Most boring title ever. Seriously unsexy. But let me tell you that having systems for success feels pretty sexy.
Why you ask? Because just like having matching underthings makes you feel like you've got your crap together and you strut a little, so does feeling like you're totally winning your day when you've implemented systems that work.
The Tesla's of our lives
At its magnified level a seriously successful system is a habit, or rather, a series of habits that allows you to arrive at a destination on autopilot. Seriously successful systems are like the Tesla self-driving cars of our lives, but with fewer crashes.
How do they work?
Seriously successful systems are built from the ground up. It takes intentional work to put them in place. It all starts with what I call a fulcrum habit. The fulcrum is the foundation of the mechanics of a machine. A balanced life is comprised of a centered fulcrum. A fulcrum that holds up the entire system. One habit that supports the actions resulting in balance.
Find the fulcrum
This can often be a mundane exercise -- the discovery of the fulcrum that will put your systems in motion. It's work and it's not glamorous but the rewards are immense.
Let's say that you're sick and tired of being overwhelmed by laundry (or is it just me?). With two little ones the laundry stacks up pretty quickly in our house. I am not a fan of huge heaps of laundry and the doing of the laundry once a week tactic. It becomes incredibly time-consuming and then I tend to make excuses and then we live in wrinkled laundry that we've pulled from the clean laundry basket all week. Don't even get me started on the frustration of deciphering the clean basket from the dirty one, it's just all around a terrible idea.
So I've identified that I need a seriously successful laundry system.
I love breaking big things up into smaller things, it makes them feel more manageable. Shorter periods of time spent on laundry is my goal and I get there with fewer loads of laundry. Rather than burning all of our clothes and living in loincloths I'm going to aim for less is more; doing less more often. My fulcrum habit is something I can do daily that gets the job done and doesn't require a herculean effort.
I've adopted a 1 load of laundry per day system. Put laundry in and start washing machine, 2 minutes. Move laundry to dryer, 2 minutes. Fold 1 load of laundry and put away, 10 minutes. What used to take me hours on a weekend now consumes less than 15 minutes per day. Bonus is that some days I don't have a full load of laundry, and that's when we start moving into the awesome territory of fresh sheets and linens on the regular. Ahh, I am winning at laundry now!
Shifting the fulcrum
If I shift my fulcrum -- if I only do laundry every other day (or more) the effort required shifts too and the balance is harder to maintain. It is not "bad" to do this. Sometimes life works that way - you get sick, or a child gets sick, you start a crazy project and the stress requires more rest & recovery - and you have to shift your fulcrum. No problem! Get to work, get it done and shift that fulcrum back to center where it's easier to maintain balance. Don't get stuck, just get to work.
Balance it out
Sometimes it's hard to know where to set your fulcrum habit. This is when discovery is key. Set the habit and see if it feels balanced to you. If you get it on the first try you're pretty much an anomaly. If it takes a bit longer to find your balance and you have to shift a few times; welcome to the human race. Even what worked for us 6 months ago might not work for us now. We change, our situations change and we have to check in with ourselves periodically to see if what we're doing is still working. This doesn't make us deficient, sloppy, or disorganized; it makes us human.
Fulcrums and Small Fry's
Establishing systems is more challenging with children because you must train your offspring to embrace the systems as well. Children thrive on routines, we simply need to teach them the routines that help us thrive too.
I've been my own victim in this department more than I care to admit. I use my children as an excuse for not doing the things I want to do. But if I'm scapegoating my progeny do I really want the thing so badly? Especially when it feels awful to me and they don't know any different.
Think about it, when children are born they don't know how to sleep through the night. We teach them by slowly implementing an environment that supports sleeping in greater and greater blocks of time. We begin stringing together a routine that alerts the child that bedtime is near. We're creating a system for their resting success. Studies show that children sleep best and fall asleep faster when a familiar routine is followed. A systematic series of steps. Children are resilient. It is perfectly reasonable to ask little humans to adapt to the systems of their caretakers. Particularly if it means improved mental health for their meal-peppers, bath-givers, and laundry-doers.
Teaching our tots the art of goal setting, good habit formation, and developing systems is a life skill they need. Don't shy away if there is a bit of resistance - after all, you will probably resist a time or two as well. Tackle it as a team and the entire team will succeed.
Seriously Successful Study
I used laundry as the example here but I encourage you to look at the pain points in your life to determine if there is a need for a fulcrum on which to build a system. These principles can be applied to nearly every aspect of your life and while the hard work lies in building that system, the reward is increased productivity, time, and greater enjoyment in the aspects of life you'd often been too busy to invest in.
Need greater encouragement (or a kick in the pants?)
Check this out: Align your GOALS with your SOULS