In pursuit of self-discipline: Japanese jiko kanri’s gentle guidance

The mindset I take for any self-improvement endeavor

Kaki Okumura


Illustrations by Kaki Okumura

I have had some difficulty sleeping recently.

I’m not exactly sure what caused it, but it started off with sleeping really late one night, being forced to wake up early the next morning, feeling stress and anxiety throughout the day because of lack of sleep, which fed into even more difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.

It was a tortuous feedback loop that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Thankfully, I’m in a much better position now and I’m getting great sleep, and feeling refreshed. It wasn’t any kind of magic pill, hack, or potion that got me out of it, but really it was about me setting up some boundaries to do the following:

  1. Off the phone, laptop, and television at least 2 hours before I wanted to fall asleep.
  2. In bed at least 1 hour before I wanted to sleep.
  3. Reading a history book in low light or on my Kindle, until I became tired. (This would usually be about 20 minutes. Reading history is also reliably relaxing for me.)
  4. Close my eyes and practice deep breathing.
  5. Repeat 3 and 4 if necessary.
  6. Make my bed in the morning.

After 1 week I was feeling much better, and after about 2 weeks it was automatic.​

Japanese jiko kanri to gently build self-discipline

It’s not that I had strong willpower, and that establishing and maintaining a better sleep routine was easy. In fact, as someone who works on the laptop often, it can be difficult to get off the screen and shut off from the world 3 hours before sleep.

I would want to get some work done, or I would want to rewind by scrolling through the news. I knew that being online would make things worse, but at the moment it would feel like the only available relief.

In moments like these, when I feel like I just need more “self-discipline”, I like to turn to the gentler approach of jiko kanri.



Kaki Okumura

Born in Dallas, raised in New York and Tokyo. I care about helping others learn to live a better, healthier life. My site: 🌱