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Four Aspects of the Harada Method: The Day-to-Day Personal Management Method to Get Unstuck In Life

I don’t know about you but I have always struggled with staying consistently productive. 

Some days it is hard to pull myself out of bed. My internal incoherence makes the whole enterprise of living a productive life an insurmountable mountain. In the face of omnipresent challenges and ever-changing demands of the marketplace, I constantly feel inadequate. 

Some days distractions get deadly and before I know it I lost half my day to doing nothing on the internet. Distractions can be fatal and the world we live in today is ridden with all forms of it. 

I have met people to whom it seems consistent productivity comes rather easily. 

They wake up early. Plunge right into their most important tasks. 

They are almost always optimistic, motivated, and enthusiastic. 

They have it all figured out. By six in the evening, they are done with work and manage to find quality time to spend with their family and quiet time to read books. 

I, on the other hand, am constantly late with half my to-do list untouched. 

I struggle with motivation. Most mornings start with a quiet dread. So I often start slowly. By the time I find my rhythm, it is past noon. 

I have been fascinated by the idea of mastery but have always struggled to progress beyond a certain threshold in developing my skills. 

They say knowledge workers plateau in their expertise quite fast because unlike athletics or music or similar professions, knowledge work is an ill-structured field where it is hard to measure your progress and apply deliberate practice. I know exactly what this challenge looks like.  

There was a time when I used to frequent the gym back in 2020 and 2021 but those days are long gone. I always plan to restart my exercise regimen but have so far failed to do so. I know this affects other parts of my life. 

All these culminate in a daily life of quiet desperation. I’m always playing catch-up. My no two days are the same. The only consistent thing in my routine is that there is not one. 

I have tried a fair bit of personal growth strategies. Some of them I have found very useful. 

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People make sense. 

Focusing on one thing is an excellent strategy. 

Thinking and growing rich might sound esoteric but can make a real difference if you put the ideas to work. 

But at times, I felt my challenges come from a deeper place that requires additional mending before it heals. 

Enter the Harada Method 

That’s how I came across the idea of the Harada Method, I'm always looking for new ideas for personal management and growth. The Harada method is a day-to-day personal management framework developed by Takashi Harada, a Japanese coach and management consultant. 

In their book, The Harada Method: The Spirit of Self Reliance, Takashi Harada and Norman Bodek explain a framework that I feel addresses my perpetual challenge of an inconsistent productive life. 

Harada suggests that to live a productive life we have to put four areas of our life in order:

  1. Spirit 
  2. Skills 
  3. Physical condition 
  4. Daily life 

If we can put these four aspects of our life in order, the rest should follow. 

The origin of the Harada method  

Japan is known for many powerful ideas in the world of management. The Harada method is often dubbed as the people's side of lean. The core thesis is that if people get better at managing themselves, they can produce consistent results for themselves as well as for their organizations. 

Focused on creating self-reliance, the method uses a structured approach to setting clear goals, developing skills, and achieving mastery. The method takes an overarching approach to the challenge of personal and professional growth. You combine your values with your goals, analyze your potential points of success and failures by examining your past and future, and maintain a recursive system by reflecting daily on your life. 

Takasi Harada, the creator of the framework, has a unique background. Before entering the world of consulting, Harada was a junior high school track and field coach at the worst school out of 380 in Osaka, Japan. 

The school was located in one of the most depressed areas of Osaka. Students and their families suffered from debilitating self-doubt and personal challenges. Academic and athletic failures were rampant. Students and parents simply didn’t believe they could do any better. 

After joining the school, Harada set out to change the entire school and within three years his school became one of the best for athletics. Many of the students also started to make dramatic academic improvements. But the process of achieving that success was not easy. Harada had to go through years of trials and errors. 

Part of the reason I feel the model is effective is because it comes from the lived experience of Harada over many years. Mr. Harada explains in the book:

“Once you obtain this skill of knowing how and where to put your efforts, all you have to do is to repeat it as if you were walking down a familiar street. I went through many hardships to coach my first champion. 

After that, things began to become easier by following the principles of success. I knew exactly what I had to do to accomplish my goals, and I did what I had decided to do. 

In my last year at Matsumushi, a boy reached #1 in the shot put (he was previously 13th). I did nothing special to make him a champion. His transformation to reach #1 was like an automated process; as if everyone knew from the very beginning that he would be a champion. He just clearly visualized the success of his goal, developed a plan to attain that goal, and then worked on himself, every day, to achieve it.

This is how the process worked. First, I made a strong push to let students in Matsumushi have dreams. I wanted people in the Matsumushi region to know that dreams can come true. 

I wanted to give them hope and courage. I wanted to raise them and let them know that they had the potential to achieve even their wildest dreams. I wanted them to believe in themselves.”


From years of trial and error, the truth finally came to me. By harmonizing “spirit, skill, physical condition, and daily life (the four aspects),” you are enabled to manage your life by yourself. This is what being self-reliant is all about.”

In 2002, Harada left the school system and opened a consulting practice to teach his method to the business. 

The four aspects of the Harada Method 

I have recently started applying the model in my daily management and to my surprise, it works despite my imperfect implementation and routine failures. 

As I mentioned earlier, the Harada method consists of four tools: a long-term goal form, a task list called Open Window 64, a daily routine cheat sheet, and a daily diary format. 

While I’m still trying to find rhythm in my application of the method, my exercise of filling these forms out has been extremely useful. I think that is partly because the four aspects of the Harada method address all the core challenges of leading a productive life. 

