8 Japanese Techniques for Business Leaders to Overcome Laziness

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Written By Kevin

The insights I gained over the years help me lead and motivate teams to achieve business and operational goals. Allow me to share my learnings with you.

We’ve all been there; staring at a blank screen, struggling to find the motivation to start a project, or simply feeling too lazy to tackle the tasks at hand. Laziness is a common obstacle that slows down productivity and prevents us from achieving our goals. However, the Japanese have a wealth of wisdom and techniques that can help us overcome laziness and get back on track.

1. Ikigai: Find Your Purpose

One of the most powerful ways to combat laziness is to discover your ikigai, or your reason for being. When you have a clear sense of purpose, it’s easier to find the motivation to get things done. Take the time to reflect on your strengths, passions, and the needs of the world around you.

What makes you feel alive and fulfilled?

A great example of someone who found their ikigai is Teiichi Igarashi, a former salary man who left his corporate job to pursue his passion for traditional Japanese papermaking. He moved to a small village in the mountains and dedicated his life to preserving this ancient art form. By aligning his work with his purpose, Igarashi found a renewed sense of energy and fulfillment.

2. Kaizen: Embrace Small Improvements

The Japanese concept of kaizen, or continuous improvement, teaches us that big changes come from small, consistent steps. Instead of trying to overhaul your entire life at once, focus on making small improvements every day.

This could mean waking up 15 minutes earlier to meditate, reading a few pages of a book before bed, or taking a short walk during your lunch break. Small changes may seem insignificant, but they add up over time.

Toyota, the Japanese automotive giant, is famous for its application of kaizen in the manufacturing process. By encouraging employees to suggest small improvements and implementing them consistently, Toyota has become a leader in efficiency and quality.

If you want to know more about this technique we recommend reading ‘The Way of The Kaizen’.

The Way of The Kaizen: Mastering Productivity and Overcoming Laziness with Japanese Wisdom The Way of The Kaizen: Mastering Productivity and Overcoming Laziness with Japanese Wisdom
$18.99

Step into the world of Japanese efficiency with Dr. Tanay Rajagopalan. This book unlocks the secrets for continuous improvement, offering a clear path to overcome laziness and achieve remarkable productivity. Whether you're battling procrastination or striving to elevate your productivity, "The Way of Kaizen" provides inspiring stories and actionable strategies, guiding you to live with purpose and master personal growth.

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06/25/2024 04:48 pm GMT

3. Pomodoro Technique: Manage Your Time

The Pomodoro Technique is a simple yet effective time management method that can help you stay focused and avoid burnout. The idea is to work in 25-minute intervals, followed by a 5-minute break. After completing four pomodoros, you take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.

This technique works because it breaks down large tasks into manageable chunks and helps you maintain focus. It’s also a great way to overcome the initial resistance to starting a project. Once you complete one pomodoro, you’ll often find that you have the momentum to keep going.

Francesco Cirillo, the creator of the Pomodoro Technique, used this method to overcome his own struggles with procrastination as a university student. He found that breaking his study sessions into short, focused intervals helped him stay on task and avoid burnout.

4. Hara Hachi Bu: Practice Moderation

The Okinawan concept of hara hachi bu, which means “eat until you’re 80% full,” can be applied to many areas of life beyond just eating. The idea is to practice moderation and avoid overindulgence, which can lead to feelings of sluggishness and laziness.

In the workplace, this might mean avoiding the temptation to take on too many projects at once or to work long hours without breaks. By practicing hara hachi bu, you can maintain a steady pace and avoid burnout.

Many business leaders and senior managers who oversee multiple projects and teams often find themselves working long hours, taking on more responsibilities than they can handle, and, as a consequence, neglecting their personal life.

Does this sound familiar? How can you apply hara hachi bu to your work life?

First start by assessing your current workload and identifying areas where you might be overextending yourself. Instead of saying yes to every project that comes your way, start practicing moderation. You can do this by evaluating each opportunity based on how it aligns with your company, or team goals, will it fulfill the company’s mission, and do you have the personal capacity to take it on? If a project doesn’t meet these criteria, learn to delegate or decline.

Second, make sure to prioritize your tasks and focus on the most important ones. Set realistic deadlines and communicates them clearly to your team and stakeholders. This will help you avoid the temptation to work excessively long hours to meet unrealistic deadlines.

It’s also beneficial to encourage your employees, or team members to practice hara hachi bu as well. The easiest way to do this is through leading by example. Promote a culture of work-life balance and self-care, and ensure your employees take regular breaks, use their vacation time, and don’t work too late when it’s not necessary.

By practicing moderation and balance, you will eventually improve you own performance and that of your team.


If you’re interested to go deeper on Japanese techniques to overcome laziness and be more productive we recommend these books.

06/25/2024 04:48 pm GMT


5. Shoshin: Cultivate a Beginner’s Mindset

Shoshin, or beginner’s mind, is a Zen concept that encourages us to approach tasks with an open and curious mindset, free from preconceptions and expectations. When we let go of the need to be perfect or to have all the answers, we become more receptive to learning and growth.

This mindset can be particularly helpful when tackling new or challenging projects. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the scope of the task, approach it with a sense of curiosity and a willingness to learn. You might be surprised by how much easier it becomes to make progress.

