Everything you do and have in life (decisions, activities, material things, relationships etc.) either adds value to your life or drags you down. A very important task for all of us who want to live a more quality life is to eliminate as much waste as possible, with the end goal of making room for things that really matter – those that bring real value.
The second important fact is that the difference between what you think is valuable to you and what really is valuable for your life creates waste. Eliminating waste in life is an important step towards personal freedom and genuine self-actualization.
Since that sounds a little abstract, here is a very popular example. Maybe you think that an expensive car will help you with your self-confidence and happiness. You spend a lot of resources for it, indebt yourself and suddenly have new worries about the car being damaged. It may help you at the end of the day, but most likely not in the long term.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy an expensive car, if you can afford it, but you shouldn’t buy it just to try to repair your self-confidence and happiness. In those terms, it’s a waste. But if you can get more business because of a good car or you want to drag race or something, an expensive car can be valuable. So the context also matter if something is a waste or a valuable thing.
The preventive approach does miracles
Besides the curative approach, meaning removing waste once you already have it in your life, you can also take the preventive approach. The latter means preventing waste from popping up in your life in the first place. It’s much easier to prevent waste from happening than to remove it from your life later on.
The general guideline is the following:
- In the search mode, where you do a lot of testing, experimenting and trying, you are constantly creating waste and value. What brings value into your life should be kept, whereas you should transform what creates waste into validated learning and get rid of it, not keep it in life. The key is to turn waste into validated learning in the search mode, thus it’s not waste anymore but rather a new insight into knowing yourself and your environment.
- On the other hand, there are already things you do and have in life for which you know that they drag you down, bring no value and just create waste. You should try to prevent such waste from happening as much as possible. Since nobody is perfect, you can’t completely prevent it, thus you have to do regular cleanings, especially when you first start implementing the AgileLeanLife philosophy.
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Typical causes of waste in life
- Poor working methods and a lack of training
- A little understanding of the entire process
- Poor communication and a weak personal network
- A lack of organization and technology gaps
- Layout (distance), a long set-up time and avoidable interruptions
- Historic supervisory roles and historic behavioral patterns
- Buying things you don’t need
- Supplier quality/reliability
- Irrelevant performance measures
Poor work methods and a lack of training
Let's start with an easy one. Superior organization and technological advantage (knowledge) were always the winning combination in every area of life. A lack of competences, lack of knowledge and poor working methods create a big waste in life – everything you do takes more time, energy, money and other resources.
Having a control over your own self, possessing knowledge and applying knowledge is real power, especially in today’s post-information age.
Thus you should always work on knowing yourself better and better, building self-discipline and developing competences. You should be changing your beliefs and values to gaining new knowledge, skills and abilities. You should be constantly upgrading your mindset.
You should follow the saying invest in yourself, unless you think you aren’t a good investment. And you are. You are the investment with the biggest potential return. Therefore you should regularly invest into your competences and your potential. Here you can find some additional ideas how:
- The only time management guide you will ever need
- Eliminate distractions from your life
- Organize yourself
- Kaizen – The growth mindset and continuous improvement
A little understanding of the entire process
You must not only understand yourself, but also your environment, people around you, systems, trends and how life works. The better you understand the flows and principles of life and the better you understand the systems you function in (markets, government, social systems…), the greater the potential you unlock.
If you don’t understand your environment, you usually act confused and you don’t have a sound decision-making system. You simply don’t have the coordinates for going further.
Getting rich, getting married, getting a raise, being in shape, finding your fist job and so on, that is all the final event. But the final event doesn’t happen all by itself. If you want to experience the final event, you have to understand and follow a specific process. But if you want to follow the right process, you have to understand the system.
There are a few types of systems and processes you have to understand as well as possible:
- Human nature
- Global and local flows (market, public systems…)
- Systems you operate in (company, family, country…)
- Processes and systems relevant to your goals (how to earn money, get in shape…)
Understanding all four brings you the strongest advantage in life. For every goal you have, you should understand the process as accurately as possible. The better you understand the process, the better decisions you can make and the faster you can move towards your goals. Since that may sound a bit abstract, let me give you an example.
Let’s say that you want to get a new job. One way to do it is to make one general CV and send it to as many addresses as possible, hoping that someone will reply and invite you to an interview.
