This year I have been on a self-improvement kick. I am determined not to become one of the 90% who fail on their new year’s resolutions. Until recently, I must admit it has been a challenge.

In the business world, there is a process called Kaizen. Kaizen refers to the pursuit of continuous improvement in the manufacturing process. When doing a Kaizen, the team will look at each step of the process to determine if there are efficiencies to gain.

This year, I decided to try to apply the Kaizen approach to my goals. The problem was I needed some type of tool to help refine my approach to the processes. An important part of the Kaizen method is measuring the processes. The thought is that if one can’t measure it, one can’t improve it. In looking for ways to measure my growth processes, I needed a simple tool to help me quantify things. Then, while reading Marshall Goldsmith’s book Triggers, I discovered the tool I was looking for.

In the book, Marshall “examines the environmental and psychological triggers that can derail us at work and in life.” It was a fascinating exploration of the things that can and do derail one’s efforts to improve. One of the most useful tools Marshall shares in the book is his process for measuring his daily efforts. He calls the evaluation process the Daily Questions Habit. Simply put, he has a list of questions he uses each day to score himself on. To provide some accountability, he has an assistant call him each evening to collect his scores. Each question is scored on a 1-10 basis with the score based on the amount of effort expended towards the task. He chooses to measure effort because it is the one thing he is in complete control of. Then, at the end of each week, he reviews his scores to find areas of improvement.

For Marshall, his first six questions are constant because they are essential elements of happiness. The rest of the daily questions reflect his efforts towards various goals. The last part of the list is dynamic as his goals and priorities change. Each of the questions begins with “Did I do my best to”, followed by: Set Clear Goals? Make Progress for achieving my Goals? Find Meaning? Be Happy? Build Positive Relationships? Be Fully Engaged? I liked the concept and decided to give it a try.

I mentioned it to one of my clients and they agreed to try it with me and compare notes. To hold each other accountable, we set up a Google spreadsheet to fill in our scores each night. I added four more questions to my scoresheet, while my client stayed with the first six. It was a challenge each night to review the day and determine the level of effort given in each of the areas. At the end of the each week we got together to compare notes.

What we discovered was we were beginning to change the way we thought. As a day progressed, we caught ourselves reflecting on our effort and what was impacting it. Then as the weeks progressed, patterns began to emerge. From these patterns, we could discern areas to adjust to improve our scores. It was interesting to see the mental shift both of us experienced by scoring the effort we gave.

If you are looking for a way to change and grow, the daily question habit is a great tool. I look forward to continuing to use it and see its long-term effects in my life. If you would be interested and need an accountability buddy, drop me a line at hough.jeff@gmail.com and we can learn together. I promise you it will be worth the effort.