Habits and Systems
In the productivity world, building habits is law. Look up ways to be more productive, and I guarantee 8 out of 10 responses will involve ‘building habits that stick.’ But ‘just’ thinking about the habits you want to build isn’t everything. Sure, building a habit can lead to great things. I’ve built a habit to write every day, study every day, to journal every day, and drink coffee every day. Habits in themselves can be useful. But what is more useful are the feelings and intentions behind those habits. If you’re setting a habit to meet a goal, forget the goal, and focus on the system. Systems are what get you to where you want to be. A habit is to journal every day or write every day. The system is use your notes to write a publishable article. They’re different but meld together seamlessly.
Intent Behind Habits
Habits are easier to break than you think. Want to build a habit to write 1,000 words a day? If you’re just writing for writing’s sake, it might be hard to keep that rhythm, and it would be easy to make up reasons and excuses to not write that day. To more successfully build a habit that will stick, you should keep in mind the intention and the payoff of said habit. Keeping those intentions in mind will keep you on track when you think of breaking the routine. It’s important as well to set yourself up for success. Let’s take my example of writing as a habit; to encourage yourself to write more, set up an area that you WANT to write in. For me, I purchased a mechanical keyboard (link here: Keychron K2 Wireless Mechanical Keyboard for Mac and Windows and why that matters here: The Case For Mechanical Keyboards – Every Day Tech (every-day-tech.com) ) and revamped my desk set up to make it cleaner, neater, and more palatable to work on. Now, I can’t wait to get up in the morning and sit at my desk with a cup of coffee and write my journal for the day, or to return to my desk throughout the day to write down notes and ideas that sprang to mind randomly.
The culmination of the habits and the intentions behind them aren’t there to get you to your goals. Goals are the wrong mindset. Think of goals as short term markers in progress. We want to set systems. Ultimately, you don’t want to just build habits, you want to build systems. Systems are really what get you to where you want to be. James Clear puts it this way; in sports, the goal is to get the highest score. If you keep your mind on the goal, you’re only looking at the scoreboard, and you’ll lose the game. If you focus on the playing and forget the goal itself, suddenly, the score becomes higher because you weren’t focusing on the score. Basically, ignore the goal, and set systems that work. Part of my system for writing each day? I use Notion on my phone to jot down any spare thought that might turn into something I can write about. I journal every day in the morning and at the end of the day. My system keeps me writing so I can continually and incrementally get better at writing.
The gist of it all, set goals but don’t stop once you meet them. Let the goals keep growing, and build systems that keep you meeting those goals. Everyone wants to be successful, everyone’s goals are the same, but not everyone has systems that keep them successful.
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POP QUIZ! How many times did I write the word habit in this post?