Most people take that kind of an approach, but that kind of an approach shows little understanding of the hiring process. Even if you do get an invitation to an interview, you probably have no idea what kind of a company you’ll end up in. It all more resembles a lottery rather than you turning the hiring process to your own advantage.
But how would the approach look like if you understood the process? Well, you first have to invest time into analyzing the situation and understanding the whole hiring process. It strongly depends on the industry and the country, but let’s look at some possible steps you can take:
- First you do an analysis of your competences and list all potential jobs in which you could create the biggest value added. For example, if you are good with numbers and you have a finished business degree, you could work as an analyst, accountant, financial advisor… It all depends on your competences, talents, goals and personal preferences.
- In the second step, you make a general persona for the kind of company you would like to work for. What your values are, which markets you would like to operate on, which phase the company should be in etc. You can list several combinations and types of companies.
- In the third step, you analyze the markets. You look at the occupations that are in demand the most, you analyze which companies are expanding, where the greatest opportunities are, you look at the ten-year market and job market trends and so on. The main goal is to identify trends that will support your long-term career development and find specific companies that more or less suit your persona and are expanding, consequently looking for the competences you have.
- Now you should analyze each company in detail. Their vision, expansion plans, board members, culture, human resources department, their hiring process, you should know everything about their products, maybe even try to use their product and the competitive products etc. Doing that for let’s say 5 to 10 companies shouldn’t be too much work.
- In the next step, you should brainstorm how you can add value to every company. You should list all the ideas you have. The more you see yourself as part of the company future and vision, the more ideas you have about the value added you can bring to the table, the more motivated and convincing you will be.
- The last step is understanding human nature. We are more on the alert for things that stand out. If you excel at one thing, people will see you as a better performer overall. The way you speak, your posture, your appearance…all of it has an influence on the probability of you getting a job. Marketing is also an important part of the whole thing. You should understand the weight of recommendations as well. Thus you should customize your CV for every company, your CV should stand out, you should make video materials for example, add a list of your ideas, explain the analysis you have done and the value added you can bring to the table, make sure that someone they know also recommends you etc.
- The above-stated steps show a clear understanding of the whole process. You put yourself in the shoes of the person who’s hiring. They receive an outstanding CV. In addition to that, someone they know and trust recommended you. You are the only one among the candidates who has really studied up on the company. You have ideas on how you can bring value to the company. You make an awesome impression at the interview.
- Everything stated above means an understanding of the hiring process for healthy companies on the market, especially small and medium ones. They especially look for people who are proactive, productive and know how to stand out and fight. It’s a different story if you want a job in the government. Their hiring procedure is completely different and if you want a job there, you should understand it step by step.
It’s the same in all other areas of life. The better you understand the process of getting into shape, the better off you will be if you want to get fit. For example I thought that something that can only be achieved in a few years could be achieved in a few months, and consequently managed to injure my shoulder blade. Overdoing it was a clear sign of me not understanding the process.
If you want to meet the perfect partner you have to understand the process of dating and building relationships. If you want a promotion you have to understand your company’s process of promoting people – maybe it’s doing an excellent job or maybe it’s sucking up to someone in the board room.
Look at your goals – they are the final events. Now invest enough of your time and energy into understanding the whole process of getting to the final events in the most efficient way possible. And how the systems around the process work,
- Here’s an article about global paradigms that will help you understand how global flows are influencing your life. For the rest, you will have to do some studying on your own.
Poor communication and a weak personal network
Poor communication brings nothing but confusion, disorder and trouble, in personal as well as business life. There must be no gap between what you think, what you say and what the other person hears and how they comprehend it.
The basic foundation of every good relationship is outstanding communication. You have to communicate honestly, frequently and deeply with people you want to have good relationships with. Honest communication builds trust and respect. You need to learn how to be a good communicator and you can find numerous resources online for how to become one.
Here are just some of the most obvious negative effects of poor communication:
- Decreased productivity and poor decision-making
- Trust issues and low morale
- Making mistakes and doing wrong things
- Frustrations and lack of mutual respect
- Unproductive conflicts and increased stress
All that doesn’t apply only to communication with others, but also with yourself. Lying to yourself and making compromises merely brings hardships in life later on. When you do your plan for investing into your personal competences, make sure you also include investments for becoming an excellent communicator, with others and with yourself.
