Target Zero – Improve yourself, slowly & gradually

NOTICE: This post is official entry into the’s (link here) Personal Excellence Contest.


image In this interesting post, I present one of the techniques of  Quality management which is used in many organizations in many contexts. Evidently, most of the quality management techniques used in business organizations can also be applied in real life  such as Kaizen or Root cause analysis. So, target zero can also be applied in personal lives to achieve goals or improve one aspect or the other.

Brief Introduction

Set a target for yourself to achieve zero occurrence of something that you want to avoid or eliminate (such as no. of unsettled customer complaints or the no. of unread emails in your inbox)

Why Target Zero?

Because even at the perfection rate of 99% of manufacturing airplanes, it  may mean 10 airplanes per 1000 turn out to be defective (quite costly and life-threatening).

Because even at the perfection rate of 99% in construction safety, it may mean 10 people being injured per 1000.

So, target zero may be pursued in  the higher interest of achieving the perfection rate of 100% slowly, gradually but finally in reaching the ultimate objective of zero-tolerance & occurrence of something we wish to avoid.

Quick Examples (to let you understand the concept)

    • Target Zero grammatical mistakes in a document,
    • Target Zero unread or not-replied e-mail at the end of the day,
    • Target Zero cigarettes you smoke in a day ,
    • Target Zero use of credit card for a week to cut on expenses,
    • Target Zero day(s) of not going to gym for exercise.

Some more inspirational examples (world would have been a better place if could achieve these)

    • Target Zero rate of poverty in the world
    • Target Zero terrorist attacks in the world
    • Target Zero new HIV aids cases in the world

Are we too optimistic? In India, we have Target Zero rate of new polio cases every year (and its quite successful as no. of new polio cases have gone down dramatically.)

One Take Away from the idea of Target Zero

Even if you are not able to achieve your target you are slowly moving towards achieving it and hopefully are in a better position than you were before you set the target for yourself.

Foundations for Setting your Target Zero


Four Pillars Of Target Zero

1. Concrete Goal: There should be some goal or objective behind your target which you wish to achieve.

Example: You want to reply all the mails in your inbox or you want to read 20 books till the end of the year.

2. Zero Tolerance: You should have zero tolerance attitude towards any exceptions to your ultimate goal or objective. This may be that 1 not-replied email remaining in your inbox or that 1 chapter remaining to be read to help in achieving your objective of 20 books per year. Just reply to your mail or finish off your chapter to achieve your Target Zero.

3. Time Bound: Not all your “Target Zero’s” need to be time bound, but it may help to asses & ponder over later if you have set a time limit. Your target zero may be time-bound for a day, a week, a fortnight or may be a year.

4. Result-oriented: You must be result oriented i.e. framing the Target Zero will not suffice at all ,you need to constantly asses your performance. Are you living the promise you made? Are making some progress compared to the time when you had not set the Target Zero for yourself.

You may continue reading the post to learn more about the Target Zero & helpful hints & tips in setting your own Target Zero.

positive business chart or stock quotation on white

Am I being too optimistic by setting unrealistic or difficult-sometimes-seem-unachievable goals?

Every Target Zero may look like a daunting task, but once you have committed yourself to achieving it you have embarked upon a long journey (sometime short)which will someday end in your ultimate objective being achieved. Always remember slowly & gradually you will improve & move towards achieving your goal.

For example, if you have committed yourself to the Target Zero un-replied emails in your inbox everyday, at first day of your setting the target you may still have 20 mails yet to reply, the very next day may be 15, maybe 10 next and someday 0.

Similarly, if you have decided to quit your smoking by setting Target Zero of No. of Smoked Cigarettes each day, you may still smoke 5 cigarette a day, 4 the very next day or may be continuously for many days. But someday you will achieve the target zero of smoked cigarettes.

 bulb on Some Tips

1. Quota of Exceptions: You may set  up a quota of exceptions to help you in achieving your ultimate goal. This is basically done to help you in the whole process and relax your mind off the goal. You can set up a quota of “allowable” or “upper limit of errors” to allow exceptions. For e.g. if you have Target Zero of not-replied mail in your inbox you may set up Quota of Exception of 5 not-replied mails, which means saying to yourself “Its okay if I have 5 not-replied mails in my inbox, I can finish them off in the morning”

This way you relax yourself of the burden or the pressure which might build up if you jump right into the Target Zero on your first day.

BUT REMEMBER, if you want Target Zero to be achieved bring down your quota of exceptions to ZERO someday i.e. equivalent of saying that you work hard to achieve the Target Zero (without any exceptions) till you achieve it.

2. Remind Yourself: Yes, I want you to become obsessed with the idea of Target Zero so you don’t forget that you have set Target Zero for yourself & leave no stone unturned to achieve it.

Print out posters with Target Zero written on them & paste them in your room, cubicle or office.  Make a wallpaper of Target Zero text and set it as your desktop background. Make a smaller version of it, transfer it to your mobile & set it as your phone’s wallpaper. Make a sticker of Target Zero (hey you can use some glue) open up your clock & paste it over the background of the clock.

This way when you enter your cubicle, room or office, or minimize window on your computer, or make a call on your mobile, or see the time on the clock you will be automatically reminded of the TARGET ZERO.

3. Flip-an-idea: Students please note, don’t set for yourself Target Zero marks in your exams. Hey just joking, being a student myself, I have one way out. Set Target Zero for yourself in following manners:

    • Target Zero Unrevised chapters till the day of exam.
    • Target Zero Marks being deducted in the exam by the examiner. (quite a feat) I am getting 95-100% just because of setting this Target Zero in my practical assignments.
    • Target Zero no. of unattempted questions in the exam

4. Set Incentives: to motivate yourself to achieve the goal. I treat myself with a McDonald’s burger whenever I achieve one of my Target Zeros. Your incentive may not be a burger especially if you are losing your weight.

What you can do now?
> You may share your ideas or views by commenting below.
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> You may want to mail me to tell how this post was useful to you.
> You may want to visit the’s Personal Excellence Project (Contest Page)

5 responses to “Target Zero – Improve yourself, slowly & gradually

  1. Pingback: 66 Best Personal Excellence Tips·

  2. Pingback: Target Zero Tools: Poster & Worksheet Template « Not you okay!!!·

  3. Pingback: In Search of Excellence: What 99% perfection or quality rate means? « Not you okay!!!·

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