I’m in love with systems. They make things run smoothly that otherwise would bog down or not go off at all. And what I love most of all is the way they save us when we’re not inherently good at something. That’s when we need a system most – when we appear to be failing at something that we value or at least really want or need to value. Say, for instance, living according to a budget.
That would be me. I need a budgeting system because:
- I like to spend money quite a lot, but
- I’m not inherently interested in or good with it. In fact, other than spending money, I find it hideously boring.
On the other hand, I’m pretty darn good at devising food systems because I find food fantastically interesting and delicious. I like to think about it, cook it, plan it, invent dishes out of it, enjoy it, foist it on others…the whole shebang.
However, loving food comes with an inherent risk — loving too much of it. Case in point, a food I especially love is ice cream and could eat by the bucket, so I clearly need a management system. Mine is a simple one. I have a little ramekin, probably a generous half cup in capacity, which I pack right to the very edge, flipping over to the flat side of the ice cream scoop to smash it all down to ensure no air pockets try to cheat me. Then I take the ramekins to the couch where my partner and I eat them very differently. He inhales his in about 5 seconds then listens to my spoon scooping up dainty little delicious bites for a good 5 or more minutes. He never learns.
However, he’s all over money and luckily for me the money system is that he manages mine. This time he’s the one doling the good stuff out into little ramekin-like buckets, every paycheck parceling a set number of dollars into various accounts for vacation, gifts, maintenance, etc. And he’s the one in the computer room doing the online banking, shouting out to me in the living room where I’m reading that it’s time for me to cool it on the Amazon orders since I inhaled my spending bucket in about 5 seconds.
We’ve all got our situations. My situation happens to be I’m no money genius. But I am an ice cream genius with a solid system and, systems mindset bonus, noticing how well ramekins keep me contained helped me stumble upon the only money system that has ever worked for me. Without my money buckets I would be a money flunk out. The beautiful thing is there is a system for every situation.
What’s more, systems are inherently superior to willpower, removing willpower from the equation. They carry you. They save you. If “we” are failing at something, I firmly believe it’s not us. It’s our faulty system. We just have to do the analysis to find the weak point, the fault line, and experiment with another approach until we find the one that does the job.
And here’s the other beautiful thing: a systems approach turns us into failure scientists.
Note: This is a wellness tip from “The Wellness Tip – O’ – The – Month Club,” one of the employee wellness programs I run at work, standing in for my usual Friday Organization Project post while I spend a little more time on an upcoming story.