Creating Systems, not just setting Goals

Do you ever get in a rut and not prioritize the important things because you’re too busy running around working and doing the lower priority life things?

Do you ever think you just need to slow down to sort it out and re-jig your life to give more time to the high priority things?

Do you ever wish there was more time in the day?

In case it is not obvious, I’m saying YES TO ALL OF THESE QUESTIONS.

Every year, I have these grandiose plans. A big list of resolutions for the New Year which I diligently document (and save…I have New Year goals written down since the early 2000s).  I even started documenting these on my blog – here are my goals for 2020.

The thing is, I am really great at DOCUMENTING my goals and plans for the New Year.

What I fail to do each year is create and follow a plan to ACCOMPLISH the goals. Generally the goals are forgotten about around Mid-March. Sure, once in a while I actually accomplish one of the goals, possibly a year or 2 after I set it, but it’s usually by accident, or because it’s something I REALLLLLLLLLLLY want. Like a big trip somewhere cool.

2020 Goals in Review

To illustrate my point and also make myself feel bad, let’s look at my 2020 goals and how many I actually achieved.

2020 Goal Achieved? Notes
Afford Anything One Tweak a Week Challenge No Gave up around week 6.
A Great Canadian Running/Walking Challenge No I stopped logging my kms sometime in February. Major fail.
Do another “no junk internet” challenge No Didn’t happen.
Being a better parent to M No If this is a goal for next year, I need some measurement criteria.
Taking care of my aging bod. You only get one of these. No My bod is in worse shape than it was at the beginning of 2020. BOOURNS
Reducing my eco-footprint/advocating for the planet No I suppose I took fewer airline flights and drove a lot less…
SPAR Challenge 1 – 90 days to an organized home Partially I did a significant amount of this challenge, probably around 60 days worth. So, all in all not a total loss but I didn’t finish it.
Creation and action towards a much more solid FIRE plan Partially KIND of. I confirmed that I can retire completely at 55 if I bump up my savings rate to a specific amount ASAP. Need to document the info and increase savings rate.
Eating healthy, more whole foods Partially Maybe did this for 3 months of 12.
Organizing my home Partially It’s slightly better than it was in January. Decluttered a fair bit.
Spending more time with family & friends Partially I blame COVID for this one. I had the most virtual drinks sessions with family & friends that I ever thought I would. Does that count?
SPAR Challenge 2 – 5000 steps a day Yes ACHIEVED! Mind you it was only 2weeks long.
Challenge myself to make an extra $1000 Yes 🙂

Of my 13 goals, I fully achieved 8%, Partially achieved 38%, and did not achieve 46%.

So, what is the answer to this problem?

Stop setting annual goals? Come up with a follow-through method that is more solid than just writing the goals down and forgetting about them completely?

I’m tempted to do the former, however if left to my own devices, I think I’d get literally nothing done. That said, I’m not getting much done anyway so…

Systems vs Goals

I *think* I want to try setting up SYSTEMS  vs just goals. The idea of building “systems” comes from the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. Here is a really good explanation of why he suggests creating systems rather than just setting goals. Ultimately a goal is a one-time deal. Once you reach the goal, it’s over. Unless you set a new goal. With a system, it just runs all the time, eventually allowing your goals to be achieved with it’s very existence. Perhaps the system will require tweaks along the way to improve it’s outputs, which is fine and expected.

The Plan

For the new year, I’d like to try setting up only ONE system that is tied to ONE specific goal for the year. ALL effort goes into getting that system up and running. I post the details all over the house/in my calendar/at work/in the car/on the blog, so it’s TOP OF MIND. Theoretically this will increase my chances of accomplishing something I want to get done. Then there just might be a chance I could finish it before the year is out, and begin setting up a new system that leads to another goal being accomplished.

If I were to set up a single system and achieve one goal because of it, I will have achieved 100% of my 2021 goals! 😀 Math is clearly my strong suit.

The longer I think about the “One system, one goal” idea, the more I like it. The tricky part is, some of these systems can’t be ignored in favour of other systems. For example, I can’t ignore my aging bod while trying to become a better parent. Therefore I think what I have to do is create a system that forces me to maintain the bod before I take action on the parenting thing, or vice versa. Once one system is up and running, ensure that time is blocked for it each day so that the next system can be built.

I am very interested to know how you keep on top of your systems and life goals. Do you have to think about it this much? How do you maintain momentem over the long haul? TELL ME YOUR SECRETS.



2 Replies to “Creating Systems, not just setting Goals”

  1. No secrets here…I have been meaning to read that book for some time now. I think there’s only 74 days left on the library wait list!! I think I’m really bad at setting goals. I mean I have intention, and when there’s something to accomplish, it happens. Maybe I don’t challenge myself enough, or hold myself accountable enough. I find that I’m motivated enough to maintain progress, while setting goals feels like I am forcing something. So maybe I already have systems in place, but never really considered them to be defined. Ok, goal for 2021…figure out my existing systems!! LOL

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