5 days of S-mas: Standardize

Today’s aspect of 5S is “Standarize”.  This step is key in a manufacturing setting, as it allows for the organization in “Sort”, the rearrangements in “Straighten”, and the cleanliness of “Shine” to be easier to maintain by implementing efficient, repeatable procedures.  The same is true for our purposes with mental engineering, as our newly established positive outlooks will be easier to maintain if we’re able to streamline our thinking, rather than constantly exhausting ourselves with minutiae.

Though it’s easy to get wrapped up in the small stuff we face on a daily basis, the vast majority of this daily stress can be eliminated or reduced with 3 simple steps:


Planning ahead is key for saving time and effort.  This is particularly apparent for those small, daily tasks that somehow seem to eat up our days (and stress us out on top of it!)  The solution?  Simplify, decide ahead of time, and stick to your plans!

You see this in action with all sorts of top performers: they minimize the decisions they have to make every day and save their energy for bigger things.  It comes in many forms, like always wearing the same thing (like Mark Zuckerberg or Carrie Donovan), always eating the same thing for certain meals (like physicist Richard Feynman or the extreme example of Soylent creator Rob Rhinehart).  Anticipating these everyday tasks and standardizing them can be as thorough or lax as you like, but the point is to make decisions ahead of time and stick to them, so that you’re not having to make the same decisions over and over.

For decisions that you can streamline in this manner, but may require additional action on your part, consider whether the action needs to involve you every time.  Most tasks don’t, which is where the next step comes in.


The first step of automation is to set up schedules and “batch” any tasks that would otherwise require effort throughout the day.  The second step is to minimize your effort when possible.  These steps can be applied to anything from cooking, to shopping, to simply making your gadgets more efficient.  More elaborate ways to “Standardize” with this step can come in the form of automating your finances or creating checklists for complex or overlooked tasks.  Implementing these systems takes a bit of a time investment up front, but it massively reduces your daily time burdens.

The point of automation is to set up systems to keep your life running while reducing your distractions throughout your day. Not having to worry about keeping track of a million little things frees up your mind to focus on your job or family, though if you’re combining the two, keep the tips from the next step in mind.


There’s increasing evidence that true work-life balance is impossible (or at the very least, highly impractical), which is leading many people to turn to “work-life integration” instead.  The difference between the two can seem minor, but it can make all the difference if implemented correctly.  Whereas work-life balance emphasizes separating your work from your home life, family, and recreational activities, work-life integration removes the barrier, in order to allow you to focus on the most important activities (whether work or family related) as necessary.  While it can be useful to utilize aspects of both approaches (being efficient in the office and energetic with family is emphasized in both, after all!) it’s important to focus most on the separation of your time and mental energies, so that you’re not simply opening yourself up to work 24/7.

With careful planning you can be more efficient in your work, while also being more available to your family, hobbies, and actual life.


That’s all for Standardize!  Come back tomorrow for the final installation of 5 days of S-mas, then get excited for some resolutions for 2016!




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