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Why You Need Systems

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It is January, the month when resolutions are born and often die an untimely death before they have actually gotten off the ground. Why are resolutions so hard to keep? My theory is that most people focus on goals they want to achieve and not the systems needed to achieve them. The goal is the ‘What’ and the system is the ‘How’; when we set goals without a plan to achieve them they often fall flat. Goals are about outcomes. Systems are about the paths that lead to the outcomes. It is possible to achieve a goal with out a system but you are going to have to work really hard and exert a lot of self control along the way. If you have a good system in place the path to your desired goal will be easier to follow, require less effort and give you the best chance of success.

If your goal is to have an organized home you could achieve it momentarily without systems in place. You could go through your closets and buy a bunch of product and label everything. You could even hire an organizer to come do all of that for you. But if that is your approach success will be short-lived because you haven’t developed systems to sustain the organization. Organization is what comes naturally when you are following a good system.

The definition of ‘system’ is a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized framework or method. What makes a good system? A good system is easy to follow by going with gravity, requiring little vigilance or motivation to execute. A good system plays on strengths. A good system is repeatable. If your system is really good you won’t even notice the progress you are making towards your goal, instead you will look up and be there! Here are a few reasons why you need good systems in your life.

Vigilance is overrated

How much energy do you exert ‘keeping on top’ of things? It may not seem like too much when you are considering one thing in isolation but multiply that by all of the things you’ve got going on and you’ll realize how much vigilance sucks. Take keeping your home tidy as an example. It’s a new year, you’ve struck the holiday set and got all of the new loot put away. The cleaning people have come and the house is sparkly and inviting. Then the kids come home from school and within 10 minutes your sparkly clean house has reverted back to its messy, cluttered identity. Your stomach clenches, you bark some orders that are half-heartedly obeyed, you pick up the remaining items yourself and that cycle repeats itself daily.

Maybe it doesn’t sound that bad, but bring that low-level stress to the party as you are trying to figure out dinner, who is picking Kid #2 up from basketball and how you are going to get to work 30 minutes earlier tomorrow and it becomes a bigger deal. The energy expenditure is necessary to keep the house tidy. Vigilance is required to get your desired outcome. Booooo!

Kids (and some spouses!) are messy, it’s just a fact of life. But if you have some good systems in place you can achieve your goal of a tidy home minus the constant vigilance. And the energy you saved can be applied to keeping all the other balls you are juggling up in the air. A simple system or two helps you achieve your desired outcome with a lot less effort.

motivation is overrated

We spend a lot of energy thinking about ways to motivate ourselves to do the things needed to achieve the goals we set. Motivation is the process of thoughts influencing behaviors; you have to do some thinking in order to motivate yourself. Sometimes we are successful and ‘motivate’ to get off the couch and work out, make dinner or walk the dog. Sometimes not so much. So in essence we spend a fair amount of mental bandwidth on motivation with a middling success rate. Applying systems to your environment reduces the need for motivation. When your environment is set up to influence certain behaviors it drastically reduces the need for motivation. Think of it as a set of cues, guiding you through the small habits needed to make something bigger happen. In my example of an organized home there is a visible system of cues oriented to traffic patterns that make it easy to put things away. Think of runway lights illuminating the path to land a plane in the dark of night. If you set up the equivalent of runway lights in your home, you and your people won’t be fumbling in the dark to find the runway (or deciding not to land the plane at all) – they will just follow the lights.

It’s hard enough to motivate yourself to keep on track for a goal or resolution. Now add the burden of motivating your people as well. That’s a lot of energy that you could be putting to better, more pleasurable use. Motivation is overrated, reduce it’s hold by setting up your environment with sytems.

systems increase capacity

Sold on systems yet? Once you’ve ditched motivation and kicked vigilance to the curb there is another benefit you will reap from putting your focus on systems instead of goals. You will have more time and more energy which means you can do more without additional effort. When you implement systems across your home and life you will find that most of the time they hum along on their own, sometimes needing tweaks or resets but requiring little effort. That means you have time and mental capacity for….anything you’d like! An exercise class? A walk with a friend? an hour on the couch watching Season 2 of The White Lotus (in case you missed it since your were so busy and stressed)? People, process may not seem very sexy but process systems will get you the results you want in your home and life!

A note before I finish – I’ve used organization in your home as my example here but please note that systems provide equal benefit across all aspects of your life. So as you launch into this shiny new year, pause and reflect on your resolutions and the systems you will need to achieve them! And if you’d like help on that journey, hit the button below to set up a complimentary consult. Happy New Year everyone!

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