Work The System PDF and Summary [Book Short]

Spontaneity is Slavery

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I used to despise people who planned.

I felt they were missing out on life’s beauty by being so regimented in their routines.

I was mistaken.

It wasn’t until I read Work the System that I realized I had it backwards. By planning, you think through the way you want your life to go. After you plan, you have an opportunity to be truly spontaneous instead of having it thrust upon you.

The spontaneity of missing a flight on your honeymoon because you didn’t plan for traffic isn’t a fun experience. Neither is the spontaneity of missing the gym for the 3rd week in a row because you’re “too busy.”

Spontaneity is great, as long as you plan for it.


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Start Thinking in Systems, Not Goals

Every New Year’s Eve, we tell ourselves the same lame story. We set out our yearly resolutions, only to watch them fall flat on their face after a few days.

Why does this happen to us year after year? It’s because we’re thinking in terms of goals and not systems.

You might be asking, what’s a system?

A system is a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done.

Systems are the planned out actions you’re going to perform consistently in order to achieve your goal.

Take the typical new year’s resolution of getting in shape. If thinking that saying to yourself, “I want to get in shape this year” is enough to get you your goal body, you’re screwed. By the time you recover from your hangover on January 1, the gym will be the furthest thing from your mind.

Why does this happen so often? Because we don’t plan and systemize how we’ll get in shape ahead of time.

Get Crystal Clear

First, we need to be crystal clear in defining our goal. Let’s stick with our “getting in shape” example from earlier. First, we need to define what being “in shape” means to us. To some, it means getting a six pack, while to others it means completing an Ironman.

Define your goal in explicit detail.

Here’s my definition of being in shape:

  • Having mobile joints
  • Having full range of motion in my musculature
  • Being at or under 10% body fat
  • Having the strength and endurance to roll in Brazilian jiu-jitsu for two hours comfortably

Sure, I’m not going to be crushing an Ironman, but I can handle most physically demanding things.

Ambiguity leads to failure.

Get crystal clear in defining your goals. Click To Tweet

Second, we need to bound our goal by time. Do you want rock hard abs ready by summer for your trip to Miami, or is it more of a long-term life maintenance play? Knowing our time scale allows us to break our daily actions into reasonable allotments. Based on what your schedule will allow, you’ll need to add activities to give you the most bang for your buck. Maybe you don’t have much time to work out, therefore you’ll need to focus even more on your diet. Maybe you’re going to have to suffer through high-intensity interval training or lifting heavy weights because you don’t have time to run 10 miles a day.

The point is, there are many things you can be doing, so knowing how much time you have allows you to pick the most effective means of attack (remember the 80/20 Rule).

Third, with any proper system, you need a feedback loop so you can course correct. If you were really serious about getting in shape, you’d:

  • Measure your reduction in fat through a DEXA scan or calipers
  • Track each workout in a journal showing your steading increase in reps and weights over time
  • Put yourself through a weekly fitness assessment to see your changes.

What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get done. I’m not advocating you write down every heartbeat or every breath you take. Just figure out which metrics matter to you and write them down.

Your brain shouldn’t be where this information is stored.

Lastly, figure out which mechanisms will keep you consistent. For me, it took awhile to realize that I wasn’t going to the gym because of three factors:

  1. It wasn’t expensive enough to guilt me into go (I hate wasting money)
  2. It wasn’t social
  3. It wasn’t competitive.

After reflecting on my personal drivers, I realized fighting was my calling.

First, I started with boxing but eventually fell in love with a wide range of martial arts including Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Jeet Kune Do, and others. Remember: what drives me may not drive you.

Maybe you’re the type that needs external pressure, like telling all your friends on Facebook that you’ll be going to the gym every day. Guilt is a powerful driving force to make you act. Another is paying a cash penalty every time you fail to hit the gym.

Figure our your drivers, otherwise, risk failing.

Write It Down

Once you’re clear on what you need to do to achieve your goal. Unfortunately, it’s not real until you write it down and document it.

The simple act of writing it down (on paper or computer) is the single most important action that separates doers from failures.

An easy way to do this is by creating a folder on Google Drive called My Life’s Standard Operating Procedures. Inside that folder, create multiple folders based on areas you care about in your life. Some of mine include: Health, Family, Wealth, Social, etc. Inside these folders are documents with systems I’ve outlined and continue to work on.

In the early days, this might seem like more work than it’s worth. It’s not. Eventually, this work will lessen once you find systems that benefit you. The dream is for you to only have to review these documents occasionally when you find a better method that gives you better output.

The most important action that separates doers from failures is writing. Click To Tweet

Just think of all the extra mental capacity you could be using to improve your life once your most critical life functions have been systemized.

Systems = Freedom

Your mind only has so much energy to deal with whatever life throws at you. Not to mention the fluctuations in energy levels caused by hunger, lack of sleep, or exercise.

By having systems in place, you prevent bad decisions from happening due to a lack of willpower.

Also, when you see yourself crushing out these daily system activities, it builds your self-confidence. Each time you check the box for something you set out to do, you show yourself what is possible, plus it feels good. If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up, just get back on the horse the next day.

Remember: inaction leads to fear, which ultimately leads to regret.

If you start implementing a few systems a month throughout all the areas of your life, you’ll start earning back more time for yourself. Think of it as passive time income. You can spend it however you want. Feel free to sit around and do nothing or better yet, use it to work to better improve your systems further or try something off your bucket list.

Inaction leads to fear, which ultimately leads to regret. Click To Tweet

Seth Godin, a brilliant marketer, explained in his Startup Podcast how he systemized himself out of his business so he could focus on what he actually enjoyed doing, writing books and thinking of ways to break his company. This would never have been possible if he was head deep every day with tiny fires the company brought his way. He designed himself out of it with systems.

You can do the same in your own life. It’s up to you.

Actionable Nugget

Document your first system.

What is an area of your life that’s giving you the most headaches? Is it your job, your health, or maybe a lack of social life?

Write down one goal you want to achieve within the next three months. Create a system that, if executed, will achieve that goal. Show it to a friend, get their critique, and start today.

I’d love to check out whatever system you come up with. Send me a tweet with your creation and get on it.

Stay Thought-Full,

If You Enjoyed this Article, Buy The Book

Work The System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less

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