Much like communication, your personal network also has a big influence on your productivity. People in your personal and professional network can be either waste or value. If people are dragging you down, don’t believe in you, try to stop you, they represent waste in your network.
You shouldn’t bond with that kind of energy vampires in the first place. I know you sometimes just have to deal with people like that, but make sure to differentiate between constructive conflict and vampirism.
If someone doesn’t agree with you or initiates a constructive conflict in order to get a better result that isn’t really vampirism. Vampirism is when there is no real progress in the relationship and no real output, despite your effort and investment.
On the other hand, a strong social network increases your productivity due to all the benefits you get from knowing the right people. Knowing one right person can save you years of hard work.
A lack of organization and technology gaps
It has been proven time after time that agile teams are several times more productive than functional organizations. It’s very obvious that traditional organizational methods are not the best, neither or at the work place nor at home. As mentioned before, superior organizational and technological advantages are the strongest fortes when achieving your goals.
Talent needs the right environment to flourish. Talent needs the right organizations and the right environment to shine. A lack of contemporary management, poor management skills, a lack of organization and the mentality “we’ve always done it this way” kills people’s potential.
I’ve seen it many times, at home and at the work place. It’s not only about organizing yourself, but also about being in an environment that’s organized and supports you and empowers you on your way of achieving your goals. If you cannot find an environment that really supports you, build one yourself.
Same as a lack of organization, every technology gap is also a big problem. Your productivity, efficiency, effectiveness, access to information, connectedness, everything suffers if you don’t follow the progress of technology. You have to use technology as a leverage and use it to your advantage. People who are skilled in technology have a big advantage on almost every market.
To sum up, when investing into your competences, you also have to invest into your:
- Analytical skills
- Self-management skills
- Management skills
- Communication skills
- Networking skills
- Tech skills
Layout (distance), a long set-up time and avoidable interruptions
This one is quite obvious. Long distances, waiting time, unnecessary motion, they all create waste in your life. You should try to prevent this from happening in the first place. For example, it’s much easier to move your home closer to the office at the beginning than after several years.
The more that you settle into a specific pattern, the more effort you have to make to implement any change. Thus design your life carefully in the beginning.
As suboptimal layouts are very obvious creators of waste, so are all the avoidable interruptions. You should put a system in place that helps you avoid as many interruptions as possible. You can find many ideas for this in the article that concerns eliminating distractions from your life, but here is a short summary:
- Put a “do not disturb” sign on the door of your office or private room
- Turn off your phone
- Install a web nanny and block all the fun sites you are addicted to
- Close e-mail and IM applications
- Learn to say no
- Get rid of negative people in your life
- Don’t multitask
- Don’t let people just stop by
- Have a no-interruptions day once per week
- No waiting and queueing
- No unnecessary transportation
- No delays and be on time
Today’s world is becoming more and more complex, hard to understand, volatile and changeable. Adding even more complexity to that only brings negative effects and results.
The idea behind AgileLeanlife philosophy is to simplify things as much as possible. In essence things aren’t that complicated, we just make them complicated. With the information overload and idea clashes, it’s hard to simplify and much easier to add things. But that creates waste. More is not always better.
The idea of eliminating waste is to not integrate everything but rather to get rid of as many things as possible.
Try to simplify everything in your life. The number of apps you’re using. The complexity of food you’re eating. The projects and tasks you’re working on. The simpler the systems, the less energy you need to start, run and finish you activities. Because simplifying things is so difficult, it’s also a big advantage on the market. When everybody wants to add, you should learn to simplify.
Maybe you’re are asking yourself how to simplify. Well, that’s quite easy: by eliminating waste. You have to test each smallest element and see whether it brings value or not. If it doesn’t, you get rid of it. If it does, keep it. That is how you simplify things.
Historic supervisory roles and historic behavioral patterns
At the work place, there are usually some historic supervisory roles in place that don’t bring any value to the system. They are compromises made and compromises create waste. If you want to move fast, if you want to achieve your goals as quickly as possible, if you want to deliver value to your life and to the world, there is no room for unnecessary supervisors and compromises.
