How Systems Thinking Can Simplify Your Life

When you commit to a system, real progress is guaranteed

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Results, the long-lasting ones, need a solid foundation. Systems that deliver consistently are always better than short term wins.

In almost all areas of life, the temptation to jump to tactics, hacks and shortcuts is very high. Many people fall for it.

They look for quick fixes for most problems and end up starting all over again in the future. Hacks and fast track results don’t last. Quick wins don’t always work. And sometimes, they can be difficult to repeat.

A better way to solve problems and make consistent progress is to build a workable or healthy system for the many areas of your life.

A system is a set of habits or tiny actions that work together to simplify your life or help you get real work done. The tiny details that define how you accomplish your life or work goals is a system — a way of work unique to you.

Basically, a system is a repeatable behaviour, action that help you achieve your long-term goals. It increases your odds of long-term success regardless of your short-term wins.

For example, if you want to invest, you don’t aim for one quick win. You invest a percentage of your income every month. And keep adding to your diversified portfolio to leverage compound interest to put your money to work.

“Drawing one cartoon a day is a system; so is resolving to take some kind of exercise daily — rather than setting a goal, like being able to run a marathon in four hours”

Oliver Burkman: The Guardian

If you want better health, consistency pays off in the long term. It’s a better approach than one-off sprints or an hour at the gym when you feel like it. You can start with just 20 minutes stretches or workouts in the morning or later in the evening.

Even if you do that twice a week, you will do more for your health over the long term. To change any area of your life, play the long game.

If you want to learn something new, build a learning engine that allows you to become wise today than you were yesterday. Build a learning habit. Become a lifelong learner.

Pull together a collection of learning habits (for example, making quality time to read) you can use daily to learn something new. I use several newsletters, books, podcasts to learn something new every day.

Don’t aim to go deep for a single day and forget about it. A consistent learning system that makes it easy to accumulate knowledge over time works better.

“If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week”

James Clear

Repeatable systems deliver consistent results

“An important function of almost every system is to ensure its own perpetuation.”

Donella H. Meadows

You can also use systems as habits to get more things done. I use a couple of productivity systems to get my daily tasks done.

I start the day with tasks I’ve chosen from last night — this reduces the amount of time you spend in the morning getting your to-do list sorted.

I work on my most challenging work before noon — this system allows me to use my best brain energy on tasks that require deep focus and concentration.

I do all other essential tasks that require less brainpower in the afternoon. And I use the sprint method for deep writing — I block off about an hour in the morning to write.

Systems are the foundation of long-term results. You become efficient when you design a system for what you do. It saves you time and energy.

A system for any area of your life will give you the freedom to do your best every day. Systems make life easier.

When you commit to a system, you make real progress daily. Joe Frazier once said, “Champions aren’t made in the ring, they are merely recognised there.”

Here’s a simple process for designing systems into your life:

Start with the area of your life that requires a better system. For example, it can be your finances, health or work.

Identify the bigger goal. What do you want to achieve — an exercise habit, an investment routine or make time for better experiences in your relationship?

Write it down. What are the tiny habits or actions you need to take daily, weekly or monthly consistently? For example, you could write down when to auto-pay your bills or auto-deposit a percentage of your income into your investment account for finance. Repeat for different areas of your life.

Measure your results every couple of months. Change, update or upgrade your systems when necessary to get better results.

What you do daily is how you are leading your life. If your present habits are not delivering the results you want, design a better system.

Whether you want to exercise more, invest more for your future, get more things done, spend quality time with your loved ones or take up a new hobby, a better system can help you achieve it.