Systems are an important part of living life in charge. Without a system in place to manage the complexity of modern life, you’ll soon be drowning in data, overwhelmed by tasks, with things to learn and see and do and places to go and bills to pay and on and on…
Systems make us more efficient. They multiply our efforts, and allow our focus to remain whole, not fragmented. A system takes initial focus to create, but once it is working, you can safely move your focus elsewhere.
We need systems because life is complicated. If we want to keep our heads above water, let alone get ahead, we have to manage our lives with systems.
A System of Systems
Take Amazon, for example. Their system that is made up of other, smaller systems.
There’s a system for updating the website, which is a system for taking orders, which get handed off to a fulfillment system, which leverages the postal system for delivery.
Obviously that’s a high-level description, but you get the point. If it was one guy building his own website, packing up items, shipping them, and then moving to the next order — you never would have heard of Amazon. It wouldn’t be so huge and efficient.
That’s because people don’t scale; systems do.
Is This For Me?
Talking about scaling and systems makes us think about businesses or corporations. But what if you start thinking about systems you can use for yourself at home? It might not hurt to start thinking that way…
Instead of pleasing stockholders, your systems should give you more time and energy to focus on the things you care about.
If you could finish your bills in 30 minutes instead of 3 hours, that’s 2.5 more hours that you can spend with your family (or hiking, or reading, or napping…).
How Do I Systematize?
How are systems created? First, you have to do the task. Then you document each of the steps required to finish the task, in the proper order. If there are variations, document those as well. Your goal is to streamline, to make efficient, to reduce loss or confusion.
Making sense in your head is good; writing it down is better. If you live in a shared space, you’ll probably want to create your systems with the help of your housemates.
A simple example: When you check the mail, do you have a specific place to put it? Or do you set it down wherever seems to be convenient at that moment? If you set it on the table, other people might move it, or stuff will get put on top of it. Then it might get cleared off and thrown away, and suddenly — oops! You just missed your utilities payment!
But if you define a process for the mail, you can be confident that the mail always gets placed on your desk, in front of your keyboard. When you sit down, you go through the mail before working on the computer. Simple? Yes. Will you lose mail this way? Signs point to “no”.
This Seems Complicated — Will It Really Help?
Systems can be as simple or as complicated as you like, depending on the nature of the task. Many systems are really just organization. Assigning a place for everything (and putting everything in its place) is a helpful underlying system that can support other task-oriented systems.
When you are organized, you don’t waste time looking for a certain tool that is required to do the job. It will be where it is supposed to be, and you can move on without thinking twice.
The simple answer is: yes, this can help you.
Defining “The Right Way” To Do Things
Ideally, your system should be well-defined so that anyone else could follow your instructions and achieve the same result as if you did it yourself. McDonald’s is a great example of this — every single job has a detailed manual, and their employees simply have to follow the instructions in the manual.
That’s why you get essentially the same experience and quality at every McDonald’s location you go to. The way the task is performed becomes more important than who is performing the task. It doesn’t matter if it is a new employee, an old employee, or the manager. Your Big Mac will taste and cost the same.
You’ve probably heard someone say “Let me do it, I like to put things away a certain way.” Or maybe you’ve said something similar yourself. While it’s easy to do things ourselves, that doesn’t scale. Being able to communicate what you do (and why, as much as possible) is not only the way to create a system, it’s a helpful life skill. This is how you can delegate tasks and streamline your life.
This is a Key Part of Living Life In Charge
Systems can handle almost anything — remembering things, paying your bills, organizing emails, doing laundry, studying, falling asleep, you name it. If you can define the task, you can create a system for it.
Systematizing your life can help you increase your productivity, and allow you to find a more healthy work/life balance. Not to mention, it’s a great way to help you reach your health and finance goals!
What systems do you use to manage your life? Do you agree that systems can give you more freedom with your time?