🌄 What Japan Teaches Us About Efficiency


Greetings from Japan!

I am currently in Tokyo as part of a 10-day trip exploring Japan. This is my first time visiting, so my days here have been filled with wonder and excitement🤩.

One thing I've realized walking through the streets of Tokyo and learning about the culture is that Japan gets a lot right about productivity and efficiency☑️.

This week during rounds I wanted to share four of my takeaways about what Japan teaches us about productivity:

  1. Preparation is 90% of productivity. The first step of any activity or process is to make preparations📝. As my high school economics teacher used to say, it's all about the 5 P's: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance🤨.

    This has been most apparent to me by watching how sushi chefs work: Knives are sharpened and laid in order🔪, fish is organized in containers ready for use🐟, and their workstation starts and remains clean. With a process that well set up, it's no wonder these sushi chefs are able to create amazing dishes quickly and consistently🍣.
  2. Respect is paramount. Even without traveling to Japan, it is well known that Japanese culture is one of respect. This means respect for oneself and one's craft but also respect for the work and well-being of others🤝. Mutual respect is embedded in daily life in Japan: Bowing to demonstrate gratitude is paramount🙇🏽, and "thank you very much" seems to be included in nearly every sentence! By treating others with respect, it becomes easier to avoid miscommunications and problems that lead to unnecessary discussions and wasted time🕐.
  3. Sometimes the best communication is no communication. With Tokyo being the most populous city in the world, it's no surprise that the streets and stations are constantly filled with commuters🚉. One thing that surprised me, however, was how much silence there is as people rush and bump into one another to catch trains or walking on the street🔇. At first I was confused by this...where was the "excuse me" or "I'm so sorry"? Then it hit me...there is a collective understanding that people are always on the go, and these things are going to happen.

    So what if someone pushed past you to make sure they got off at the correct station? There was no malicious intent, they weren't out to ruin your day. Accepting that fact and moving on is clearly the path of least resistance😌. I even saw a woman nearly be struck by a bicyclist, and not a single word was exchanged🚲! It was clearly an accident, no one got hurt, so just keep on keeping on.
  4. Walk through life with mindfulness. As much as people in Japan are on the go, one thing I did not realize before being here is that there is no eating on the go. No walking around with Starbucks, no quick bite while rushing to work. Instead, people opt for sitting and enjoying their food and drink. As an emergency medicine physician this was ridiculously counterintuitive. Nonetheless, I have absolutely found more enjoyment and wellness out of sitting down, sipping and savoring my morning coffee, and enjoying the company.

There will undoubtedly be more lessons to learn and discuss from this trip, but these were some of my initial thoughts. Until then, I'll be hopping on the bullet train🚅 and eating sushi till I drop🍣!

🗺️ Something I discovered: This Airplane Seat Back Organizer was ridiculously useful on the 12-hour flight to Japan. Instead of opening and closing the tray table every five minutes, I was able to set this organizer up within seconds and store everything I needed!

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