When it comes to personal behaviour and getting your daily activities in harmony with your life goals, it is absolutely critical to have a system in place. Brain researchers claim that between 90-95% of all human behaviour is habitual which means we literally perform these activities without really thinking about them. Without a system to govern your critical activities, you will very likely fall victim to your habits and never truly accomplish the goals you set out to achieve.
As a person who is working on a number of major goals for my lifetime, I am always examining my results and looking for ways to improve the quality of my work and manage the time I choose to allocate to all of my activities. There have been periods of incredible productivity and other times where it seemed that everything was at a stand-still (even though I felt extremely busy). Upon reflection, it is easy to see that the main reason I experienced success during those productive times was due to the presence of a well defined system.
The word system can be defined as “a coordinated body of methods or a scheme or plan of procedure; organizational scheme.” When I think of a system, I think of a list of activities performed in a certain order with a specific result in mind. Ultimately, a properly defined and implemented system is the key to success in any area of life.
Just take a quick look around you and you can begin to appreciate the value of a well defined system. In many cases, the entire system has been automated for optimum performance. If you have any doubts, just think about what happens when you place a phone call, start your computer, turn on your lights, flush your toilet, start your car or even when you eat dinner. Each process is handled by a system that is responsible for producing a certain result. In the same light, I believe it is critically important for every person to have an activity management system for their life; a system that has been designed to help a person reach all of their desired goals and aspirations.
For me, having a system brings clarity to my mind and removes the potential of procrastination. It forces me to focus on what I really want to accomplish and take action accordingly. For example, when I was going through the mental transition from corporate employee to self-employed entrepreneur, there were a number of activities I knew I had to ingrain as part of my behaviour. Before I really understood the concept of systemizing my calendar, I instinctively knew that I had to build a system that would help me create my new habits. For a period of probably 100 days (maybe more), I woke up every morning and opened my activity journal. I would divide the page in half. The right side of the page was a list of six success habits that I had decided to implement in my life; family time, fitness, good deed, personal development studying, business activities and mental fitness (which would include something like meditation, visualization exercises, vision boarding, etc ). The left side of the page would be a growing list of all activities that would pop up throughout the day (for example, returning an important phone call, doing my online banking, filing mail, etc ). I would write every single activity down and check it off upon completion.
As basic as it sounds, that particular system actually changed my life. First and foremost, I would not allow myself to go to bed at night without first crossing off all critical daily activities from the right side of the page. I was literally obligating myself to create new habits. Secondly, I would see the left side of each page completely full of checked-off items. I felt great every time I looked at all of the important activities I had completed and it gave me energy to do it again the next day.
I believe that a good portion of our own self esteem comes from our ability to give ourselves an assignment and complete it. If there was a time I was feeling overwhelmed by my to-do list, I could quickly glance through my journal and remind myself how productive I could be when I put my mind to it. The accumulation of pages in my activity journal ultimately acted as a “success log” and always provided that extra boost of confidence when I needed it most.
After a certain period of time, I’m not sure why but I decided to stop using that system. I went back to a more informal task management system and basically relied on my calendar appointments to keep me on track. The really interesting thing I noticed was that the habits I formed have remained with me for the most part. I have replaced some of those original “success habits” with new habits that fit my current business structure and lifestyle. At the same time, I recently came to the realization that due to my ever-growing list of work demands, my schedule was once again out of control and rather chaotic. I had been spending far too much time on low priority work tasks, my fitness regimen was suffering some setbacks and my overall level of enthusiasm was being affected. After some introspection, it became quite evident that it was time to systemize!
The most difficult part of the entire process was forcing myself to stop, take a breath and examine my results. Once I was able to do this, I could easily see the areas that needed improvement and it was simply a matter of designing a new system that matched my current demands and lifestyle. I’m now back on track, more organized and best of all I’m feeling enthusiastic about my days.
Are you aware of how you spend the time in your day? Could you stand to be more efficient and productive? Perhaps you have broken some of the good habits that used to be part of your daily routine? If so, there has never been a better time to systemize.