This blog post gets a bit personal. Just a heads up.

It all started with a feeling. It gnawed at me every night. No matter how I felt going to sleep, the next morning, the feeling resumed. If I went to sleep earlier, it remained. If I took sleeping medication, it helped numb it a bit, but upon waking up, it was there to greet me. It wasn't a matter of if I felt it or not, it was a matter of how intense the feeling was.

What is this feeling? It’s waste. Waste, not a word everyone uses to describe how they felt.

Okay, so is this a self-esteem problem? Perhaps, but I wouldn't identify it solely as one. Is this a purpose problem? Same thing. Is this a happiness problem? Generally, yes.

So what is Waste? For the purpose of this discussion, we will define waste as non-value added experiences. But wait, how do you value a certain experience? How do you put an amount to each experience? I’ll lay it out later in this blog post, but for now, just keep the definition in mind.

Every day, I go about my day, flowing through each event of the day. I keep myself busy, and often times, I find myself busy from when I leave my house at 7am to 10/11pm. By this time, I am ready to call it a night. However, there’s still items on my to do list to do. Send out an email? Yep, I should do that. Organize tasks for my StarCraft II tournament? You guessed it, gotta do it! Got a clan war to cast? Yeah, that’s somewhere in that to do list. Hanging out with friends? Yeah, that’s a definite to do. By the time I get through each priority and task, what time is there left for me? Very little. I usually borrow from the sleep bank, and so far, my sleep debt is higher than it should be.

So what is wrong with this picture? Jake! You’re busy! This is what you were looking for! Staying busy! Being involved with multiple projects? You betcha! Starting your own startup with other Fargo Community Members? Hell yeah! Starting your own StarCraft II tournament series? This is what everyone only dreams about because they won’t take that leap (That is a whole ‘nother discussion, which I won’t tackle in this post!)!

So really, what’s wrong?

So, if you’re good at connecting dots in writings, you’d have figure it out by now. How much am I doing is contributing to this feeling of Waste I have been feeling every night? It’s funny, because each activity in itself doesn’t feel like waste when doing it, but at the end of the night, I feel like I haven’t accomplished enough. In the morning, I delay getting out of bed to get ready for the day. It never feels like I have enough time during the day.

So Jake, you identified a problem, what are you going to do about it?

Well first, I have two sources of learning and inspiration to draw from. The first, is the Lean Principle, which is where I am borrowing concepts and framing the thought process. The second, is a book I am currently reading called ‘The Happiness Project’ written by Gretchen Rubin. Lean Methodology is about removing waste from your business and increasing profit margins for your company. ‘The Happiness Project’ is a book I am reading about the author’s yearlong journey towards becoming a happier person by challenging herself with new resolutions each month. So, you’ll probably see themes and ideas creep in from these two sources for the most part, but I’ll be referring to them to generally get the point across. If you wish to read more literature on these two sources, refer to the end of the blog post.

A colleague and I have been regularly talking about life, ranging from happiness, wellness, fitness, attitudes, and more. I noted to her the other day that I’ve just been feeling, drained. I always knew I felt drained, but I never took time to reflect on it meaningfully. Upon discussing my discontent, she made the following recommendation:

“Perhaps you can take stock of everything and everyone in your life and just make a checklist if they are contributors or debtors of happiness in your life…?”

That idea scared me, but deep down, I knew I had to do it. I knew that the longer I took to deal with this feeling of Waste, the harder it would be to instigate change. The longer I let myself feel apathetic about it, the more it would become normal commonplace.

Initially, I wanted to make this a Cartesian Project, referring to the famous philosopher Descartes, who went about scrapping every idea, assumption, and knowledge he had to find out if he truly existed or not. This process fascinates and scares me, and initially, my impulsively side was telling me that it was the right thing to do. However, I took some time to reflect a bit more and realized, there were things in my life that did bring value to my life (and others, and we’ll get into that). So, I put aside the Cartesian Project title and picked up on an idea presented to me in the current book I am reading.

In ‘The Happiness Project’, Gretchen Rubin dedicates a year long journey in her every day in attempt to increase her happiness. Each month, she dedicates to a theme and makes a few small “resolutions” to layer into her life, adding a compounding effect. In the book, she reflects on how these resolutions challenged her and how she feels during and after each month.

So, how does the book fit into this? Well, we’re going to borrow the same concept, but execute it differently. Instead of finding a resolution to stick to, we’re going to reflect on if certain areas of experiences are value adding or non-value adding. By going through each item in my life, I will hopefully be eliminating items that do not add value to my life and be replacing them ideally with new items that will be adding value to my life. Each month will be dedicated to an area of my life that needs cleanup.

To be clear, a non-value added experience is an experience that doesn’t bring value to the experience. It should not be confused with a value-detracting experience. Ideally, those behaviors and experiences should be identified and already taken care of. During this process, I may find value-detracting experiences that I did not realize were part of my life, but the initial focus will be on experiences that are either value added or non-value added.

So, let’s lay it out. I present to you, the four areas in my life:  

May: Technology (Examining the habits of technology, social media, and other items related to the advancement of technology)

June: Finances (Do my spending categories make sense? Does saving for certain goals and projects bring value?)

July: Projects (Examining recent and pre-existing projects outside of work)

August: Connections and Relationships (Examining the activities and relationships to friends, the act of networking, and friendships themselves)

Jake, I couldn't help but notice that you left a very important aspect of your life out! What about your work with Intelligent InSites? Well, easy. My job is in a period of continuous improvement. The gears are in place and I am already finding myself involved with it (utilizing Lean Methodology, which is what this post is almost being based off). There will be several areas at work I will be actively engaging each day with Lean in mind, and it will be something I will be working with every day at work. For this reason, the scope of the project will lie outside of work, since work is already covered by my engagement with work related projects and kaizens.

Each week of the month, I will be dedicating a blog post towards a specific area in that theme of the month. This will be on top of the normal set of blog post topics, so you can expect to see a lot of activity on the blog. Each blog post will explore the experience within the subject/activity and ultimately decide, is it a value-adding experience? If so, how can I continue to drive that experience to maximize value and give value back, and if not, can I make it a value added experience, or does it simply need to be pushed aside from my life for the time being?

It’s a scary initiative, but the goal is to begin evaluating areas where I identify potential causes of the feeling of Waste. I believe that by eliminating these areas, it will highlight other value adding experiences, and will change the way I approach the world, the attitude I have towards my life, and increase the overall happiness. We’re going to slowly go about this project, but time will fly fast with this, and as we learn and grow, we’ll be validating each step of the way and by the end of the summer, we’ll be somewhere down the path towards the ultimate goal, bringing value to my own life in order to bring value to others’ lives.