Brett, why are your car keys in the fridge?


“Well, it starts with the Japanese…”

This is the point that my co-workers either start grinning and backing out of my office or I see the whites of their eyes as they roll violently…

Poka-yoke is a Japanese term that means “mistake-proofing”.

Enough bullshit. What the hell are you actually talking about? Car keys in the fridge? Why?

Well, it’s pretty simple to explain:

I could easily (and often) get in my car, drive home and forget my shopping at work. However, it’s impossible for me to go home and accidentally leave my car at work.

Instead of creating work for yourself by creating one more thing to remember, put the action or object you need to accomplish directly in your path. You can’t forget if you have to step over or move the thing you need to remember.

  • Need to take something somewhere: Put it on the floor in front of the door you use to leave.
  • Can’t forget the important widget for the specific event: Put it in the shoe you know you’re going to wear when you’re at that thing.

Don’t use the limited and exhaustible mental processing power you have available to track the mundanities of life.

I’ll admit that I didn’t realise that what I had been doing over the years was rooted in the lean manufacturing methodology spawned by Toyota. I think I actually picked it up years ago from a podcast where Merlin Mann interviewed David Allen (the author of Getting Things Done)



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