To build better habits, aim to improve your system, not yourself

Want to change yourself? Start with a better system —its the foundation for making consistent progress in many endeavors.

System improvement is superior to self-improvement. When the tools for making a change are effective and reliable, you can consistently rely on it to make a significant improvement. So instead of “trying your hardest” to change yourself, you can design a system that makes it much easier to take action.

A system is a set of steps you take consistently to increases your odds of success regardless of the immediate outcome. A working system allows you to reduce your tasks and actions to a manageable set of inputs and outputs, and establish some predictability.

“A system is something you do on a regular basis that achieves your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system,” says Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip, and author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big”.

A collection of goals, tools, habits, and methods is not the same as a purposeful system. Guardian’s Oliver Burkman, explains, “Drawing one cartoon a day is a system; so is resolving to take some kind of exercise daily — rather than setting a goal, like being able to run a marathon in four hours.”

Committing to a process makes a huge difference

If you have chosen what you want to achieve this year, create systems to get them done. A working system provides you with inner guidance and helps you build a habit that sticks.

“If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week. If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million-dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process,” writes James Clear, entrepreneur, and author of Atomic Habits.

A system makes your goal attainable. It’s concrete. It gets you moving. To become a better writer, I have created a system that helps me write at least four articles every week —Instead of simply making a to-do list for the day, I’ve blocked off two hours every morning for writing.

I simply write without interruptions. I have followed this system for months, and the results have been amazing. You can create a personal system for almost anything to want to adopt or improve.

Writing a book in 6 months is a great goal but you need structure/system that will make it easier to achieve it. The messy middle delivers the results you want.

Many writers commit to a few hundred words a day. They commit to a schedule that works for them. When you commit to a system, you are far more likely to stick to it. Systems are about the long-term process rather than a short-term result.

You can replace your revenue goal for your business with spending 20 minutes per day on marketing or sales. You can replace the goal of losing weight with a 15-minute morning exercise.

What system can you start this week?

Systems reduce decision fatigue — instead of thinking about actions to take, you use the same model to make continuous improvement every day.

Highly successful people achieved their success by consistently applying a system that works for them.

When a productive or effective person finds something that works, they stay with it and keep repeating and refining the process — success comes down to applying a precise, detailed system that keeps improving.

When you find the most efficient way to accomplish something, everything changes — you move quicker and do more in less time.

Even when you find a workable system for yourself, look for ways to improve it — experiment and tinker. This allows you to figure out the best methods to complete your tasks and goals.

The best thing about having systems in place is that you can trust them.

How are you building better habits today? To improve or design a system that works for you, write down, in detail, how you’re currently doing things, the good, the bad and the ugly.

How do you work, exercise, journal, or read? What’s working and what isn’t? Force yourself to be specific about exactly what’s getting you closer to your goals and everything else that is a waste of time.

This helps you identify what you need to improve.

If you want to read more books this year, you can start a reading habit 30 minutes before bed and start with a few pages every night. If screentime at night is a problem, modify your environment to support the new habit you want to adopt. Reading more books isn’t hard. But it does require making some changes to your habits so it will become automatic.

If you want to manage your time or do more high-value work every day, productivity methods like The Time Blocking Method, The Most Important Task Method (MIT), The Pomodoro Technique, 90-Minute Focus Sessions, and others can help you achieve your targets.

Adopt what works for you, and build a personal system you can easily get used to. Creating your most personal system might mean creating hybrids of some of these methods. When you design something that works for you, you’re going to be much more committed to it.

“Focusing on a system means focusing on what you can control (your actions) rather than what you can’t (the endlessly unpredictable external world). Keep working your system and you’ll maximize the chances that success will find you,” says Burkman.

If you can regularly stick to that system, week after week after week, you will get results. It’s the system, or consistent inputs, that allow you to achieve the desired output or goal you’ve set for yourself.

This article first appeared on Medium.