Rory Vaden is one of my favorite authors. I heard him speak a few years ago at a convention and have referenced his work many times. His first book, Take the Stairs, is a great book that shows that we can be more self disciplined by making better choices and being willing to do the work that most people don’t want to do.
In his second book, Procrastinate on Purpose, he goes a little further into the system and habit development aspects of behavior. At one point Rory is talking about the various processes of his business and says, “But now, looking back, we developed clarity around a critical lesson: Anything you create a process for today saves you time tomorrow.”
The best thing about systems and habits work, whether in business or in our personal lives, is that it starts to solidify the behaviors that we designate as the best process for reaching a goal. Instead of constantly feeling stuck and having to try different techniques over and over again, systems and habits work allows us to find those behaviors that work and systematize them.
At one point Rory states, “The magic was happening and we were beginning to feel a tremendous lift in our business by having all our systems working in harmony. Similar to compounding interest, it was as though we had amassed a whole new team that was working twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, making sure that nothing was missed.”
In my personal life I have found the same thing. When I first started going after personal goals systematically, it didn’t seem much different than any other time I attempted to reach a goal. But over time I noticed that certain new positive behaviors started to stick. Five or six months would go by and I was still incorporating the changes that I set out to make.
This was very unusual for me at the time. Usually my new improvement motivation would last for a few weeks and then fade away. I would notice after a few months that I just slowly stopped doing whatever it was I was using to try and reach my goals.
The systems and habits approach allowed me to keep going with some easy, simple methods of reaching my goal and then automate them. It seemed there was an autopilot mode that I never even used. It felt like there was a cruise control button that, once I discovered it, seemed to be so obvious.
The cruise control button or autopilot would make it easier for me to do the work necessary to reach a goal. I then started to take these principles and apply them throughout my life. I would use them to improve my eating, develop an exercise routine, create and stick to a budget, earn a masters degree, quit smoking, pay off debt, improve relationships, grow my ability to speak in public etc.
The best part is that I could take other people’s systems and implement them in my own life. I could join Toastmasters to improve my speaking rather than try to figure it out on my own. I could read a book like Lean Habits by Georgie Fear to develop better eating habits. I could implement Dave Ramsey’s financial systems instead of trying to create my own. I could enroll in a MBA program that detailed the classes I would need to take and in what order.
I started to realize that I wasn’t solving problems as they arose and then having that same problem resurface again and again, each time trying to figure out how to solve it. I could adopt a new system, process, routine, habit, etc., which would make sure the problem was solved before it actually occurred. It changed my focus from being strictly reactive to problems to being proactive on how I can improve.
This learning also coincided with several business experiences for me. I previously started an audio engineering business, which I owned for about eight and half years. I knew about business systems and would implement them but it was a one-person business so I didn’t get as deep into systems and I thought I was.
Then a family member decided to purchase a fitness franchise and asked me to run it. I was amazed to see the example of a franchise business that took the systems approach to solving problems. It couldn’t just solve a problem once after it happened; it had to develop systems that solve problems regardless of which business location had them. This led to a completely different perspective and helped me to better understand business systems.
In Emyth, author Michael Gerber explains how a small business can grow and improve by thinking more like a franchise business and relying on systems instead of individual efforts. By starting a business and then starting a franchise business I was able to live through that example and it really helped solidify the importance of the proper business systems in order to succeed in business.
But over time I have realized that the same principles apply to our personal goals and ambitions as well. We can take the same systems perspective and apply them to our habits and daily routines to reach goals that we have struggled with previously. This unlocks an ability to see a destination and develop an accurate roadmap to help get there.