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Falling to the Level of Your Systems

I just read James Clear’s Atomic Habits, and I found it to be one of the best productivity books I’ve ever read. The book was able to put into words a lot of ideas that I’ve had, but never knew how to verbalize appropriately. Seeing them laid out so clearly in this book was a gift.

Here’s the line that stood out to me the most:

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

Followed closely by:

Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best of making progress.

This past week I wrote about my task management system and this is how I described my method:

I find this frees up space in my brain to not think about what I have to do at any given time, I can just refer to my system and do what it says.

I put everything in my task manager (my system) because it allows me to turn off my brain more often, especially when things get hard. If I ever get frazzled and don’t know what I should be working on, I simply look at my task manager and see what I should do. By taking a little effort in logging what I need to do, I save myself greater effort in figuring out when I ought to do the thing.

We all have systems, whether we document them or not, and hard work/motivation can only take you so far. “Work smarter, not harder,” is a cliche, but it’s also completely true. Don’t rely on yourself always being motivated and having the will power to push through the hard stuff. You can do this sometimes, sure, but it’s not a reliable way to move forward.

If you are struggling to get the things done you want to get done, or you look at your New Year’s resolutions from January and they look like they’re a distant memory, consider what simple systems you could put in place to make these easier to do.

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