitched the book idea."

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So what is kaizen? "So it translates literally as 'good change' in Japanese," Sarah says. "And it the theory itself is sort of a bit of an East meets West one. And in that it started off actually as a thing that was used in America after the war, war during the war.

"And slightly afterwards, when all the male people who worked in the factories were away fighting. And production was down and they needed to be up. So it was introduced on the production lines there, where everybody on the production line was asked to come up with very small suggestions of ways that they could improve the way that the production line flowed and the way that they worked. And then from that sort of production increased, and it was shown to be really successful. And then America then exported this to Japan after the war. And and it was credited with Japan's have huge economic boom in the 20th century."

Since then, kaizen has been applied to other fields. For example, the British cycling teams have been using it to improve their performance, but Sarah says that kaizen is a technique that can be applied to every area of your life.

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Why is kaizen so effective? If you tend to set yourself over-ambitious goals, Sarah believes that you might benefit from using kaizen: "It's all about making very small incremental changes – and nothing too drastic."

"My habits were not the best start over I went to Japan, and I thought if I always tried to make these big dreams It changes and say: 'I'm never going to eat chocolate again, or I'm giving up foods forever or I'm never going to spend any money anymore.' And actually, I found that I always set too big a target to be able to improve."

Sarah has used kaizen in her own life to take up regular exercise. At school, she always hated sports, but by using kaizen she built up the amount of exercise she did over time. Now, she says that she would describe herself as an "exercise person", but believes if she'd started with an unrealistic goal then she wouldn't have been able to make as much progress.

Listen to the podcast to discover how you could benefit from kaizen.

Follow Sarah on Twitter @sazzaharvs and on Instagram @sharvers.


Kaizen – The Japanese Method for Transforming Habits, One Small Step at a Time by Sarah Harvey (Bluebird, £9.99), is out now in the UK.