Systems Are More Important Than Goals
Recently, I finished reading “How to Fail At Almost Anything and Still Win Big” by Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon. This book came highly recommended by someone whose opinion I value, so I immediately requested it from the library. Despite my lack of knowledge on Dilbert, I was excited to read this book because I knew there was a focus on achieving success and setting yourself up for it properly, which is relevant as only a few weeks ago I started on a new team at my company and have a totally new routine.
Although I felt the book was a bit back-and-forth at times with its organization, I really enjoyed the book. One of my favorite parts of it was Adams’ dismissal of goals and instead his recommendation to replace goals with systems. As an example, rather than losing 10 pounds someone may instead say, “I’m going to eat right” as a system. The goal exists in the future, whether or not you achieve it. But a system, that’s something you do regularly (likely everyday), which ultimately increases your odds of happiness in the long run.
The idea of systems hooked me. And as I went about my normal life, I noticed the systems I have in place, for better or worse. As to why these systems were put in place - I think I realized that using systems made me more likely to do the things I want, but I never thought of those activities as systems. Some systems I already have in place include:
- Waking up, rolling out of bed, putting my gym clothes on, and working out. Usually 6 days a week, with occasionally disruption due to a night time workout.
- Taking a book with my when metro-ing alone to keep my reading momentum up. Also, climbing in bed 15-20 minutes before I plan to fall asleep so I can read.
- Spending a few minutes each night before bed writing in my 5 year journal (double hitter here: this helps me document my life which I strangely enjoy and sharpens my writing skills)
- Drinking a bottle of water before I even make my morning coffee.
- Documenting all purchases - cash or credit or check - to hold myself accountable to my financial goals.
- I put my Hulu subscription on hold for the summer to inhibit my ability to watch mindless tv (this one has worked really well)
There are others in place that I won’t delve into, as I am sure you get the point by now. Reading the book made me realize the systems I currently have in place while also showing me opportunity for where new systems can be added, and old ones can be revised.
I’ll give another example here. I now work from home when I am not traveling, which put my morning routine through the wringer. I found myself sitting in my gross workout clothes, bed unmade, at 12pm. Currently, I am reworking my morning routine so instead I use the time I would have spent commuting more effectively (like writing this post!). I’m waiting to read my Morning Routine, which came out a few months back, before I put the final tweaks on my routine. But once it is finalized, I’ll have a morning system in place that ensures I am not only clean and put together by 8:30 am, but allows me to spend time working toward other personal goals before my work day has even begun. I scheduled a recurring team meeting at 8:30 am each day, so I have to be working by then - another system.
My days of writing goals is likely not over, as I still have big, scary goals I am driving toward. However, I plan to re-write these goals into systems that allow me to achieve them. One last example: my goal is to buy a house in the next few years (it’s a fuzzy timeline), so the system I’ll put in place will relate to saving money. Then, once I’m more serious about house hunting, I’ll edit my system to enable more research into financing, house hunting, etc.
I'll have to do a follow-up post to actually track how this all works out, so stay tuned.