We know of a pretty similar case in the personal life. I’m talking about destructive behavioral patterns. Your parents and teachers were your first supervisors and you have inherited a lot of good things from them (I hope), but also garbage.
We all get some garbage and we all carry that on to our kids. The reason why that is so is quite simple. What brings value to your life, may be a waste to your kids. And besides that, you make many mistakes when raising your kids.
Thus the important task in life for you and everyone else is to learn about yourself, identify negative behavioral patterns and eliminate them. They are probably the biggest waste in your life. I call it upgrading your mindset.
Some of them you can eliminate by yourself, others with professional help. All these negative behavioral patterns are like bugs in your brain that are stopping you and slowing you down. At a certain point in our lives we all need a “software upgrade”.
Buying things you don’t need
The AgileLeanLife lifestyle is a minimalist type of life, if maybe not even spartan. It’s not that you avoid any pleasure, on the contrary. It’s about eliminating fake pleasure, like buying unnecessary stuff just to feel better for a short moment of time. It’s about not buying things you don’t need in order to impress people you don’t like.
It’s much easier to not buy waste in the first place than to clean up stuff in your life. If you don’t buy it at all, you save money, you save time, you don’t have to deal with it, you keep a lot of resources to yourself, there are no worries, no obligations, just freedom.
If you buy it and decide for cleaning later on, you can find several emotional reasons why not to get rid of it. Thus simply don’t buy things you don’t need.
- Wait for a few days for minor purchases and wait for a few weeks for bigger purchases
- Multiply the price with 8, as that is probably the price you will be paying for the item (opportunity-cost of a 20-years yield if you were to invest money instead)
- Ask yourself again whether you really need that and why you really have to buy it
- List 10 additional reasons why not to buy it and identify the emotional reason that drives you
- Don’t buy it unless you really have to
- Buy less stuff of a higher quality
This one is also connected with purchasing items. Several studies have shown that it’s better to buy less stuff of a higher quality than a lot of shitty stuff. You want to make fewer purchases, save as much money as possible, but when you buy things, you should buy those of a better quality.
Today all that is quite simple. Before buying anything, read all the reviews on the internet. Compare products, compare prices, and expand your knowledge about products and services. But not too much, so you won’t start wasting your time. Don’t spend hours doing research on an item that costs a few bucks.
Irrelevant performance measures
Last but not least, irrelevant performance measures also create waste in your life. You mustn’t focus on vanity metrics, but rather on actionable metrics that really measure progress in your life. You should have different metrics in the search and the execution mode. Dealing with the wrong kind of metrics brings nothing but frustration or a fake feeling of progress.
Let’s look at an example that will give us a clearer picture.
Let’s say your goal is to lose weight, but you haven’t done anything for your body in 20 years. The most popular metric for people is “stepping on the scale”. But that is a big vanity metric, for several reasons.
Usually when starting a new diet you first lose a lot of body water. Body water is not fat. Then if you start exercising, you develop muscles, which are heavier than fat. Thus your weight starts to fluctuate a lot and that brings either a fake feeling of progress or frustration or both.
The much smarter approach is first knowing that you should be in the search mode at the beginning. You try to find the diet that suits you best and the sports that motivate you. At first you can measure the number of sports you have tried, the number of times you have exercised per week, unhealthy foods that you have cut from your life and so on. It’s the phase of learning about yourself, learning about the environment (process, system, and people) and getting realistic expectations.
After finding a diet you can stick with and sports you have no problems doing, you enter the execution phase. In the execution phase, you don’t measure your weight either. You measure things like body fat, the number of repetitions you can make and several other factors.
The more of a pro that you become, the more metrics you can introduce into your system and measure. But it may take years to achieve that level. You shouldn’t worry about slow progress, you should only worry about stopping.
Choose life instead of waste
I hope you’ve gotten many ideas on how to prevent waste from appearing in your life in the first place. It will give you more time, space, money and other resources to focus on things that really bring value to your life. Things like love, creating, learning, playing, enjoying nature and so on.
Choose life instead of waste.
And for the waste that has already accumulated in your life, read the ideas for how to get rid of it.