Spirit is about your inner life. You work to set your mental state right. 

Skill is about how you do your job and deal with the real world. 

Routine is about building and changing habits. And daily diary is about tracking your time, reflection, and learning using the spirit of deliberate practice. Review your days and reflect on the lessons learned to apply the next day. 

You put these together, you have a recursive model of personal growth. Let’s take a deeper look: 

Spirit: Spirit deals with your intrinsic motivation, your reason for doing something. Purpose for each of your actions and perhaps your existence even. 

Generally speaking, when we consider improving our performance in something, our usual tendency is to go headlong into the action. Want to write more, put together a routine, and write more. Want to be stronger, go to the gym, and so on? 

However, what we often miss is the question of why we want to do something. When we leave out that question, it can create unforeseen challenges. We can lose our motivation after a few days. 

The second aspect of spirit is our belief whether we believe in our ability to do certain things. Self-doubt is a potential killer and we all suffer from it. But people who manage to continue despite debilitating self-doubt are the ones who manage to find an answer to the why question. 

As Nietzsche said, who knows why can bear almost any how. 

In the spirit aspect, Harada wants us to fix our mental state, both our motivation and enthusiasm as well as our belief in ourselves. If we have a way to stay high-spirited, we are more likely to pursue our goals more consistently. 

Skills: The second aspect is skills. In my opinion, all these four aspects are interconnected. For instance, skill is our ability to do something well. 

When we have mastery of something, we are generally more confident and optimistic. It means when we are skillful at something, we are likely to have a high spirit. 

Harada suggests we should focus on developing our skills. We should find a skill we want to master and spend time building that skill. And when we are working on a skill, we should preserve it and try our best. 

In many instances, people give up on something too easily whereas various studies suggest you need 10,000+ hours of deliberate practice to get good at something. 

I have found that how skilled you are not only determines your material success in the world, it also dictates your psychological state. When we feel competent, we feel good about ourselves. 

Physical condition: Almost all good models have one thing in common: they are almost too simple to take seriously. This is true about the Harada method. The ideas are practical and common sense. 

For instance, take the third aspect of the Harada method, physical condition. It doesn't need much explanation to understand that when we are healthy and strong, we are more positive and we have more energy to pursue our goals. 

Harada suggests we spend dedicated time to improve our physical condition so that we are ready to do the hard work necessary to achieve our goal. 

In many instances, people tend to separate their physical health from their performance. This sentiment is more prevalent among knowledge workers. Living an unhealthy life, disregarding sleep, and having an unorganized life is sometimes considered a hallmark of a creative life. But nothing can be further from the truth. 

Almost all serious creative people will tell you that without a strong body, the mind is also bound to be fickle. 

Japanese writer Haruki Murakami is famous for having this view that all creative work is physical. Without enduring physical energy, it is hard to do any sustained creative work. 

Murakami is known for his disciplined running routine. When he is in writing mode for a novel, he wakes up early, around 4:00 am, and works for five to six hours. In the afternoon, he runs 10km or swims 1500m, sometimes doing both. This routine is followed every day without variation. 

Murakami believes that physical strength is as important as artistic sensitivity when tackling a long creative project. By integrating running into his daily routine, Murakami not only maintains his physical well-being but also enhances his mental state and overall productivity as a writer.

Daily life: The final leg of the model is how we spend our days. There is a famous quote tentatively attributed to Annie Dillard “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Albeit that is exactly what it is. 

Harada, in the early years of his coaching, primarily worked with the initial three aspects of his model—Spirit, skills, and physical condition. 

After working for a few years, he came to realize that merely focusing on those three aspects was not enough. To execute those three aspects you need another aspect that can work as a forcing function to operationalize the earlier three aspects. That’s how Harada decided that unless we structure and pay attention to our daily lives, it is hard to change our lives. 

We all have 24 hours. Some people manage to achieve extraordinary amounts with that time whereas many of us manage to waste all of it. 

Harada developed a daily routine sheet to give structure to our days so that we can create new habits and change old ones and a daily diary practice to help review and reflect on daily progress. 

The next step

Harad's method does not end with suggesting these four aspects of personal transformation. The method then offers several models and tools to manage these four aspects. 

The Harada method long-term goal form addresses the question of spirit and skills by not only helping you to set concrete achievable goals but also pushing you to understand your reasons for choosing a goal, how it can change your life, your past success and failure analysis and future success and failure analysis. 

Similarly, the method has an open window 64 form that helps guide your action, has a daily routine sheet that helps change your habits and build new habits to ensure your personal growth, and finally, daily dairy helps you to analyze your daily life and see for yourself where your time goes and where you can improve your days. 


Consistent personal growth is a complex, hard problem. No single model can potentially cover all aspects of it. 

One of the best ways I have come across is building resilience and self-reliance. The Harada method offers an excellent template to develop our resilience and self-reliance. 

We learn that if we invest in maintaining a high spirit, developing our skills, managing a healthy physical condition, and living a conscious daily life, we improve our chance of not only living a consistent productive life but also developing a greater capacity to deal better with life’s challenges and limitations. 

Originally published on March 2024. Updated on July 2024

Mohammad Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based entrepreneur and writer. He founded Future Startup, a digital publication covering the startup and technology scene in Dhaka with an ambition to transform Bangladesh through entrepreneurship and innovation. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, and society. He is the author of Rethinking Failure. His writings have been published in almost all major national dailies in Bangladesh including DT, FE, etc. Prior to FS, he worked for a local conglomerate where he helped start a social enterprise. Ruhul is a 2022 winner of Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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