Five years ago, I landed a sales job for an overseas firm in Asia, which allowed me to travel and work from home.
Completely independent, my first few weeks “at the office” weren’t pretty. My days were made up of distractions, procrastination, and boredom.
The 12-hour time difference meant I had to hold myself accountable for my work, motivation, and success.
After those first few weeks of struggle, I faced a decision. I could coast by and things wouldn’t have worked out for long or make an active change in my life. I decided if I wanted to be successful I’d have to start focusing on the person I wanted to become.
My first step, waking up early. I set a goal to get up at 6 am every morning with the intention to have more time to plan my day, get ahead of priorities and work productively.
But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do it consistently. Every morning was a roll of the dice whether I’d be able to will myself out of my bed and avoid slumping onto the couch.
At first, setting my goal to wake up at 6 am was a clear failure.
It wasn’t until I began creating a system around getting up early that I was able to reach my goal. Now, I regularly get up just past 5 am to go to the gym, read, and start my morning routine.
Where do goals fail you?
Specific goals set a crystal clear destination on what you want to achieve. Providing opportunities for self-growth by overcoming challenges and inspiring success.
You can reverse engineer someone else’s success to determine the steps you need to take and apply it to your goal.
But often we use goal setting as a means to an end. By setting goals, but then not taking the necessary steps to achieve them. It’s difficult to realize your goals without the right system.
Have you ever set a goal and as the deadline approached was no further ahead from the day you started?
I faced the same difficulties when trying to get up at 6 am.
I set a specific goal: Get up at 6 am every day of the week.
I set a deadline: Consistently wake up for one month to begin forming a habit.
I set my intention: Set my alarm for 6 am and wake up!
However, without the right system – it was impossible to reach my goal.
Trying to get up at 6 am on sheer willpower or motivation wasn’t sustainable. What I needed was a system to follow.
Why systems are reliable
Goals are only as good as the action you take on them. While systems resemble checklists, outlining the steps to proceed with. These pre-decisions limit the mental struggle of figuring out what to do next.
Systems make hard things you’re capable of doing easier, by reducing the friction.
That’s why it’s easier to apply systems than goals when motivation and willpower are low. By depending on a system to take action no matter what state you’re in at any given moment.
Here is the system I created around getting up at 6 am:
- Set my alarm away from my bed
- Commit to sitting at the end of my bed, eyes open for 5 minutes
- Develop an evening routine to fall asleep faster
Although my wife will remind me that the first week I would jump out of bed to turn off the alarm, waking her up in the process, I got better with time.
The 5 minutes on the edge of my bed provided me with the flexibility to go back to bed if I didn’t sleep well. Lastly, developing a bedtime routine had a significant impact on falling asleep quicker.
And still, to this day I resort back to this system even though waking up early has become a habit.
It’s a common misconception that habits or structures are restricting. Developing systems in your life will provide you with more freedom because they are efficient and effective uses of your time.
Develop systems in your life to:
- Make it easy when motivation is low
- Save willpower and energy to be used elsewhere
- Create automatic processes by developing habits
Using your time and energy optimally by creating systems to realize your goals.
How to realize your goals with systems
We’ve seen the consequences of setting goals without taking action and have highlighted the benefits of creating systems. But how can you use each to help achieve your goals?
You need to apply both to function optimally. A specific goal doesn’t generate progress and a system without a clear destination will lead you astray.
Although a clear vision with a good system will help you realize your goals.
The right system around a specific goal can be a recipe for success for any goal within your reach. This week, experiment with setting a goal and creating a system around acheiving it.
Here are some suggestions:
- Get up 20 minutes earlier
- Get to bed on time
- Set aside focused sessions without distraction each day (email and phone off)
- Get 20 minutes of exercise 3 times this week
- Meditate for 5 minutes in the morning
- Limit your TV time to 1 hour a night
Whatever you choose, use the steps below in setting your goal and creating a system in achieving it.
Here is a simplified example of how I achieved my goal to get up at 6 am every day.
1. Set specific and well-defined goals
I will wake up at 6 am every day of the week to go to the gym or read
2. Work backward to determine the steps required to realize your goals
I need to be in bed by 11 pm, get a minimum of 7 hours sleep, and be up at 6 am.
3. Create systems that will fulfill each step
Get to bed by 11 pm
- Set the alarm at 10:15 to get ready for bed
- Block screen time 30 minutes before bed
- Read a book to help fall asleep
Wake up at 6 am
- Place the alarm away from the bed
- Stay awake for 5 minutes, eyes open
- Set intention on my next action (read, stretch, work out)
How might you be able to use the steps described to overcome a challenge you’re facing?
Remember, the process of achieving your goals counts more than the goals you set. And systems create the process to achieve the results you desire.