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Repetition is what determines the success of our systems and habits

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Repetition is what determines the success of our systems and habits

Scott Miker

One the key factors when trying to change habits or improve your habits is repetition.  The patterned repetition in our lives is what forms our habits.  The more we do something the more likely it will stick.

But repetition is too often overlooked in our lives until there is a problem.  We continue to make poor choices until the accumulation becomes overwhelming and we are left with a major problem. 

Chipotle is going through that problem right now.  Last month they closed 43 restaurants because health authorities linked E. coli to restaurants in the region. 

This week they received negative attention because one of the locations was the cause of illness for 80 students.  In a Washington Post article an expert addressed Chipotle.  The article states, “‘the red flags are repetitive failures,’ said Arun Lakshmanan, a marketing professor at the University at Buffalo’s School of Management.  ‘When there is repetition, that’s what really damages credibility.  It’s a risky position for Chipotle to be in now.’”

The problem at Chipotle isn’t a one-time mistake.  It is a patterned mistake.  In order to overcome this they will need to understand and address the problem systematically, not by simply addressing this one instance.  To show how bad this problem is, I overheard coworkers discussing lunch options yesterday and when someone mentioned Chipotle someone else responded “eww, unless you want to get E. coli I wouldn’t eat there.”    

But we all fall into this pattern.  We put off things in our lives until there is a problem.  We procrastinate and wait to hope that the problem goes away.  But inside we know that the only way the problem is going to be corrected is if we evaluate the system and change our habits. 

Wednesday night the show The Middle was on and highlighted this in a comical manner.  Frankie, the mother in the family, found out that the computer crashed and deleted all of their family photos.  She was upset because she never backed them up.

She mentioned that the notification would pop up that said she should back up her files but she continued to ignore it.  She even talked about her bad systems and how she has been meaning to address them.  The funniest part for me was when she mentioned the cloud.  She asked, “Do we have a cloud?”  hoping that someone this problem was previously solved for her. 

Today it is simple to have automatic backups or create a manual system of backing up files periodically.  But I would bet that most of us (myself included) do not have great systems for file management.

We do this, not because we don’t understand the importance, but because we haven’t created good habits in this area.  It isn’t that we are lazy or don’t have the capability, it is simply because we haven’t bothered to fix a repetitive problem. 

Most of our lives are just a series of habits with some randomness thrown in.  While we all point to the randomness as the reasons our lives are where they are the truth is that the habitual part is much more of a driving factor than the randomness.  Because we have little control over the randomness in our lives, the way to truly improve is to focus on the repetition in our lives and create better systems and habits to reach our goals.  Doing this will leave us moving forward and poised to take advantages of the opportunities and deal with the tragedies.