Why Setting Systems (Not Goals) is the Key to Being Productive

Aug 27, 2021 | General

Writing large, ambiguous goals down and then forgetting about them isn’t usually conducive to real change. Luckily, there’s a simple solution to this which involves turning your goals into systems.

As opposed to goals, systems are small sequential actions that become part of your daily or weekly routine and help you work towards your intentions, whether that be to spend more time with family, achieve certain KPIs at work, or stop procrastinating.

Here is why setting systems, not goals, is the answer to accomplishing anything you wish.

Goals have an end date, systems are forever

Even if you do achieve the goal that you set for yourself, for example running 5 kilometres, then what next?

Goals don’t encourage ongoing action as once you’ve achieved whatever you wanted to achieve, the motivation to keep going tends to diminish. Think celebrating losing 10 kilos by eating a burger and ice-cream for dinner.

What starts off as letting ourselves go for a day as a reward can easily turn into weeks, months or even years of neglect.

You would think that as humans we’d be smart enough not to let all of the hard work go to waste, but sometimes our willpower just isn’t that strong and our minds are experts at making excuses for us.

On the other hand, systems don’t provide a one-off sense of accomplishment and so the desire to let go isn’t there.


Succeed every day

Having one or multiple big goals in mind that you hope to achieve one day doesn’t exactly keep the hope alive.

It can be easy to lose enthusiasm when it feels like you’re just never going to get there because you’re consistently not where you want to be.

On the other hand, systems allow you to get a daily sense of success and accomplishment through achieving small daily activities. 


Save the mental energy

The amount time and energy spent on trying to work out how to overcome your goal day after day can be draining.

Setting up systems means that you don’t even have to think about what you should or shouldn’t be doing, it’s just a natural part of your routine.

This means that there’s no need for constant self-discipline or gathering motivation to do things, saving you lots of mental energy.

There’s just no point in doing yoga, a strength exercise class, and going for a run one day, and then not doing anything else for the following week because you’ve exhausted your self-discipline.

It’s about creating small, realistic habits that you can keep up everyday and which don’t take too much effort.


Systems are limitless

A lot of people have the tendency to underestimate themselves and their abilities. Often when we set goals for ourselves, they don’t actually reflect our true potential.

This can also mean that an illusion is created where once you reach your goal, you’ve also reached your limit on how much you can do.

Setting systems instead means that you can actually end up surpassing your original target without even trying.

There’s no better feeling than reaching a target that in the past you never would have dreamed you could.



Find control through flexibility

How often do things get in the way of what you want? It can sometimes seem like as soon as you set a goal, something that’s out of your control gets in your way.

Life is always going to throw these annoying curve balls, and it can be tempting to throw your hands up and forget about whatever it is you set out to do.

Systems give you more flexibility to play around and make small adjustments so as to fit into your life better. This way, no matter where you are or what’s going on, you can adjust and keep going.

Author – Madeleine Goodman

With a background in Sales and Psychology, Maddy combines her knowledge & love of words to bring us all of the things we need to know on how to survive modern day working life. She currently works as the in-house writer at deskPlex.

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