I am always looking for tips, tricks, and methods to get better. Ways to continuously improve as a person. To become smarter, more intentional, and be a high performer without stressing out. Hailing from the Japanese lean manufacturing philosophy, 5-S’ing is a powerful daily practice that can be implemented at home, at work, and within your own mind.
Originally, Toyota (yes, the car company) popularized the 5-S system.
Different companies practice 5-S, 4-S, or even 3-S. No matter how many S’s you choose to follow, the benefits are astronomical. 3-S is useful because it is easier to remember: Shine/Sweep (can be used interchangeably), Sort, and Standardize.
The concept was developed for workers on the shop floor in Toyota factories, but the benefits of this system apply in many applications. Every day practice sweeping, sorting, and standardizing. Sustain this over time for the greatest results.
The psychological benefits of a clean space go far beyond just pleasing aesthetics. Cleaning and organizing reduces the stress of trying to find the stuff you need; whether that be tools in your garage, spices in your kitchen, or papers at work. Cleanliness shows a level of care about a space. At work, take pride in your desk or work station. At home, take pride in the space you live in.
In a world where many things are out of our control, keeping our working and living spaces clean is one thing we can control. No matter what happens during your day, walking into a clean house in the evening is a relaxing experience. If your day is chaotic, returning home to a pile of dishes in the sink can make you feel helpless; like “when will it end.”
Cleaning is easier when done constantly. When messes pile up, stress piles up. At my work, everyone spends the first 30 minutes of their day cleaning and organizing. When we start working, no one has to worry about a mess. Plus, because we start the day clean, our building is more likely to stay clean. Clutter begets more clutter. Make cleaning one of the first things you do every morning.
Physical cleaning is great, but also practice mental cleaning. Get rid of those negative thoughts. The unfounded insecurities. Those self doubts. Practice gratitude and mindfulness in the morning to sweep away detrimental thought patterns. Stoic philosopher Seneca writes: “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”
Get rid of things you do not need. Constantly analyze what you have, how much you actually use it, and whether or not it can be removed. Less inventory of stuff means less management of stuff. Less things to clean, less things to find, less things to lose, and less things to buy. Blogger Conor Barnes writes: “If you are looking for your good X, that means you have bad X’s. Get rid of those.”1
Do this every day. Every drawer, cupboard, and filing cabinet should be analyzed. A good example is this: remove everything from your desk at work. I know it sounds ridiculous, but even your computer and printer. Put it all in a box. Now start your day. Each time you need something to do your job, remove it from the box and place it back on your desk. At the end of the day, look at what is left in the box and see if you can get rid of it. After a week, if there are still things in the box, you can definitely find a better place for them.
Getting rid of can mean throwing away, donating, or selling. But it can also mean finding a new place for, combining with something else, or maybe you and a co-worker or team can share things, like a stapler, rather than each of you having one on your desk. Empty desk space is work space, not storage space.
Looking for things is a waste of time. Less things = less looking. You only have exactly what you need. Avoid the slow simmer of frustration that can easily boil over when are sifting through clutter to find what you need.
Develop a standard process for everything that you repeat. Find the best way to do something, and make that the standard. If you find a better way, update the standard. Standardize your morning routine. Standardize your first 30 minutes at work. Standardize any process that happens more than once per day or week.
Author, podcaster, and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss says “By putting those particular steps on autopilot, having that boot up sequence, you conserve your cognitive calories for the things that matter most.”2
Repeated actions or activities shouldn’t take away massive amounts of problem solving power. High level creativity and problem solving is diminished when brain power is wasted making hundreds of minute decisions. You have a limited amount of cognitive power every day, don’t chip away at it with the little things like what clothes to wear or what to eat for breakfast.
Free your mind by simplifying and standardizing repeated actions.
3 S’ing works if you do it one time. But it works even better if you do it all of the time. Make 3 S’ing part of your daily practice. Clean, sort, and standardize in all aspects of your life. Sustain those actions over time. The rewards will reveal themselves quickly.
Let’s keep the conversation going! Please like, comment, or share so we can continue to learn and grow together.
- 100 Tips For A Better Life, by Conor Barnes, December 22, 2020, accessed January 1, 2021, https://ideopunk.com/2020/12/22/100-tips-for-a-better-life/
- The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts: Morning Routines and Strategies (#253), by Tim Ferriss, JUNE 4, 2018, https://tim.blog/2018/06/04/the-tim-ferriss-show-transcripts-morning-routines-and-strategies/