Whether or not we accept or understand it, humans tend to think and work in systems. The problem is that most people don’t understand the systems and therefore don’t have any control over the systems that guide their lives.
It’s important to take control of the systems in your life and then iterate and improve upon those systems whenever possible. If you don’t then you’re at risk of letting a system degrade, or you might end up following a system that works… but doesn’t produce the results that you expected.
Measuring your system’s production is important. If you don’t measure, then you won’t have any ability to tell if the system is functioning properly. You also won’t be able to tell if any changes you make to your system are having the desired effect.
In the book Work the System by Sam Carpenter, he tells the story of how he took his floundering business from barely scraping by into a thriving, well-oiled machine. For him, the introduction of systems saved his business and turned his company into one of the most efficient and high-end businesses in America.
So how can you apply systems to your own life? You don’t need to own a business to become a systems thinker. In fact, you can become more systematic in your life by applying these three principles:
#1 Create a decision-making road map
A decision-making roadmap can help steer all of your future activities and make sure that everything you do is taking you closer to your long-term goals. Most people never think about how their daily habits affect their future self, so simply creating and following some general guidelines will have a major and immediate impact.
What does a decision-making road map look like? Well, basically it’s a one-page list of bullet points of your most important life goals. It’s a sheet that you can refer to when deciding to take on new projects, launch a new business, apply for a new job, or anything else.
You just have to ask yourself, “Will taking on this new thing in my life align with my values and take me closer to my important life goals?” If the answer is yes, do the thing. If the answer is no, don’t do the thing. It’s simple.
It’s important to note that in order for this to be effective you must constantly be checking your decision-making road map and updating it if your long-term life goals change. Print your guidelines out and then practice pig-headed discipline and determination in following them in order to get the best results.
#2 Create SOPs for any repeatable processes
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) feel like a chore to create, but they are absolutely essential to getting the most out of your day. SOPs are what actually turn your daily systems (even the ones that you’re unaware of) into real-world machines.
Creating a SOP is pretty simple. You just write a detailed checklist of everything that needs to be done in order to complete a task. These should be written so that anybody with the ability to read and follow directions could easily complete the task.
Even if you know how to do something and the process is second-nature to you, it’s still important to create the SOP. This accomplishes two things:
- Gives you the ability to delegate the task and trust that it will still get done properly.
- Let’s you visualize any inefficiencies in your system and correct them immediately. This will save you a ton of time in the long run and guarantee that your systems are operating at maximum efficiency.
One thing to internalize is that SOPs should always be followed completely. Be strict about this (especially if you’re delegating), but also allow SOPs to be updated immediately if a better way of completing the task is discovered.
#3 Eliminate, Eliminate, Eliminate
As you’re creating your decision-making road map and SOPs, you’re going to come across systems that are counterproductive. These systems might be taking you further away from your most important long-term goals by actively working against you.
If you notice a system that is producing undesirable results, you must eliminate that system from your life or rework it so that it starts getting positive results.
Here’s an example:
Your morning routine is a system. If your morning routine is to wake up and immediately check your email or social media, then you’re starting your day off with an inefficient system. Your willpower and creativity deplete throughout the day, and doing things like checking email or browsing social media are immediately putting you in a reactive state and draining you of your limited stock of energy.
Be proactive about your day by fixing your morning routine. Wake up and start your list of Most Important Tasks (preferably a list that you created the night before). Don’t get distracted before you start. Go into each day with a clear head and you’ll find yourself accomplishing more in less time than you ever imagined possible.