If you’re like me, you probably have a list of at least ten items where you’d like to make improvements.

Typical goal setting areas for most people include:

1.      exercise

2.      diet/weight loss

3.      career progression

4.      relationship improvement

5.      drink less

6.      volunteer

7.      save money

8.      spend more time with family

9.      travel to new places

10.  learn something new

So every January 1, we all sit down with our notebooks and write out our resolutions for the new year. And now, when it’s mid-February, many of us have seen no real sustainable progress in most of our resolutions.

Real life intervenes and it just seems too hard to make the needed changes. We find ourselves in a state of overwhelm and guilt.

I have Parkinson’s which adds to the difficulty.

So what am I doing to avoid the usual crash and burn reaction to New Year’s resolutions having gone awry?

I’ve pared down my critical list to three items:

1.      Exercise, since it’s crucial for neuro-protective health for Parkinson’s patients.

2.      Healthier eating for the same reason.

3.      Time management with a focus on writing my novels.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have goals in many other categories that I actively work towards, but I’m not going to spend the same emotional energy dealing with them.

So how do I approach my three critical items?

I have adapted Personal Kaizen: the 1% Solution.

For all I know there’s a book out with exactly that title, but the following is my spin on the method.

Kaizen is the Japanese concept of continuous improvement. It was first introduced to the West by Masaaki Imai in the 1980s. Many Japanese corporations have adapted this management model which emphasizes that good processes bring good results. It is the art of making incremental change. Figure out what the root causes of problems are and find and implement solutions, even if the solutions seem tiny in perspective. It’s the process of continuing this over and over and over again until big results come from many small changes.

I have adapted this idea to my critical list. Instead of being overwhelmed by massive changes, I’ve chosen to look at each item in the attempt to figure out the root problems that need to be solved in order to move forward. Once that’s done, I further break those issues down into micro changes I can make each day. The objective is the 1% solution: how can I do 1% better in at least one category every day. If 1% is too overwhelming, I at least do something to move forward.

That might mean doing one more sit up, or an additional minute of aerobic exercise, slightly decreasing portion size or writing for another five minutes. And I apply this concept to other goals as well. But I focus on the critical three.

Many self-help gurus say that to make massive improvements you have to take massive action. I think that definitely works for some personality types, but for those of us who have health or other life challenges, small continuous improvements are realistically within reach. I can make a micro improvement every day. I can’t remake my world in a day. But make enough 1% improvements and massive changes will eventually show up.

Personal Kaizen, patiently applied in 1% increments, will lead to the results you’re looking for.