Just another system

I was having coffee with a good friend the other day when the conversation turned to the concept of using systems in networking. She admitted that she understood how valuable they were, but that she wasn’t really a systems person so she could never seem to get them to stick. That being the case, I can understand why she or anyone would have problems implementing systems in any aspect of their lives.

Our conversation shifted to other things, including our plans for the upcoming holidays. She was having family in from out of town and she started to tell me about all the plans she had in order to prepare for their arrival. She knew what she had to get done each day to create the best holiday experience for her guests.

I had to stop her.

“Wait a minute. You just told me five minutes ago that you aren’t a systems person. Now you’re telling me about this system you have to prepare for guests? Which is it?”

Fortunately she’s a good sport and just laughed, but she agreed that I had a point. We didn’t go into it much further, but I’ve been thinking more about this and I’m starting to wonder what does get in the way of applying a system to any aspect of our lives. Here’s some of the possibilities I came up with.

Systems are stifling. A lot of folks resist setting up systems because they are afraid it will take away from their creativity and spontaneity. I often think it’s the reverse. Systems help us make sure we take care of the things that don’t really need our imagination which opens up time and mind-space for exploring more creative ideas.

Systems are difficult. If a system is complicated or even just doesn’t fit your lifestyle then it will be too difficult to maintain and sooner or later it will drop by the wayside. This doesn’t mean you should give up on systems entirely. If everyone did that, where would the cookbook authors be? Instead, you need to examine the procedures you are using on a regular basis and determine how you will adapt them to fit you. Take, for example, my daily networking log. It has gone through a number of revisions and probably will continue to do so in the future.

It’s too difficult to make it a regular practice. Establishing a good habit (and that’s basically what we’re talking about) can be challenging. A lot of times that’s because we are trying to do too much. Either we are trying to make a habit out of too many small things or we are trying to make a huge change in our behavior. Either way, we are putting a big roadblock in our path because the difficulty of what we are trying to do is being amplified by our attempts to make that thing a regular and permanent part of our life. We’d be better off focusing on making a regular practice out of a single small thing or a small part of a larger overall effort. So, if the system you want to establish is to make twenty phone calls a day to reach out to your network, instead start out making one call a day for a week or two. Then move to two calls and hold there for a while.

I read somewhere that in your first week in establishing a new habit, you should make it as easy as possible. In fact make it so easy that you don’t have any excuse for not doing it. Establishing the practice first is far more important than the specifics of what you are doing.

If you’ve ever followed a recipe, you can adopt a system. If you have any good habits, then you can follow a system regularly. After that it’s just a matter of reaping the rewards.

Photo credit: Brian Kelley