On a recent trip home my family had a conversation about grocery lists and shopping. One of us kept a handwritten list on the kitchen table, another highlighted a standard printed list and another (me) uses OneNote on my phone. Which one is best? It doesn’t matter, each method worked for each of us. We had the right groceries on hand to satisfy our meal plans and appetites.
This is just a simple example of “personal systems”…those structures and procedures that help us live and work effectively. Here are some more examples:
- An electronic to-do list and calendar in Microsoft Outlook removes the need to remember everything. Each day is planned in advance.
- Car oil changes are scheduled every 4000 miles. When the odometer approaches 20,000, 24,000, etc. it’s time to schedule it.
- Written agendas are prepared for important meetings. Objectives are clear and easily communicated.
- Automatic bill payments are setup on-line avoiding late payments.
Personal systems are a good way of forming and maintaining habits. They provide rhythm, flow and structure. Rhythm (or routine or ritual) keeps me at high energy and low stress. Structure keeps my mind focused on the bigger things. Structure could be as simple as a checklist and as complex an organization design change at work.
Personal systems need to be simple AND effective. They should streamline your life. It could be a smartphone app, a piece of paper on your desk or anything in between. What personal systems do you use?