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, was known for his ability to think differently and approach problems with a beginner’s mind. He once said, “The beginner’s mind has many possibilities, but the expert’s mind has few.” By maintaining a sense of curiosity and openness, Jobs was able to innovate and create products that revolutionized the tech industry.

6. Wabi-Sabi: Find Beauty in Imperfection

Not to be confused with Wasabi!! The Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi celebrates the beauty of imperfection, simplicity, and transience. By embracing this mindset, we can let go of the need to be perfect and focus on what truly matters.

In the context of overcoming laziness, wabi-sabi teaches us to prioritize progress over perfection. Instead of getting bogged down in the details, focus on taking action and making incremental improvements. Remember, done is better than perfect.

The concept of wabi-sabi in business is often applied to the development and launch of new products or services. Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, famously said, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” This quote highlights the importance of embracing imperfection and iterating quickly, rather than waiting for a flawless product.

The idea of launching a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) embodies the wabi-sabi philosophy. An MVP is a version of a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and provide feedback for future development. By launching an MVP, businesses can test their assumptions, gather user insights, and make improvements based on real-world data.

Embracing wabi-sabi in the workplace encourages experimentation, learning from failure, and continuous improvement. By adopting this mindset, business leaders promote a culture of innovation and agility.

7. Shinrin-Yoku: Reconnect with Nature

Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is the practice of immersing oneself in nature to reduce stress, improve mood, and boost overall well-being. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can have a profound impact on our mental and physical health.

When we feel lazy or unmotivated, taking a break to connect with nature can be a powerful way to recharge and refocus. Whether it’s a short walk in a nearby park or a weekend hike in the mountains, make time to unplug and let nature work its magic.

Dr. Qing Li, a Japanese medical doctor and researcher, has been studying the effects of shinrin-yoku on human health for over a decade. His research has shown that forest bathing can lower stress hormones, improve immune function, and even increase creativity and mental clarity.

8. Kakeibo: Take Control of Your Finances

Finally, the Japanese budgeting method of kakeibo can help you take control of your finances and reduce financial stress, which can be a major contributor to laziness and procrastination.

Kakeibo involves tracking your income and expenses, setting financial goals, and reflecting on your spending habits. By gaining clarity around your finances, you can make informed decisions and feel more motivated to pursue your goals.

Fumiko Chiba, a Japanese journalist and the author of “Kakeibo: The Japanese Art of Saving Money,” used this method to get out of debt and build a solid financial foundation. By tracking her spending, setting clear financial goals, and reflecting on her purchasing decisions, Chiba was able to take control of her money and feel more empowered in her life.

You can get a more in-depth understanding and practical examples on these techniques in Bill Galveston’s book, ‘Mastering Productivity’.

Mastering Productivity: 7 Japanese Techniques to Overcome Laziness Mastering Productivity: 7 Japanese Techniques to Overcome Laziness
$12.99

This book guides you through a journey to revolutionize your approach to work and life, integrating Japanese principles like Kaizen for continuous improvement and Ikigai to find your true purpose. Learn practical strategies such as the Pomodoro Technique for enhancing focus and Gaman for developing resilience. Embrace the beauty of imperfection with Wabi-Sabi and start your voyage towards a more productive, fulfilling life free from the constraints of laziness.

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
06/25/2024 04:48 pm GMT

In Conclusion

Laziness is a universal challenge that affects us all at some point in our lives. It’s a natural human tendency to feel unmotivated, procrastinate, or struggle to find the energy to tackle our responsibilities, whether you are the CEO of a multinational company, a student, or anything in-between.

However, it’s essential to recognize that laziness is not an obstacle that can’t be overcome, and there are effective strategies to do this.

So, if you find yourself in a period of laziness and lack of motivation, the first step is to acknowledge it without shame. Laziness does not define your worth as a person or your potential for success. Instead, view it as a temporary state that you can change.

To overcome laziness, it’s crucial to understand its root causes. Laziness can stem from various factors, such as lack of purpose, unclear goals, overwhelming tasks, fear of failure, or even burnout. By identifying the specific reasons behind your laziness, you can develop targeted strategies to address them head-on.

This is where the wisdom of Japanese culture comes into play. The eight techniques discussed in this article offer a holistic approach to overcoming laziness and unlocking your full potential.

Integrating these Japanese techniques into your daily life can create a powerful synergy, helping you overcome laziness and achieve your goals with renewed energy and focus. However, it’s important to remember that change takes time and practice. Be patient with yourself, celebrate your progress, and embrace the journey of personal growth.

4 thoughts on “8 Japanese Techniques for Business Leaders to Overcome Laziness”

  1. The Ikigai technique is inspiring. It’s amazing how discovering one’s purpose can transform productivity. I’m curious, do you use any of these techniques in your own life or work? If so, which one had the most significant impact for you?

    Reply
    • Yes, I have personally implemented several of these techniques. The Pomodoro Technique has been a game-changer for me in managing my time effectively and staying focused on tasks. I’ve also embraced the Kaizen philosophy which I feel has helped me improve both my personal and professional life through small, incremental changes. It’s been incredibly rewarding to see how these methods can enhance productivity and overall well-being. Let me know how these techniques work for you if you decide to try them out Omari.

      Reply
    • Same here. It’s all about the small wins that help you stay more focused and less stressed. I also found that by targeting small wins I also enjoy the journey itself more than before.

      Reply

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