[Note: if you’re reading this via email or RSS, you might need to click through to watch the video.]
I was on a call for the Havi’s Kitchen Table yesterday and someone mentioned that systems gave them the hives. I gave a longer discussion about this yesterday, but I’ve been thinking about it for a bit and wanted to share it with you, too.
The basic idea is that people tend to hate systems because the systems they’ve encountered in the past didn’t work for them or they’re displacing their fears, discomfort, and such onto systems because of what systems might mean for them. The latter is especially true for weirdos.
There are probably other reasons, but these are the two that I run into quite often. Enjoy, and I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Yeah, that pretty much sums up my feelings around systems. I *know* they’ll help me do more of what I love to do but I have a big aversion to rules & structure. Slowly overcoming that aversion by making things more fun, but I’ve got a ways to go.
I so agree. If you are not into something to begin with, you will have no passion or interest in it regardless of what it is
“A lot of ideas, a lot of energy, but nothing actually created in the world.”
I gave this a bit of thought and tried to figure out where my resistance to systems originated. What came to mind first was that the systems that were “sold” to me back in the day all seemed like a whole lot of extra work, and drudgery at that. Now I will admit that I haven’t taken a close look at systems in a long time, so I imagine that some new and better ways are out there today.
As I alluded to in my reply to Cath’s guest post, I’ve always shunned structure. The funny thing is, rationally I know I could to better with a good system. Emotionally, I want nothing to do with it though. Wonderful huh?
So I, in turn, have a question. Assuming that most of your premises are true, how would someone best get started in finding a system that works for them?
I turn this over to the readers or Charlie. Charlie, I’m a somewhat new reader. Maybe you have a good blog post somewhere about getting started you can point me to.
Great comment, Mike!
It’s actually fairly difficult to come up with a general system that works for everyone. I can help individuals do it in conversation, but that’s because I can get enough information to make it work.
That said, I’ll reflect on how I do it across clients because there are general patterns. I can think of two paths to creating your own system off the top of my head. Alas that knowing the path is different than knowing the steps, but that’s the fun of my work, no?
One key step on either path is scaffolding. Think about how scaffolding applies in your current context, and I’ll put some thinkin’ time on the matter, too.
Thanks Charlie! I read the link, more on that in a moment. I think that these systems give people trouble in two ways. One, the perception of time, and how much of it we have. Interestingly enough, no matter how much or how little we have to do, we manage to get it done if we have to. But as a whole I think a lot of people feel busy and overwhelmed. I don’t know if this is societal or cultural, but whatever it is, there is a common theme among folks of having too much to do, and adding in a system feels like more work.
I think there is also a component of a system feeling like another task that we don’t want to do, and as pointed out in your article you linked to, things we don’t want to do are hard to get to.
Now in the link, I love this by Dave “The GHDR System is designed to maintain momentum via natural levels of desire, whereas other systems seem to be designed to use either pressure (nagging) or structure (idealize process) to create the necessary motion.” and you follow up with “No productivity system was going to make me enjoy things I didn’t enjoy doing”. This is great stuff and get’s to the heart of the matter. I need to spend more time here going through your past articles and see what might work for me.
Oh and lastly, I’m an advocate for using paper notebooks too. The planning that I do manage to do, gets done on notebooks.
Dorothy Ray says
This post really got me thinking about why a person might object to whatever system he/she finds himself in. I think a person who’s comfortable with himself, who knows his own worth, finds a way to adapt to the group, reserving a portion of himself to go his own way, regardless of peer pressure.
Too, I wonder if people who are now grown to voting age, were encouraged to do their own thing throughout school and possibly at home, to the extent that they learned to believe they deserved powers they hadn’t earned. A little resentment toward “powerful” people would be natural.
Love your blog, Charlie. It offers the opportunity to share a few profound thoughts. Rare treat nowadays.
Sarah Bray says
What makes me nervous about systems is that they always feel like I have to keep them up. They take forever to build, and then if I don’t keep them up, they fall completely apart. Whether it be a house management system, an employee management system, or a personal productivity system, I know that if I mess up in one area of the system, then it will start to break down.
There are systems, though, that don’t break. And maybe that’s what you’re talking about — finding one that doesn’t break for you. Self-perpetuating, magical beanstalk systems that don’t require so much hand-holding. I need to find systems like that.
Wow. Well said, Chris! Your video and the comments are very thought provoking. I am in the same boat as some of the others. I am resistance when it comes to thinking of systems, yet my business is at a place where it really needs systems. Your video and these comments have me pondering that resistance. I think mine comes from feeling boxed in when I think of a system – which probably has more to do with the particular system I was in versus what a good system really does. I liked your comment in the video about how systems are put in place to do just the opposite of that – to help others be even more creative, more productive. That perspective helps me think differently about the systems that need to be put in place for my business. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for the readers’s comments, too! Great post!
