Yes, You Have A System

Talk about workflows and productivity long enough and you eventually find yourself listening to those who say that they either do not have or do not need a system. It’s a subject we touched on when Matt Alexander joined us for an episode of Mikes on Mics and it came up again on this week’s Systematic podcast with Myke Hurley (et tu, Myke?). Frequently as I hear one version of this or another, I’m not sure the assertions jive with reality.

The truth is that everyone has a way that they go about their work. Most just aren’t aware of it or don’t care about it. 

Now you’re probably expecting me to put up some fight about how this is a problem. And since we all have a system we should all be thinking about how to make our own better. Not so. There are many who don’t need to think about this at all. Their natural aptitude is either sufficient (as is the case with both Myke and Matt) or their ambitions aren’t all that lofty and they don’t require it. I envy the former and question the latter, but – much as I may envy them both – there’s nothing wrong with either one. If what you’re doing is working for you, if you’re able to achieve all that you set your mind to (ambitious or otherwise), you’d likely be wasting your time trying to figure out how to do even more.

You’re Making The Wrong Assertion

Framing the conversation as do you or don’t you have or need a system is the wrong way to look at things. It’s not an issue of the existence of the system, it’s a question of its effectiveness.

If you’re yet to really consider your system, don’t ask yourself if you need one. Don’t start by asking yourself something along the lines of “do I need to read Getting Things Done?” Instead, start by asking this: is how I’m working, working? If the answer is yes, great! Get back to work. If not, don’t worry, but start looking to understand the system you’re pretending not to use and then start figure out how to make it better.

You may not want to acknowledge or address your system (or as is the case with Myke and Matt, you may not need to), but this has nothing to do with its existence (for further proof, take a look at every bad habit you’ve been ignoring). If you start off by questioning if you need a system, you’re ignoring the fact that you already have one. 

Does This Even Matter? 

It’s easy to write this off as a semantic argument, but there’s a risk that comes along with pretending you don’t already have system. If and when you finally decide to improve the way you work, you’ll end up building upon a broken foundation. And when you start with a bad foundation, the “system” you choose will often do very little to actually improve your potential.

Do or do you not need a system is the wrong question, so stop asking it. Instead, consider the only thing that matters, is it or isn’t it working? If it is, why on earth are you still reading this? If it isn’t, there are plenty of sites, books, tips, tactics, apps and methodologies that can help you understand and improve that system you’ve been ignoring for far too long (this site is hopefully one of them, so be sure to subscribe for free by email or RSS).

You have a system. Just make sure you’re happy with it and then go make something amazing with it.

  • http://twitter.com/fwade Francis Wade

    Completely agree! Almost.

    The only point of disagreement I have is with the notion that “there are plenty of sites… that can help you understand that system you’ve been ignoring for far too long. There are lots of people giving advice, but only a few make the point of helping people gain that extra understanding about their current system that can make all the difference in the world.

    Imagine going on a diet without hopping on a scale? That’s what most sites encourage people to do by focusing on the latest tip, rather than on an additional insight into what they are doing.

    I wish there were lots more authors, like you, that started at this point – but experience tells me that they are few and far between!

  • http://twitter.com/fwade Francis Wade