Toolkit on creating systems

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In the previous post, I wrote about the benefits of taking regular notes. This article is a direct evidence of one of the benefits. This article is compiled using my notes on the same topic.

In this issue:

  • The way we usually work.
  • What, Why, How of building a system.
  • Tools to aid you develop a system.
a gear box denoting a system of momentum
Source [0]

The way we usually work is by doing things that come our way. We try to finish the urgent tasks first, moving from the most urgent to the least urgent. Working like this tends to make us leave doing things important for our growth – like learning something new in our field. To mitigate this, one could group tasks based on importance and urgency, as described in the Eisenhower Matrix method.

eisenhower matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix [1]

What is a System

A system is a group of interacting or interrelated entities that form a unified whole. [2]

Simply speaking, a system is a group of tasks or habits that move you towards your goals. The things that you do to achieve your goals build a system.

For example, if you want to become a better pianist, then practicing every day for a specific stretch of time, at a fixed location and time is your system (or routine). Routines are what take you closer to your goals. In the first issue, we discussed that consistency is the most significant part of achieving our goals. To be consistent, it is important to focus on the process rather than the end result [3]. To be consistent, it is important to create a system.

Why should one create a system?

1) It is easy.

What do you think is easier — writing one page every day, or writing a novel? Writing a single page every day is way easier and doable. Do the easy thing every day instead of trying to achieve something really tough.

2) You do not have to think about it.

When you have a system, you do not waste your precious mental resources and time to think and decide. You just follow the system that you have created. If you create a routine of walking 5000 steps every day at 7 AM in your jogging shoes, then you do not waste time on other non-necessary stuff.

3) Gives you momentum.

Inertia is the tendency of a physical body to remain in the same position as it is at the moment. If a body is not moving, then it will not move unless you apply a force to it. Similarly, a moving body will keep moving until you stop it.

The same is true for human minds. If we are not working on something, it is tough for us to get started. And once we are in flow, we do not like to stop. The power of systems is that it gets you started and it builds momentum over time. Once you have the momentum, it is easier for you to continue than to abandon it.

4) It builds your habit to achieve goals again and again.

If you set a goal to clean your messy room, you may generate enough willpower once to do that. But what next? Is it going to remain clean forever? If you do not build a system to keep things in place, to clean it regularly, your room is going to get untidy again.

Building systems helps you achieve your goals every time you need them, not just once.

How to create a system

  1. Clarity of thought – Clearly define what you want to achieve in the long term. Become a better music composer? Get fit? Now decide what is the most important thing that you can do that leads you to your goal. If you want to get fit, exercising regularly is a good starting point. If you want to become a better writer, writing regularly leads you there.
  2. Start small – When you are creating a new routine, doing a lot on day 1 is just going to make your brain hate the hard work required to do it. Instead of doing this, start with small steps. A reading habit can be built by reading a page a day. A meditation habit can be built by meditating for 5 minutes every day.
  3. Make an if-then process – Make your brain accustomed to the system by making an if-then decision process. For example, if it is 6 PM and a weekday, then I will go for a run. It makes the decision process easier and removes the roadblocks.
  4. Keep following and improving your system – Your system will need updates as you follow along. Updating it to suit your needs is important so that it continues to be easy for you to continue focusing on the process.

Tools

I use Notion to build my productivity and writing system. August Bradley’s Notion Life Operating System on YouTube [4] is an amazing resource if you want to use Notion as your life operating system.

Routinery is a smartphone application to help you build routines, and stack habits on top of each other.

Footnotes

[0] Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

[1] Source of image https://www.eisenhower.me/eisenhower-matrix/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/System

[3] From the previously mentioned course Learning How to Learn on Coursera.

[4] https://www.youtube.com/user/augustbradley/playlists

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