Work hard OR Work Smart!
As the new academic year is anticipated, we wish you a very good luck for your forthcoming endeavours. However, we have more than good wishes for you. Like you work harder each year, we work to make your learning process simpler and fun. Now, haven’t you heard phrases like ‘sit and study regularly’, ‘be regular with your lessons and there you will not have a tough time during exams’. Every parent or every teacher must have told you this. But no one has perhaps solved the mystery around being ‘regular’ and you are probably still wondering how to go about that. Is it like that of an IIT-JEE topper’s 18hour schedule or like that of IAS topper’s ruthless 23hour? Relax; we have a much easier solution, Kaizen it away!
Kaizen is actually a management principle that focuses on making small changes that result into major improvements. Literally translates from Japanese as Kai-good, Zen-improvement. It gained significance during WWII after Toyota’s success using Kaizen.
Here’s how it can help you-
The first level is PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) involves 4 steps:
No one knows your weak areas better than you. Some students are weak at Maths while some find History difficult. So step one is to identify your problem area and look for solutions. For instance, Megha is weak at maths, so she plans to practice more by doing at least 10 questions every day. Vivek finds History tough, so he decides to learn five questions daily. Similarly plan your schedule. Begin by asking yourself, what do I need to start with and how much time do I have to complete it all?
This is the part most of us skip. Having a plan is one thing, and implementing it is another. Both Megha and Vivek will be able to find out whether their plan is working or not only by putting to practice at least for a week. It works the same way for all of us. Have a daily check list before you and keep marking as you go on completing various tasks.
After a certain point, you will get to know where your plan stands post implementation. Is everyday practice helping Megha absorb lessons in class better and she’s able to follow what her teacher teaches? Can Vivek perform better in his weekly tests now that he has broken down the large history chapters into a 5 question compartment? It is important that you realise whether your plan or method is working or not. The actions that follow will depend on this step.
Okay, so the final step. You’ve implemented your first plan. You are working on the plan on a daily basis. And now you also know whether your plan is successful or not. So the decision to continue or switch to Plan B is yours. To follow with our above examples, Megha found that her plan worked and discovered that Linear Equations require more attention than any other topic. So now she plans adding another 10 questions to get an edge on the topic. So Plan B is 20 questions a day. Vivek performed well in his weekly tests and hence is sticking to his first plan. We need to cross check our plans too. After the decided time frame is over, check your progress. While doing it yourself works the best, you may also involve your classmates, siblings or parents.
Remember, PDCA is more like a cycle of steps that work slowly. It is not about perfection or instant results in the very first attempt but it is more about ensuring gradual improvement. Another important aspect of making sure PDCA works is the process of 5-S. Sort, Set, Shine, Standardise and Sustain.
We explained you PDCA through two subjects but the area you need to cover extends over a good five to six subjects. So when you are covering a certain amount of syllabus, don’t get stuck at something. If there is something you don’t understand, mark it or ‘red tag’ it. Move over and complete the rest. Say for example you have Maths, Science and Geography. Four lessons each. So your red tag list should somewhat read like-
- Maths: Ex 9.6, Ques. 8 and 10
- Science : Chapter 10, diagrams
- Geography : Maps for chapter 4 & 5
So this way not only are you done with everything else, you also don’t have to waste time searching what you haven’t covered. (Pssst- Add a splash of colour to your sorting. Vibrant colours and fonts will draw your attention in a better way than dull and drab blue and white notes written half heartedly)
It is important to have things in order first. Remember, a place for everything and everything in its place. Your list reads ‘maps’ and you wouldn’t want to spend that time searching for maps to practice on! Why not label your stuff as you organise? STATIONERY? Check. NOTEBOOK? Check. ASSIGNMENTS? Check. A simple step will save you a lot of time!
What is the point of a red tag list or say books and stationery in order if you can’t even see your table hiding under bits of paper, coffee stains, pencil shavings and remains of your evening snack? Even if you choose to deny, it is a fact that your brain cannot concentrate when your eyes see a scene of utter chaos. Make cleaning up a regular activity. Often, it works like an inspection and you might even relocate important things that have gone missing! While this seems a little hard to implement, it will not be a mammoth task once you make it an everyday habit!
Make a certain set of realistic rules for yourself and follow them. Working in a set pattern improves the quality of your work while also puts you into a habit of doing things a certain way. May be you choose to sort every Friday so that you have a weekend to focus on your TO-DO list. Shine and Set on a fortnightly basis and you would not have too much of cleaning or organising to do at once! If you’re someone who gets bored of a routine, you may keep changing your standardisation rules. Working in pattern is good, but choosing multiple patterns that bring you results is even better.
Like the second step in PDCA, sustaining your action is important. Besides, keep in mind a simple fact, it is better going organised and being regular rather than waiting for things to pile up. Slow and steady wins the race. Work Hard or Work Smart!
We hope that this concept stretches beyond the length of this article and the duration of your read. To help you implement Kaizen, here’s a personal check list that you can use. Keep this for your own use and answer yourself honestly and in detail-
|WHAT ALL DO I NEED TO COVER?||HOW MUCH TIME DO I HAVE?||WHAT REQUIRES MORE ATTENTION?||HOW DO I PLAN TO COMPLETE IT?||WAS THE TARGET FOR THE DAY ACHIEVED?|
To ensure that are targets are met, it is necessary that we discuss them with others like classmates or teachers and take their inputs. Also involve them in your plans so that they double check whether your plans are ACTUALLY being implemented. In fact, this check list might as well be a classroom activity where you may put in class targets and your class teacher supervises it.
|IS THE ROOM OR OUR WORK AREA CLEAN?||WHAT ARE OUR TARGETS FOR THE DAY?||ARE THE THINGS REQUIRED TO ACHIEVE THE TARGET AVAILABLE?||HOW ARE WE GOING TO ACHIEVE OUR TARGET IN TIME?||DID WE GO AS PLANNED AND MANAGED TO REACH OUR GOAL?||ARE WE LEAVING THE WORK AREA CLEAN AND READY FOR THE NEXT DAY?|
|YESYES||Diagrams in BiologyCompleted||YES||Make one diagram every two hours12 diag. completed||YESYES||YESYES|
The above check list should be brief and have a response from the student (if using personally) or the class monitor/ representative or group leader. The response should ideally be checked by the supervisor (parent/sibling) or class teacher and her observation may also be mentioned as a record like in the above example.