Jon Strocel says
The point about systems not helping you do things you actually don’t like doing is very true. Sometimes we expect that Getting Things Done will help us get through those things, when I actually do much better when I give myself an overall reason why I am digging that ditch. Something to aspire to.
Now about the video, using a T-Shirt as your own lower third name graphic is genius. Well played!
Maryam Webster says
Charlie, three words: “Systems for Weirdos”. It all comes down to finding a system that works for you/me/everyone else. I totally agree.
I for instance am nocturnal. Carpe Noctem. And I do. While I do tweet during the day, and though I have automated some aspects of social media, I live-tweet most commonly between 10pm – 2am for example. America doesn’t know, but Europe loves me and I get play in Asia too. There’s a community and a system and a way forward for each of us weirdos, no matter where we are in life, no matter where we choose to engage, no matter where our weird shows up.
Lovely video, it is nice seeing you animated, and I vote “more vids please”. Agree with Jon – t-shirt is genius. Note to self: get @MaryamWebster tshirt!
Linda Gabriel says
I agree with some of the other comments that installing a system can feel like more work right at the time we are feeling overwhelmed. But what I think really gives most people “hives” is that if you fail at using your system, you now have 2 things instead of just one that you’ve failed at. My several unprocessed GTD inboxes are a case in point. I think “shall I work on my inbox or shall I work on my project?” Answer, “I’ll post a comment over at Productive Flourishing!” LOL
Barak Rosenbloom says
Great post, and great questions being raised.
The very word “system” conjures up a very mechanical or engineering feeling. It’s a way of thinking that for many people is fundamentally at odds with how their brains are wired. You get at that when you say people can call it systems, habits, whatever . . .
I’ve been exploring this from a different angle (but one that comes at the same fundamental struggles people have):
How can I live and work in a way that’s most natural for me, and that allows me to thrive in my environment as it is today and as it changes over time?
For myself, what I’m discovering is that on any given day, week or month I may have very different kinds of activities and actions, that call for different ways of thinking about, tracking, and choosing what I do. Whether you call the tools I’m using systems or habits, they are highly adaptable, and quite eccentric by the “normal” standards. But the amazing thing is, when I share the concepts with people who are very different from me, they seem to be able to create tools to play with that work for them, that look nothing like what I use for myself.
So for me the bottom line is this:
–Stop feeling guilty about not being productive, not having a system, not managing your time, etc.
–How does you brain work?
–What’s the environment you live in?
–Play with different tools (ones you borrow and ones you create), and continue to play and explore what works for you
These are the simplified bullet points, obviously, but they are a powerful path to becoming extraordinarily more effective and happier in the long run.
And on another note, I hope you’re enjoying Portland!
Mike Roberts says
Great video and lots of awesome feedback from the readers. For what it’s worth, my 2 cents…
Everybody has a system, they just don’t recognize it as that. Most think a system is some rigid, unbending structure that stifles individuality and kills creativity. By that definition, who would want a system?
Today, nobody should employ a system that limits them in any way, especially creatively. Life moves too dynamically for any type of rigid system.
The system, as Charlie said, must be designed for each individual taking into account exactly where he/she is on their unique journey of life. The system must evolve as a persons limitations and capabilities shift, which is happening constantly. The system must take into account all the moving parts around the individual; environment, people, everything.
I think that we all have the ability to recognize these shifts in ourselves and the world around us to a certain degree. But I find that personally, when I am on the “battlefield of life”, I miss so many things that are usually brought to my attention by a mentor or colleague. I take the observations that strike a chord with me and tweak my “system” as needed.
Linda Gabriel says
“Everybody has a system, they just don’t recognize it as that.” Yes! I’m all for tweaks that improve my already-in-place unrecognized systems instead of trying to “install” something brand new and more of a chore than the project itself. Much less hive inducing.
What I take from this is that a system can only justify itself if it allows people to be something more than themselves and more than the system too. The system is for the people, not the other way around.
And please do more vids! They’re great work!
Saleem Rana says
I guess, I’m not the right audience for your video–because I absolutely love systems, but I was just curious about your topic.
I love reading about systems and tweaking them for my own use.
For example, after studying the Theory of Constraints, which refers to manufacturing; I invented a system for my own use, which I guess could be called Theory of Constraints For Personal & Business Growth.
It has worked fabulously well, and someday I might formalize it and make it into some kind of information product.
But my point is that those who catch on to the value of systems thinking will step into a portal of creative thinking that will open up a whole new world of possibilities.
What I like most about your blog is how clearly, logically, and compassionately you think. In fact, as soon as you release a book by the title, “How To Think Like Charlie,” I’ll be the first one in line to buy it.
Take care. And thank you for the awesome work that you do.