“What gets measured gets managed.” - Peter Drucker
We all need a system to get things done. Like many other things in life, when it comes to exercise, fitness, and training, systems work. What does it mean to have a system? It means that there’s a certain order to what happening. The order, or system, can be complex or it can be very simple. A system might have several levels, all interacting with each other in a complex way. Or a system might be a couple of simple guidelines put together. If you apply various guidelines or rules of thumb, to an organized approach to reaching a goal, then you have a system. Systems thinking is a “slow” way of thinking in the sense that it forces us to slow down and be methodical about planning out what we’re going to do.
In his excellent book, Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman writes about the critical differences between fast and slow thinking. We need to do both. We need good instincts, or fast thinking, because thinking fast often keeps us safe and because we only have so much time to deliberate. We can’t think slow all the time because we’d never get anything done. On the other hand, our society does not value slow thinking like it should and slow thinking determines how our lives turn out. Slow thinking is about settling down and really planning, turning off distractions and focusing. Creating systems requires slow and deliberate reflection. And this is the part we have a hard time doing, because we live in an instant gratification culture. Buy this, hurry here or there, eat this, desire this, consume that, become angry impulsively at this tweet or that post, and the list goes on. Fast thinking is instinctual we are groomed and trained by the culture to think fast.
Slow thinking is hard work at first. But in the end, slow thinking resulting in systems is a kind of shortcut. Once we set up the system, then we can switch to fast thinking. Once a system is in place then all we have to do is follow it, and then periodically slow down and re-evaluate the system. But once a system is in place the work and effort can begin. Another great example is a business. Even though I’m a sole proprietor, I have a system for how I operate. I track leads, lead conversions, marketing channels, revenue, appointments, and many other factors, and I have entire systems for each aspect of running a small business and subsystems under the primary ones.