How to Build Systems You Will Love
The sun finally came out on Sunday bringing a welcome warm breeze. I know because I glanced at it longingly from my desk in between furtive bursts of working to catch up on a year’s worth of bookkeeping. I would love to have been outside, but instead, I was at my desk going through my calendar and crunching numbers.
At some point in the afternoon, a little piece of advice I was once given floated into my brain: Systems will set you free.
This great little phrase needs a qualifier, however. It should be: Good systems will set you free. I have a bookkeeping system, it just happens to need improvement.
A good system makes things go more smoothly. It reduces your workload and ensures that things happen as they should when they should. Bad systems can not only leave you at your desk on a sunny spring day but also derail you and hold you back.
Some might say it’s about discipline and doing what you know you should. But I think that’s only a small piece of the puzzle. I think the better approach is to design systems that make more sense for you and your life.
When it comes to online marketing and social media, you can use systems for generating blogs, sending out emails, posting to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other channels, and more. Yes, it takes some time to set up the systems, but compare that to the time you will save in the long run.
As someone who is not a natural system follower, I’ve developed a method to develop systems that I can stick with. I’ve already applied it effectively to several parts of my business, and I’m working on it for others (ie bookkeeping). Here’s my formula:
- What is it that you want to have a system for? While this seems almost too basic to include, it is an important starting point. It forces you to focus and be clear about what you want to build.
- Why do you need the system? Perhaps this is obvious, but thinking about it will help you design the system. Keeping this in mind can also help you stick with it.
- What is your current system? You may feel like you don’t have one, but you do, it’s just not what you want it to be. Ignoring the numbers all year and then doing them all at once is a system, it’s just not efficient.
- Why isn’t it working? Where do things go wrong? This is crucial to being able to improve the system. Is it a time? Is it too complicated? Is it that you don’t like this activity?
- What is working? Even small successes can provide hints about what will work.
- Think through all the steps that need to be taken and figure out if there are programs or apps that can be integrated into the process. Beware, however, that some create more work than they’re worth.
- What can go wrong? Anticipate as best you can where the pitfalls will be and address them ahead of time.
- Write it down. Ideally, you would be able to hand off the system to anyone else and they could follow it. It’s a way to measure how good the system is and maybe someday you will need someone to take over that activity.
- Try it out for awhile and make changes as needed. What works on paper might not work in real life. Don’t give up, as tempting as that might be. Check out #2.
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