A strategy says this is the approach I want to take to get to an objective.
A plan says these are the tactics I am going to use to reach the goals of the objective.
A system can support both strategies and plans.
Goals can be a major distraction, especially when you are starting something new.
Instead focus on objectives and put a system in place. Worry less about the output, and instead focus on the input. This is the best way to start a new project. When you put a system in place to increase input, you will naturally find yourself with output.
I was introduced to the concept of systems over goals a few years ago when I read a piece by Scott Adams. He had started writing a blog and his wife asked him what his goal was, he didn’t have one. The goal was to write. It eventually lead to writing a book, but setting that goal at the time would have been so daunting. Had he turned to goals Scott Adams would have probably become caught up in something like making his blog profitable and could have taken a path that never allowed him to write his book.
I recently made a significant change in my life, stepping away from a business I had built then sold. It left me feeling a bit lost, not sure what to do next. I knew I wanted to do “something” but couldn’t see the endpoint. I had no real goal. I fixated on this for awhile and became very anxious that I had no plan, no daily tactics to get to the next step… whatever that was. Then I remembered the piece from Scott Adams. I needed to forget about a goal and just focus on putting a new system in place.
After spending some time on a recent Saturday morning reading, jotting down notes about various articles, and shooting a couple over to several friends, it hit me — a curated newsletter. I could take something I already do and wrap it into a system. I was trying so hard to create a new flow in my life instead of embracing what I was already doing. Ideally a curated newsletter leads to building an audience, but using this method I am placing my energy and emphasis on the input, not the output. There is no goal to reach X subscribers in X time, it is simply a system to send information once a week.
Why do goals causes such paralysis? Because goals are arbitrary. You can say you want to lose 10 pounds, but what you really want to do is adjust your portion control, or implement clean eating.
If you run 3–5 days a week for 20 minutes a day. Your health will improve and it will prep you for a race despite not having one on the calendar yet.
Spend time coding 1 hour a day you will increase your coding skills. You are not coding to build any one thing at this point, but in the end, you will have built something.
I don’t think most of us intentionally decide to stop trying new things or quit challenging ourselves. But I do think it is easy to let life get in the way. Starting is almost always the hardest part, and we counter that by over planning. Assuming the answer is a specific prescription for every step of the way. And yes, there may be a point where you do need something more guided. But these plans can become the anti-starter.
Let’s forget about your goals, think about your objective. What system can you put in place tomorrow that supports a “project” you have wanted to start? Below are four quick steps you can take to establish a new system in your life.
Choose an Objective:
Get out a piece of paper and think about areas you want to improve in. What do you need to get better at or continue improving in this area? Think about a general end state. Now what objective would best support that end state? “I will write every day”, “I will take a coding class”, “I will start jogging 20 minutes daily and increase my time weekly”.
Create a Framework:
The framework is places some anchors in your day to allow you to implement this system. Baseball teams practice every week, this is a system to their success.
Lay out a time of day you are going to focus solely on this task. Schedule it on your calendar. Get support from your family or partner if needed. If you don’t put this structure in place, the rest of your system will fail.
Establish A Method:
Now that you have a framework, you need to put together a process to support it. What repetitive habit can you include in your day to reach the objective? You have blocked out the time, not what do you do with it?
Each time you activate their system you should go through a process, this helps develop a beginning, middle, and end to your process. Maybe you start with 5 minutes of writing prompts to get in the right mindset. Or perhaps you spend time reviewing your last piece of code to refresh your mind. You can end your process with something like jotting down lessons learned, or additional topics you would like to explore.
Let’s say I write every day for an hour. I have not set the goal to write 2 medium articles a week, but after writing each day I certainly can pull something from that and turn them into articles.
Apply your numbers to the system not to the end state. Instead of saying you are going to write 3 chapters a month in your book, decide you are going to write 2000 words a day, or apply 60 minutes a day to writing.